Always a company to look at taking its own direction, yet not hesitate to keep an eye on what other marques are doing, Mazda has taken the European route in making changes to the big selling Mazda CX-5.

When we mean big selling that's exactly the right description, Mazda CX-5 has been the top seller in the SUV field in Australia for the past two years. That's top seller outright, not simply in its class. The SUV / crossover / 4WD market is very much alive in Australia, indeed globally, so to get out in front in the sales race is no mean feat.

There's little doubt the biggest appeal of the Mazda CX-5 is its styling.   so-called Kodo (Japanese for 'soul of motion') styling seems to appeal to just about everyone we talk to about car design.

So it made a lot of sense not to interfere with the shape. Instead Mazda has followed the current Euro trend in minimising alterations to the looks and spending the bulk of the upgrade budget on under the skin improvements, as well as into trimming prices.

Though the radiator grille on Mazda CX-5 is unchanged in shape it now has thick horizontal bars and is finished in a tough looking gunmetal grey. The foglight surrounds have been given a similar treatment. Gunmetal grey is also used in an interesting new design of 19-inch wheels fitted to the CX-5 GT and Akera models.

Nothing else has changed, the new grille sits within the same bonnet, bumper and guards. However, the headlights and foglights now use efficient LEDs, as well as the taillights on the upper grade CX-5 models.

Active headlights that give you maximum night-time visibility by only dimming the LEDs that would blind other drivers were first introduced in ultra-expensive European models but are now fitted to the topline Mazda CX-5 Akera.

Handling is competent enough, and certainly safe, but lags behind the sporty feel of the German and British SUVs in this size class.

Mazda is obviously well aware that the great majority of SUVs are actually bought as station wagons not as off-road vehicles, so is chasing sophistication and comfort. Thicker glass has been fitted to reduce the level of sound getting into the interior. Other noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures see the use of thicker absorption materials in some areas, and additional pads in others.

Handling is competent enough, and certainly safe, but lags behind the sporty feel of the German and British SUVs in this size class. Then again, not many family SUV buyers are really looking for a sports feel - and just look at the price savings in the Japanese Mazda compared to the Europeans.

Inside are subtle changes to the styling, which mainly concentrate on giving the bright bits more emphasis. The biggest visual change is that the parking brake is now electrically operated by way of a small button on the centre console.

The infotainment system, using a 7-inch screen, has been upgraded and now includes Mazda's MZD Connect system. All variants now have a colour screen. Additional apps have been added, including internet radio.

Engines and transmissions are unchanged from the superseded CX-5. Petrol units have a capacity of 2.0 and 2.5 litres and there's a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel. The entry level 2.0-litre powers only the front wheels and produces 114 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque. This is the only engine offered with a manual gearbox, a six-speed unit. It's likely most will be purchased with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.5 petrol (138 kW / 250 Nm) drives all four wheels. As does the 2.2-litre diesel (129 kW / 420 Nm). These also use a six-speed automatic.

The upcoming free-trade agreement between Australia and Japan has resulted in slight reductions in price. Though the agreement doesn't come into effect until April 1, Mazda Australia has brought in the price changes for the CX-5 to coincide with the introduction of this second generation.

Changes in equipment levels in this gen-two Mazda CX-5 vary from model to model and so make comparisons between prices complex. The new prices are below but we suggest contacting you Mazda dealer for full details of the old and the new.