In the car world, new doesn’t always mean new. Plenty of freshly revealed cars feature engines, transmissions and platforms carried over from older models. But that isn’t the case with the CX-5.
It’s been developed from a clean sheet of paper, and is the first example of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, with an entirely new platform, engines and gearboxes.
This is also the first production car to use Mazda’s eye-catching new Kodo design language. The imposing newcomer is smaller than the discontinued CX-7, although it’s bigger than both rivals here, at just over four-and-half metres long.
Crucially, the car’s proportions still look spot-on, while the space has been used well inside. There’s lots of head and legroom, and Mazda’s established Karakuri seat set-up means you get a 40:20:40 rear bench.
The middle seat folds flat to free up space between the outer seats, while the 503-litre boot increases to 1,620 litres with all three seats folded flat – an easy operation achieved by using either a lever in the boot or the cabin.
Up front, the excellent driving position gives a loftier view of the road than in the Skoda. Better still, the high-quality materials and smart cabin design place the CX-5 right up with the robust Yeti in terms of quality. Elsewhere, upmarket ebony trim, tactile rotary climate switches and a colour touchscreen help the new car outshine the Kia, too.
However, it’s once you get underway that the CX-5 really sets itself apart. Mazdas have always been famed for their sharp driving dynamics – and this model is no exception.
On a twisty road, the car reacts with a keenness that’s missing from either of its rivals. The well weighted steering has a light, easy action, yet is precise and fast. With superb body control the newcomer is more assured and composed than the Kia, while impressive levels of grip mean you’re only likely to want an all-wheel-drive model in wintry weather.
This enthusiasm doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. Nicely weighted controls, especially the snappy gearshift, mean the CX-5 is easy to drive, while there’s less road noise than in the Kia. The ride is firm but well judged, and not as rigid as in the GreenLine Skoda.
It’s the CX-5’s engine, however, that stands out. The figures speak for themselves – 119g/km of CO2 and claimed 61.4mpg economy, yet it delivers 148bhp and 380Nm of torque.
The 2.2-litre SkyActiv diesel is much more responsive than the sluggish Skoda TDI and more refined than the gruff Kia CRDi, and almost silent at idle, while on the move the two-stage turbocharger delivers peak torque below 2,000rpm. Effortlessly smooth, the CX-5 picks up speed with little fuss and was comfortably ahead in our performance tests.
Admittedly, in Sport trim with 19-inch alloys it isn’t cheap, at £25,195, but sat-nav, Bluetooth, a multifunction wheel, heated seats, Bose audio, full leather trim, keyless entry, xenon lights and a reversing camera are all standard. Alternatively, you could opt for the SE-L model, which shaves £2,200 off the bill and makes the CX-5 almost as cheap a company car choice as the Yeti.
Either way, the low emissions make the Mazda a great company car, while great economy balances out the price – especially when you consider the substantial performance advantage. Factor in strong residuals and the Mazda makes a lot of financial sense.
Roomy, efficient and very good to drive, it’s a new contender for top of the compact crossover class.
Chart position: 1WHY: The smart-looking CX-5 has all the ingredients necessary to shine in this market: strong performance, class-leading emissions and agile handling.