Most SUVs in the UK are sold with diesel engines – yet Mazda insists there’s a market for petrol and predicts that 15 per cent of CX-5s will be bought with the new 2.0-litre SKYACTIV petrol engine we’ve driven here.
The two 2.2-litre diesel models come with the option of four-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic gearbox, but petrol cars only get front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual. Fortunately, on previous encounters with
the CX-5 we’ve discovered that this is the best combination.
Standard stop-start, a high compression ratio and lightweight alloys used in its construction mean the 163bhp petrol returns an impressive 47.1mpg. That’s only a few miles per gallon shy of an automatic 148bhp two-wheel-drive diesel model (which has identical CO2 emissions of 139g/km). But on the road, the driving experience is worlds apart.
Without a turbo to boost torque at low revs, the petrol car feels sluggish around town and slower than its 0-62mph of nine seconds suggests. It needs revs to give its best, which is a shame because the rest of the package is exceptional.
The lightweight manual box has been created from scratch to deliver the same ‘wrist-flick’ feel you get with the MX-5’s, and it’s a joy to use. On top of that, the well weighted steering offers lots of feedback.
For a tall car with such superb body control, you’d expect the suspension to be unforgiving, but the ride is one of the CX-5’s highlights. It flows over smooth roads, while on crumbling tarmac only the biggest potholes send shudders through your seat.
And the good news continues inside, where the interior combines quality and practicality. The dash, in particular, is attractive and well made. Maximum boot space is a generous 503 litres with the rear seats up, and 1,620 litres once they’re folded flat.
The CX-5 isn’t short on kit, with SE-L models getting an auto-braking system that works below 20mph, plus 17-inch alloys and a 5.8-inch colour display screen.
For an extra £2,600, our Sport NAV model adds desirable kit such as leather trim, 19-inch wheels and TomTom sat-nav.