If ever there was a model that could survive without a midlife update it's the Mazda CX-5.
The CX-5 monsters the mid-sized soft-roader ranks with 1700 sales a month and it's not a position Mazda is prepared to cede, so a midlife makeover adds a little something for everyone — including a small price cut — when the cars start selling on February 1.
A mild exterior makeover — look for the gunmetal fins in place of mesh in the grille and fog light recesses — is backed by the introduction of extensive cabin upgrades, from improved seats to a redesigned centre console and door pockets with more room for bigger bottles.
The biggest change is the introduction of Mazda's MZD Connect infotainment system with a seven-inch screen and a rotary dial controller between the front seats. The system now includes internet connectivity, giving access to apps such as Stitcher and Pandora.
The mechanical park brake has been replaced with an electric unit to save space in the centre console and the overall look has been smartened with satin chrome highlights.
Mazda also says it has improved noise suppression with better underbody insulation and thicker glass, and has retuned the dampers to improve what was already a class-leading ride.
The drivetrains are unchanged, meaning a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with 114kW/200Nm for front-wheel drive variants and the choice of a 138kW/250Nm 2.5L cylinder petrol engine or 2.2L turobdiesel with 129kW/420Nm for the all-wheel drive versions.
The FWD Maxx starts at $27,190 (down $690) and is the only manual in the range. The auto adds $2000. Standard gear runs from 17-inch steel rims to a reversing camera and tyre pressure monitor.
The popular Maxx Sport starts at $32,790 (down $830) and adds alloy rims, fog lamps, auto headlamps and wipers, dual-zone aircon and satellite navigation, which is also now an option on the Maxx.
A $1230 "Safety Pack" for both models includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and a city brake support function that automatically slows the car down when it detects an obstacle at speeds between 4km/h and 30km/h.
Stepping up to the AWD layout with the 2.5L engine adds $3000 to the price of both vehicles.
The Grand Tourer in this guise costs $43,390 and brings 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lights front and rear, power adjustable front seats with black or white leather and front and rear parking sensors.
The top-spec Akera is the only model in the range to rise in price, to $47,410. It packs the full electronics suite, from radar cruise control with auto-braking to adaptive high-beam headlamps, a lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and a driver attention alert.
Maxx Sport, GT or Akera buyers can also specify a diesel variant at a cost of $38,990, $46,590 and $50,610 respectively.
Composure has been one of the CX-5's hallmarks and the 2015 model doesn't veer from that formula. Body roll and pitching over bumps is class leading and better than many sedans now on sale, though it will take a back-to-back test with an older car to gauge just how effective the revised damper settings are.
One of the few criticisms levelled at the CX-5 has been its noise. This refresh has gone a fair way to quelling the worst of the issues. Tyre roar on coarse chip surfaces is fainter and a there's a noticeable improvement when rocks flick up into the undercarriage when driving on gravel roads. There is still some wind noise around the windscreen pillars but it is certainly not going to intrude on conversations.
Auto petrol variants now get a drive select toggle that hangs on to lower gears and revs close to the red-line before unshifting. CarsGuide suspects it will be particularly useful in the 2.0L engine … but we only had the 2.5L to play with at the local launch this week.
We're less enthused about the lane assist software found in the Akera. Drivers can opt for two stages, the first of which is irritatingly interventionist on twisty roads. It doesn't play well with drivers who like to use all of the road in a turn, gently tugging the wheel away from the apex when it senses a white line.
The second setting is less intrusive but still far from perfect and tighter turns, especially those where through-corner visibility is obscured by a bank or wall. The system seems to take a pause while the driver works out where the road is heading. Still, if you don't like it, disable it.