Mazda DNA guarantees driving dynamics of the first order, but real world deployment all but nullifies that ability.
Paul Pottinger road tests and reviews the Mazda CX-5 2.5 with specs, fuel economy and verdict.
Contrary to a popular maxim, size matters. Especially if you're Japanese. Having deemed the petrol engine of their wildly popular CX-5 incapable of providing satisfaction, Mazda made it bigger. In Europe, they'd blow a small engine by means of a turbo charger, but Japanese car makers are averse to forcing induction on all but their go fast cars.
So, a year after its introduction, the CX-5 gets a heftier donk, one to bridge the gap between the still entry level 2.0-litre petrol model and the formidable but more expensive diesels. The new unit won't win you any bragging contests, but it does add further substance to an upstanding range.
There have been wars less keenly contested than the compact SUV market. To feed your seemly insatiable appetite for hatchbacks with an elevated driving position, the choice has doubled in the last decade. Cars formerly synonymous with the segment such as Honda's CR-V and Toyota's RAV4 are barely competitive.
Much of the CX-5's perceived value flows from the vast success of the nation's number one car, the small Mazda3, a phenomenon that it does not come near equalling elsewhere. The smaller petrol engine remains on entry and seconds tier variants, the new one coming in on the CX-5 Maxx 2.5L starting at $32,880. The new petrol range topping Akera is $45,770.
Standard kit levels rise incrementally through the all-wheel-drive Maxx Sport and Grand Touring to the Akera which cops Blind Spot Monitoring, High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning system and leather upholstery.
Enhancing the sense this is a premature midlife upgrade to fight off the RAV4, Bluetooth across all models has been upgraded and now features replay, shuffle and folder switching capabilities. The mail function enables SMS, MMS and email to show up on the quite small touchscreen monitor with messages read out via Bluetooth connected smartphones.
The address book holds up to 1000 contacts that can be called by voice command. Some new colours too. Well, one actual colour - a different shade of red. The others are black and grey.
What's the real difference between Japanese and German cars? Alright, the former tend to be more reliable. The latter tend to be more desirable.
The substantive difference is turbo charging. The Germans turbo charge everything, extracting amazing efficiency and performance from small engines. Last year, for the first time, the majority of cars on sale came with some form of forced induction.
Some Volkswagens use both super and turbo charging. All diesels are turbo-charged. So are most petrol engines, the cars the great majority of us drive. But not those of Mazda.
The 2.5 four cylinder engine shared with the Mazda6 is for now the most useful of the so-called Skyactiv petrol range. Though not nearly so impressive as the 2.2-litre turbo diesel with its mountain of torque, the free breathing petrol engine puts out an efficient 138kW/250Nm.
Despite best in class fuel economy, this output, as we'll see, seems more impressive than it is. It can, however, run on basic unleaded.
So flowery is the language to which Mazda resort in describing their wares, you often wonder if you haven't stumbled into a haiku contest rather than a technical briefing. "Soul of motion"; "Rider and horse". Enough already.
Unlike the current Mazda3, the SUV is not folded and creased like a piece of metal origami. It's in practical areas, those of the essence to a family car, that this stylish and even cool SUV is trumped by dowdier rival.
The entry CX-5 was flushed in the first round of competition at Carsguide's 2012 Car of the Year while the deadly dull but worthy CR-V made the top four because of things like its bigger and more readily accessed load space. We'd rather drive the CX-5 through any set of curves, but if that was the chief criteria we'd be in a proper car.
Five crash safety stars across the range, but you need to spend to get the full and formidable array which includes lane departure warning and blind spot alert. The all-wheel-drive system, which comes in from $33,880, is an active system that's always there, rather than the part time jobs on most rivals.
So there we were in the Brisbane hinterland on Tuesday morning close behind a Suzuki SX4 and an older Mazda SUV - the discontinued CX-7 with its belting 2.3 turbo four. At length we came upon an overtaking lane, indicated, moved right and ... Nothing much happened.
The older Mazda summoned itself and soared up the long curving hill courtesy of its lovely plateau of torque. Foot flat to the boards, the six speed auto lunging down, it was all our top line Akera could do to keep up with humble but impertinent Suzuki. Hardly the emphatic response sought.
While the entry petrol is caught out when asked to do much more than trundle about the metropolis, the bigger engine offers not a lot extra. Mazda DNA guarantees driving dynamics of the first order, but real world deployment - everyday urban grinding, shopping and school running - all but nullifies that ability.
By changing gears manually - something Mazda autos indulge more than most - decent progress was maintained but a predictable costs in fuel consumption a barely under 10L/100km for a 270km round trip with a large component of freeway.
At least it goes about it discreetly. Mazda has tackled its old problem of undue noise permeating the cabin.
The new versions of the CX-5 are sound enough, but can't persuade us that if you're not prepared to stump up for a diesel, you're best saving with an entry level car. Guess it's a case of how you use it after all.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport
Price: from $36,620
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Service Interval: 6 months/10,000km
Safety: Rating 5 stars, 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cyl petrol, 138kW/250Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, front-wheel-drive
Thirst: 7.4L/100km, 91 RON
Dimensions: 4540mm (L), 1840m (W), 1710mm (H), 2700mm (WB)
Spare: space saver