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New Mazda CX-5 2.5 review

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    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.

Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 3.5

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.

VALUE

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.

TECHNOLOGY

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.

DESIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIVING

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.

VERDICT

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
Resale: N/A
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)
Weight: 1559kg
Spare: space saver
 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 8 comments

  • Mazda dropped the ball on this car. It’s fabulous to drive, but automatic transmission mandatory on AWD and premium models? Fuck that.

    How can you claim you don’t sacrifice the driving experience while ensuring there really isn’t any other than steering and throttle control?

    And no… manually shifting an automatic is -not- the same thing as a manual. Anybody who thinks that way should be sterilized.

    Matthew of Ontario Posted on 17 August 2013 5:53am
  • 10k servicing in Australia. 12,500 mile (20k) in UK.


    Same car, just charge Australians more!

    Another example of an Aussie tax.

    Gordon Newell of Melbourne Posted on 12 August 2013 3:21am
  • There are no fundamental differences in cars that need 6month or 12 month services.  The manufacturer who quotes 10,000km or 6 month services is being honest and doing the right thing by the owner (be it the second or third owner) and runs his vehicle to 150,000 kms plus.  12 month or 15,000km servicing is a marketing tool to attract fleet buyers and owners who are fooled by all the up front gimmickry (like fixed price or free servicing where all the big ticket service items are delayed until after. Rule is: if you intend to keep a vehicle for an extended period, ignore the 12 month or 15,000km service intervals.  Every 6 months regardless of kilometres is the go!

    Stewart Posted on 04 August 2013 1:17pm
  • Yes what a rip off.  Servicing every 6 months!!!!!!!!!

    diana of south morang Posted on 24 April 2013 6:39pm
  • Service Interval: 12 months/15,000km! Could this be true and not the six months or 10,000kms as stated on the Mazda website?

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————You’re right, we got it wrong. - Ed.

    Ethan of Brisbane Posted on 28 February 2013 6:06am
  • Hi Stevo,

    I read the story about turbo engines using more fuel and checked out the Consumer Reports web site as well.

    The biggest discrepancy from a comparison point of view is the report compared different cars from different manufactures. Once you do this: weight, aerodynamics, transmission etc all cloud the results and they do mention this at the end of the report.

    One thing their report did not mention was the V6 Camry got almost the same economy as the 2.4L - 26mpg to 27mpg but the V6 was faster to 100km by 2 seconds. While the speed is not important but the easy of drive and effects of load would favor the V6 but perhaps not the message they wanted to send. Better still the Cruze 1.4T vs 2L got identical mileage but the turbo got to 100 in 9.8 vs 10.5s.

    My own experience with a Volvo with the same size engine one turbo and one not. The turbo engine was more relaxed to drive, maintain speeds easier on the FWY and carried a load with no stress, plus when overtaking actual could complete the overtake safely. Also the turbo engine used less fuel, the NA engine was always down shifting and revving.

    So discount turbos yet!

    JoeR_AUS of North Ryde Posted on 27 February 2013 3:20pm
  • Well Mazda use to turbocharge but with the Skyactiv, which means high compression ratio, they have closed the door on that option.

    The CX-7 was a good attempt but something Mazda did not do is refine the engine/drivetrain. For example take a Volvo with 2.5L Turbo with awd uses about 5-6L less petrol around town.

    Also Mazda took its time to get a auto for the diesel, the Volvo got the auto and in a XC60 D5 was using half the fuel than a CX-7!

    The Germans were not so quick with their turbocharging, BMW stood fast against it. The

    Swedes have been running around with turbocharges for over 20 years. VW/Audi were much better and I guess who you were alluding too.

    Good review.

    JoeR_AUS of North Ryde Posted on 27 February 2013 9:03am
  • Turbo’s might be willing, but they aint fuel efficient…unless you drive such that the turbo is never engaged. Check the recent US report into that one.
    That said, I’d prefer the grunt on command.

    Stevo Posted on 27 February 2013 7:48am
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