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2017 Mazda CX-5 AWD Limited – Car Review – first impressions count

2017 Mazda CX-5 AWD Limited – Car Review – first impressions count

Readers of Drive Life may remember I went to the two-day launch of the 2017 Mazda CX-5 a few months back. On that drive, I only managed to get a couple of hundred Ks on the petrol and diesel CX-5s, but was pretty impressed. In fact all the motoring journalists on that event were impressed.

But you can’t judge a car completely after only a few days’ driving, so Mazda sent us a top-spec AWD Limited petrol version for a week.

Would those memories of the CX-5 be the same after a week of daily life?

The Range

As is usual for a Mazda, there’s three choices of trim level: GLX, GSX and Limited. There are three engine choices, depending on what model you buy: the 2.0-litre petrol Skyactiv (114kw/200Nm); the 2.5-litre Skyactiv petrol (140Kw/251Nm) and the 2.2-litre Skyactiv diesel (129Kw/420Nm).

You can get the 2.0-litre in the GLX and GSX models, and the 2.5-litre and the diesel is available in only the GSX and Limited. Only the GSX and Limited are available in AWD, and the Limited is AWD only. If you want the 2.5l petrol engine, you have to have an AWD model.

Prices range from $39,995 for the base 2.0-litre GLX to $57,495 for the Limited diesel. Our test car was the $55,495 Limited petrol.

As you might expect, there’s a good range of standard equipment for the CX-5. The GLX is fitted with 17” alloys, LED headlights, electric folding mirrors, cruise control, electric park brake with Auto Hold function, 6-speaker audio with 2xUSB and AUX inputs, Bluetooth, a 7” colour touchscreen media system, voice activation, keyless entry and push-button start, reversing camera, Mazda’s iActivesense safety system featuring Advanced City Smart Brake, speed limiter and an option of SatNav.

The GSX adds more, for around $5K extra. In addition to the GLX features, it also includes LED front fog lamps, auto headlights, auto wipers, auto dimming interior mirror, a flip-up Heads-Up Display, SatNav, proximity entry, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition, and black leatherette trim.

Of course the Limited gets all the bells and whistles. On top of the GSX, it adds 19” alloys on 225/55 tyres, LED DRLs, adaptive cruise control with Stop and Go function, windscreen-projected Heads-Up Display, power sunroof with blind, power tailgate, privacy glass, 10-way electric driver’s seat, 6-way electric passenger’s seat, 3-stage heated front seats, black or white leather seats and trim, 10-speaker 249-watt Bose audio, Adaptive LED headlamps, Smart City Brake Support in reverse, Lane Departure warning, Lane Keep Assist, and Driver Attention Alert. Whew.

All CX-5s are fitted with the same 6-speed automatic transmission, with Sport Mode.

First Impressions

Holy crap this is a good looking car in this colour. For a while now, Mazda’s Soul Red has been a stand-out in a sea of grey and silver cars (which to me, =boring). For 2017, Mazda has upped the ante and we now have the $300 option of Soul Red Crystal, which is supposed to have 50% more depth. Let me tell you that seems true. In the flesh, it is simply stunning. The extra depth can really be seen in this car. During the launch, Mazda had a previous version in Soul Red and the new model in Soul Red Crystal side-by-side, and the difference was pretty obvious

Added to the colour is the design – also stunning. The mini-CX-9 look is strong, and nothing wrong with that. Did our test car turn heads? Oh, yes. There were plenty of comments on both the design and colour.

Top marks, Mazda.

The Inside

I was really hoping Mazda would send me the press car that had a white leather interior, and they did. I’m not sold on being able to keep it clean long-term, but man it looks good. Not just the seats, but the door pulls and part of the centre console were also white, and it looked great.  After a long spell of cars with black leather interiors, the CX-5s was a breath of fresh air.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, there are really no hard plastics to the touch, and the leather steering has a good, quality feel to it. The size is just right, and the standard Mazda controls for audio, phone and adaptive cruise control are excellent to use.

The instruments are super clear, although there’s no 50km/h shown, just a marker. Having the Heads Up Display (HUD) meant, well, who cares. I never looked at the speedo, I just used the HUD all the time.

The driver’s seat has normal electric adjustment with two memory settings, and 2-way electric lumbar adjust. I did find the lumbar adjust didn’t do too much on full extension. Normally, when you put the lumbar adjust on its highest setting, most cars will have you feel like there’s a sword sticking in your back. On the CX-5 at its highest setting, you could certainly feel it, but it wasn’t as extreme as some cars.

The fake grey wood panelling on the dash and doors was a little naff – I didn’t really think it was necessary, but that’s my opinion only. Others liked it. At least it broke up all the black on the dash.

The centre console cubby is quite roomy, comfortably fitting my SLR camera, and there’s some good storage spaces splattered around the cabin. The glovebox is on the larger side, but is mostly taken up with the car’s manuals.

There’s a quality feel to the entire cabin, especially say in comparison to the top-spec Escape I had a few weeks ago. It’s not that the Escape wasn’t good, but the CX-5 lifts the cabin quality to another level. All the switchgear, controls, everything is perfectly put together. The stitching on the seats and doors is a work of art.

Rear legroom is above average, and it helps that the rear doors open really wide. There’s an improvement in this area over the previous model. Rear seat passengers are also treated to two 2.1-amp USB charging ports in the centre armrest. Teenagers will be happy with that. The rear seat angle is also adjustable to two positions – great for those long trips.

There’s an electric sunroof in the Limited model, but it’s not panoramic or anything, just your old-school sunroof with a blind. As always, the bonus is to leave the blind open at all times to let extra daylight into the cabin.

The Limited model is fitted with a Bose audio system, and it gets full marks; the tweeters in the A pillars can really pump out some clear sounds, and there’s more than enough volume to make most teenagers happy. The clarity of the audio is excellent, no complaints there.

As is Mazda’s company line, you don’t get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay in the CX-5. Luckily in the Limited, SatNav is standard.

The whole media system is Mazda’s usual MZD Connect and it works just like every other new Mazda fitted with it. It doesn’t need changing; it works well and is totally intuitive.

Luggage space at 455 litres with the seat up is excellent, with a very usable 1355 litres with the rear seats down. There’s a space-saver spare hiding under the floor.

I was a little surprised the Limited doesn’t come with Active Parking Assist – the Escape Titanium does, and they are about the same money. Hopefully the next release will see this added.

The Drive

This is what the CX-5 is all about – the driving experience. Mazda went to great lengths to ram home that this was one of their core focus points for the 2017 CX-5. As mentioned in the article on the launch, the CX-5 has G-Vectoring Control, which adapts all parts of the car (steering/suspension/transmission/engine) to help keep things in check, as well as improving the driving experience. And yes, it works. It was déjà vu for me, as during the launch drives all were impressed by just how well the CX-5 can get around corners.

After a week, I can confirm it wasn’t smoke and mirrors. Passengers don’t get thrown about when you start having fun on the twisties, and this is a car that can make the twisties fun. It tracks beautifully, and you can really throw the CX-5 into a corner. I’m sure the AWD helps here, but the overall driving experience is at the top of the class, as well as lifting the bar of SUVs that can handle.

Surprisingly the ride is excellent also. A bit jiggly at low speeds, but otherwise compliant, especially when you compare it to how well it handles. It’s also very quiet – no noises of any sort over any bump can be heard from the suspension.

The 6-speed auto trans is perfectly behaved, always in the right gear at the right time. It could school the Escape on how a transmission should work properly. In Sport mode, the changes are quicker to happen and it changes earlier, as you would expect. Brakes too are up to the task, nicely progressive and with a great feel to them.

That’s not to say things are 100%. Although I had an AWD, half-throttle acceleration in the wet saw a reasonable (and surprising) amount of wheel spin, before the computers kicked in and reigned it all in. In comparison to the Escape, the CX-5 can be a bit unruly in the wet when starting off, and it doesn’t seem to take too much accelerator to do this. Wet weather grip around corners and others times is just fine.

Road noise too is worth mentioning. It’s certainly not bad, but I can’t stop comparing the car to the CX-9, which is a surreal, quiet driving experience. On the motorway the engine is almost dead quiet, but under acceleration up a hill, it lets itself be known.

So the car is fun to drive, but what’s it like to live with? Pretty good. This was yet another test car I didn’t want to give back, as it proved itself as an excellent daily driver.

General visibility is excellent, except for some chunky A and C pillars. Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert certainly help here, and on the motorway when changing lanes. I love Mazda’s Traffic Sign Recognition system, working right down to road works – it reads the sign, then tells you what it is in the HUD. Ditto coming up to stop signs – you are reminded in the HUD of these.

The SatNav is simple and quick to use, and turn-by-turn direction are shown in the HUD as well.

Mazda’s MZD Connect system is identical to other Mazdas, and I love how it shows what street name is coming up next, no matter what screen you are on. Handy.

I also like that when you turn the car off, then come back to it, the heated seats remember the settings and just go back on. Yes, yes, First World Problems and all that, but it’s one of those small touches that you remember, and appreciate.

Like the Escape Titanium, the CX-5 Limited has adaptive self-leveling headlights, and work just as well. It’s still weird (and feels so wrong) to be following someone with your lights on full, but the smart headlights do their thing and maintain high beam just in the right places – and not blinding the driver in front (or coming towards you). The headlights have auto-high beam function, so I just left them on auto headlights and auto high beams all the time, and let them get on with it.

I have to mention the adaptive cruise control, or Radar Cruise Control as Mazda calls it. It has Stop and Go feature, and it works really well. There’s been a few cars I’ve tested with adaptive cruise and a similar stop/go feature, but sometimes they don’t work that well. Not so the Mazda; it will bring you to a full stop and hold you there, then just a touch of the gas pedal will get you moving again in adaptive cruise mode. This makes stop/start driving so much easier.

I managed to get 600ks on the CX-5 before handing it back. Mazda suggest a combined rating of 7.4/100kms, but I got 8.8 with a solid 50/50 mix of motorway and city driving.

The Competition

I’ve searched here for the top of the line, petrol AWD variant of the SUVs below.

 

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel L/100kmPrice – High to Low
Volkswagen Tiguan TSi R Line AWD2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol132kW/320NM7.8$66,690
Hyundai Tucson Elite Limited AWD1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol130kW/265NM7.7$59,990
Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol132kW/233NM8.3$59,690
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk AWD3.2-litre, six-cylinder petrol200kW/316NM10$57,990
Mini Countryman Cooper S AWD2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol141kW/280NM6.8$55,900
Mazda CX-5 Limited AWD2.5-litre, four-cylinder SkyActiv petrol140Kw/251Nm7.5$55,495
Holden Captiva LTZ AWD3.0-litre, six-cylinder petrol190kW/288NM8.1$54,990
Renault Koleos Intens AWD2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol126kW/226NM8.3$54,990
Subaru Forester Premium AWD2.0-litre flat-four turbo petrol177kW/350NM8.5$54,990
Ford Escape Titanium AWD2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol178kW/345NM8.6$53,990
Nissan X-Trail Ti AWD2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol126kW/226NM8.3$53,490
Kia Sportage GT Line AWD2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol135kW/237NM8.5$51,990

The Pros and Cons

ProsCons
  • Stunning design
  • Quality of build
  • Interior space
  • Handling and grip
  • Sheer driveability
  • Sound system
  • Space
  • No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
  • Some engine and road noise
  • Wet weather grip on start-off, for an AWD

What do we think of it?

Not long ago, Drive Life writer Ken tested the diesel version of the CX-5 in Japan, and rated it at 5 chevrons. He was pretty impressed.

I was leaning towards 5 chevrons myself. It’s probably said too many times about different cars, but the CX-5 truly does set a new benchmark for driving experience in an SUV. My issue is that I’ve driven the diesel version, and the engine noise level is about the same as the petrol engine, but you get so much more torque it makes it an even better driving experience.

If you are going to buy a CX-5, pay the extra $2K and go for the diesel. The petrol CX-5 is great, the diesel CX-5 is superb.

4.5 Chevrons.

Vehicle TypeMid-size SUV
Starting Price$39,995
Tested Price$55,495
Engine2.5-litre four-cylinder DOHC SkyActiv petrol
Transmission6-speed automatic
Kerb Weight1,656kg
Length x Width x Height4550mm x 1840mm x 1675mm
Cargo Capacity455/1355L
Fuel Tank56L
Fuel EconomyManufacturer’s rating, combined: 7.5L/100Km

Real World: 8.8L/100Km

ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Stars
Warranty5 Year Unlimited Kilometre Warranty

5 Year Unlimited Kilometre Roadside Assistance

3 Years Mazda Scheduled Servicing

 

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