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Mazda CX-5

The little Mazda has what it takes to re-define one side of the compact SUV segment.

It's easy to get into, the cabin is spacious, well-equipped and comfortable - the driver is well accommodated for as well, with most things falling easily to hand.

A runaway best seller thank to its convenient size and the Mazda badge. "It's a good car, but not great. And the CR-V is a better package for its price,'' Paul Gover said at the COTY judging.

The steering wheel has key controls and there's good connectivity - the touchscreen satnav infotainment screen is easy to see but it's quirky map-rotation habits were disappointing. The rear passengers will notice the lack of rear vents in summer.

A rear seat 12-volt outlet wouldn't go astray either, but apart from those two issues the rear seat occupants have good leg, foot and headroom. The ride is tending towards firm but doesn't cause complaints, the payoff coming in good body control and composed road manners in the bends - the Mazda3 on stilts analogy is apt.

Steady pace can be maintained by the petrol engine but it's no fireball - the genuine manual change mode of the six-speed auto makes better use of the reasonable flexibility on offer by the little four-pot. Alternatively, you can wring its neck, but that's going to take the fuel economy north of the nine litres per 100km that was returned during our stint.

The little Mazda has what it takes to re-define one side of the compact SUV segment, the on-road runners. In front-wheel drive guise it's not set-up for dirt work, but the CX-5 FWD is smooth, quiet and comfortable, but it's not perfect. No rear vents is an oversight, the satnav quirk was annoying and the diesel AWD promises to be the drivetrain of choice (and worth the $5500) if you want a decent amount of grunt under your right foot.

Mazda CX-5 Maxx FWD petrol auto

Price: from $29,880
Engine: 2.0 litre16-valve direct-injection DOHC four cylinder with i-Stop
Transmission: six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
Power: 114kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 4000rpm
Fuel use/emissions: 6.4 l/100km, tank 56 litres 91RON; 201g/km
Brakes/safety systems: Driver and front passenger airbags, front seat side/thorax, curtain airbags, stability control (Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control), rear camera, tyre pressure warning
Dimensions: Length 4540mm, width 1840mm, height 1710mm, wheelbase 2700mm, cargo volume 403 litres, weight 1475kg
Wheels/tyres: 17in steel wheels

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