The last time I drove a CX-5 was March 2014 when I meandered casually around the B roads of Harrogate. I remember thinking that it was quiet, comfortable and fun to drive. I also recall being a little unkind to its looks, ‘not a pretty car’, I think I wrote. But that was then, and fast forward to April 2015 and low and behold, Mazda have parked one outside Muddy Towers for me to play with for a week.
To give it its full title, the CX-5, 2.2d, 175ps, AWD Sport Nav Diesel has an ‘on the road’ cost of £29,395, then add £540 for the paint job, £700 for the Safety Pack and it tops the scales at £30,635, which is a fair chunk of money, but quite good value compared to some.
Maybe it’s because the last press car I drove was the nippy Mazda2, but I felt straight at home in the CX-5, the new 7” colour touch screen, controls, buttons and switchgear was all at hand and easy to use with plenty of space for all your gubbins.
The interior is well thought out and very comfortable, the seats especially so. A little bugbear of mine are the hard plastic trims that some manufactures put on their door panels and centre consoles that, when you rest your leg against them, you end up with indentations and soreness. Mazda however has seen fit to line theirs with a nice padding, it’s small touches like these that make a difference.
I’ve mentioned that the front seats are comfortable, and so are the rears. As I’m over 6ft tall with long legs, I always like to see if I can fit behind the drivers seat that’s set up for me, and in the CX-5 I did. Whilst on the subject of rear seats, Mazda call it their Karakuri seating system, which means you have a 40/20/40 split, which is handy. Remember what I said about small touches that make a difference? Well, as well as buttons on the the rear seats themselves that lower them, there’s remote levers in the boot too that flick each of the rear seats down in an instant. Capacity wise, you have 503ltrs with the seats up, and 1620ltrs of luggage space with them down.
Taking it out for a spin, the first thing you notice is that the ride is firm and sporty, in other words road biased. You can feel everything that you drive over, but not in an obtrusive way. When Mazda say that the CX-5 embodies their legendary ‘fun to drive’ DNA, they’re not joking. Find an appropriate road with a national speed limit and you’ll have heaps of fun. The 175ps, 2.2ltr diesel coupled to their 6 speed ‘box propels the CX-5 to 62mph in a reasonable 8.8 seconds, and will carry on until you reach 129mph.
On the subject of figures, Mazda claim you’ll get a combined 54.3mpg from this model, the computer was telling me that I was achieving an average of 47mpg, which to be fair is pretty good considering what I was getting up to!
Of course, being the AWD model I had to take it off the beaten track As any 4×4 owner will know, the slower you go, the more control you have and that’s when you notice that the CX-5, although capable, would much rather you keep to a proper road. On a couple of occasions when I had to thread my way over some rocks I had to ride the clutch a little as 1st gear wasn’t as low as I’d have liked it.
As I’ve mentioned previously, its suspension is great for road use, but a little too harsh for playing off road, and as for articulation, well that’s so yesterday, why have long travel springs when you can have electronic witchcraft?
Driving along a couple of tame local green lanes the first thing I was aware of was the lack of approach angle. Now I say that, but I didn’t manage to scoop any mud with its bumper. The fact is, I chickened out of some routes before the car did. I have no doubt the CX-5 would’ve taken me further off road, but I was too concerned with avoiding panel damage.
Of course these days, off road prowess is all about electronics and decent tryes, and although the CX-5 was shod with road tyres, it didn’t let us down, even whilst balancing on its two opposing wheels on wet grass.
Having a car for a week gives you the opportunity to really figure out its foibles, going to work in it, taking rubbish to the tip, day trips with the usual paraphernalia, and so on. Overall I had a great time with the CX-5 and I’ll actually miss it. It was great for long journeys, mooching around town and even the odd green lane, but if you want decent off road ability, the CX-5 isn’t really for you.
In some vehicles you find something straight away that you’re not keen on, the trim, the steering wheel, or switchgear in odd places. With the CX-5, there was nothing like that, it was a car that I jumped into and drove for miles, quite happily. Just before it was due to be collected I sat in the drivers seat and reflected on the previous week, what annoyed me, what couldn’t I live with? Apart from the gearing and suspension for off road use, there was nothing.
Admittedly, during the first couple of days we couldn’t figure out how to turn the the TA (Traffic Announcement), on the radio off. Every 20 minutes or so it changed channel and some annoying woman would chirp on about the same road works she did 20 minutes ago, which was annoying, especially when you’re sat in ASDA’s car park listening to Pop Master on radio 2. Initially we thought it was a software problem, then we figured it out. On the touch screen monitor it shows ‘TA off’, this means it’s on, and if you want it off you press the icon so it reads ‘TA on’, then it’s off. Oh’ how we laughed, maybe I should’ve read the drivers manual first!
The CX-5 comes with loads of sensible safety equipment, stuff you never knew you needed until you have it at your disposal. It even does things without you knowing it, like the Adaptive LED Front Lighting System that can switch individual bulbs off so as not to blind oncoming drivers. At slow speeds it will even widen the beam at both sides to make it easier to see pedestrians, clever stuff.
There’s one thing you must do on your own though, and that’s if you’re at your local Mazda dealer about to buy one, make sure to tick the box for the space saver spare on the options list. The last thing anyone wants is to be stood looking down at a flat tyre that has a tear in the sidewall with a puncture kit in your hand that’s next to useless.
In the end I was sad to see it returned, my week spent with a CX-5 was a good week, it was both frugal and fun to drive, and with its refreshed external and internal styling I even began to give it the odd glance of admiration!
Fast forward 10 months or so and my friend Edward, whose farm I used for some the off-road photos, decided to trade his ageing Audi A6 Allroad in for something a little smaller and asked my advice. Well, we headed straight down to our local Mazda dealer and found the perfect vehicle for him in the shape of a... you guessed it, a CX-5.