Mazda CX-5 2.2D

The new CX-5 compact crossover has Mazda’s first-ever diesel auto combination. We try it out

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

On the face of it, the Mazda CX-5 is a conventional SUV. But it’s got a wealth of hidden talent. The sharp styling is complemented by a high-quality, versatile interior and the ultra-clean diesel engine is powerful and smooth. The CX-5 is sporty to drive, even with the auto box, yet it deals well with poor roads. Our only gripe is the high asking price.

The Mazda CX-5 is based on an all-new lightweight chassis, offers the first look at a new design language and features a new range of highly efficient SkyActiv engines and gearboxes. It paves the way for the next generation of Mazdas – and early signs are good.

We drove the top-spec 172bhp 2.2D four-wheel-drive model last week, but this 148bhp 2.2D front-wheel-drive version is expected to be the

big seller. And our car had the new six-speed auto gearbox.

This is the first time Mazda has offered an automatic with a diesel engine, and the box has been designed from the outset to complement the two diesels in the range (it won’t be available with the 163bhp 2.0-litre petrol). Mazda expects 25 per cent of CX-5 buyers to go for this £1,300 option.

On paper, the figures look mixed: the 53.3mpg economy and 139g/km CO2 emissions are 8.1mpg and 20g/km poorer than the equivalent manual model’s.

Yet the CX-5 is still much cleaner than its automatic rivals, as its engine has the lowest compression ratio of any diesel in the world. It also boasts direct injection, a clever twin-scroll turbocharger and lightweight alloy construction.

Get behind the wheel and it becomes obvious that these efficiency measures haven’t compromised the driving experience. At idle, the engine emits just a discreet hum – it only sounds strained once you reach the top of the rev range.

Between those points, it revs almost like a petrol engine and pulls very strongly from above 2,000rpm. In fact, performance is so good that there’s little point in paying any extra for the higher-powered diesel engine.

The automatic box works well, too, locking up quickly without any slip, so the engine responds crisply to prods on the accelerator. It’s also quick to change down – perfect for swift overtaking.

Considering the CX-5 strikes the best balance between comfort and handling in its class, the car still feels more suited to the manual, but if you’re an auto fan, you won’t be disappointed.

Our only problem with this model was the cheap-looking gearlever surround, which lets down the superbly put-together interior. Otherwise, quality is better than ever for a Mazda.

The CX-5 is versatile, too, with 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats increasing boot space from 503 to 1,620 litres. The TomTom sat-nav (free on cars ordered before July, then £400) is clear and simple to use.

Unless you really need four-wheel drive, the two-wheel drive is equally capable on the road, plus it’s cleaner and cheaper. But whichever model you choose, the CX-5 sets new standards for fun and efficiency in this class.

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