Road Test: Mazda CX-5 2.2 SKYACTIV-D Sport Nav
Sector: Small SUV Price: £25,195 Fuel: 61.4mpg CO2: 119g/km
Mazda's SKYACTIV Technology upgrades have hinted at greatness since they appeared in test mules disguised as slightly deformed Mazda6s.
The CX-5 was the first to get the full set, comprising efficient but powerful engines, lightweight and reconfigured chassis components and new body construction. A comprehensive package aimed at improving the driving experience, fuel economy and safety in one hit.
There's a real sense with the CX-5 that someone's spent a long time getting the drive right. For a relatively tall car it corners as flat as a well-sorted hatchback, turning in with the keenness and predictability of something far lower and lighter. But as a double hit, it also rides really well even on the Sport's larger wheels. Firm, but not jarring.
Under the bonnet of this most frugal version is the new 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D Diesel engine with 150bhp – the lower of its two power outputs. It's a clever unit, managing to achieve CO2 emissions level with what rivals are getting from downsized units, as well as being Euro 6 compliant without additional filters or additives.
Not resorting to downsizing has the added bonus of retaining real-world economy. Small diesels are great for low CO2 figures during homologation, but can struggle in real life. Mazda's CX-5 pulls strongly from idle almost to the redline, never feels laboured and isn't under undue load at high speeds. It's very good.
As is the rest of the driving experience. The manual gearbox, with its short and mechanical throws, feels closer to the MX-5 than an SUV, and the steering is tuned to feel as linear and natural as possible. It goes exactly where you tell it to.
The only chinks in its armour are found inside. While the body is pretty and the power train and chassis are fun to use, there's a feeling that interior material choices were lower down the priorities list.
It's not badly built or ugly to look at, but some of the plastics are a bit scratchy compared to the likes of the Tiguan and Kuga. Unfortunately it's aesthetic issues like this which can put some buyers off just by sitting inside.
But they’ll be missing out. This is a far more charismatic car to drive than almost anything in its sector, while being better to look at and genuinely frugal too. This should be absent from nobody's small SUV shortlist.
A great crossover with segment benchmark dynamics, Mazda's biggest challenge will be reconditioning buyers to consider a larger engine than most rivals are using.