Long-term tests

Mazda CX-5: Second report

We take our CX-5 crossover to Snetterton to meet its racing cousin

From one extreme to another – we have two very different Mazdas on the Auto Express fleet. Okay, ‘on the fleet’ is a bit of an overstatement, but with senior road tester Owen Mildenhall driving an MX-5 GT4 car in the British GT Championship, I think we can just about get away with it.

I’ve always enjoyed watching motor racing, and when one of your colleagues is battling it out on track, it becomes even more interesting. So going to Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk to cheer Owen on in the fifth round of the series was the perfect opportunity to take our CX-5 out and get the two ofthem together for a photo shoot.

Obviously, they’re chalk and cheese, yet the CX-5 has some similarities to the roadgoing MX-5. For example, the gearbox is designed to have the same light, crisp shift action as the famous roadster. And while Owen’s GT4 car has a hi-tech racing box with paddles, my CX-5’s sweet-shifting manual feels similar to the one used in the standard MX-5. All the more reason why I was relishing the cross-country jaunt, rather than the usual cross-London commute – and I wasn’t disappointed.

The 135-mile early hours drive to Norfolk reminded me of our first encounter with the big Mazda in the Scottish Highlands. And while Owen made the podium in race two at Snetterton, the CX-5 beat its rivals in our first test, before being crowned Crossover of the Year at our New Car Awards.

And it’s easy to see why: precise steering, a supple ride and a comfortable interior make any journey in our CX-5 a relaxed one. I’ve even got used to the slightly slow stop-start system. The car covers ground effortlessly and quietly – that is unless you’ve got the sat-nav set to the Australian male voice...

The standard TomTom system allows you to choose the nationality of the voice issuing your directions. For a while I had the lovely soft lilt of an Irish lady – very relaxing. But while playing around with it, I came across a brash Aussie who makes quips like “You’ve reached your destination – so windows up, grab those sunnies and don’t let the seagulls nick ya chips”. And “Mate, turn around when you can, and if those back seat drivers don’t pipe down soon, we’ll ditch them at the next servo”.

These comments have raised plenty of smiles from me and my passengers. But I expect the novelty will soon wear off and I’ll be changing the settings for a more relaxing electronic co-pilot once again.

So far, the CX-5 has proven a highly competent and enjoyable addition to our fleet. It’s been used by plenty of my colleagues, too, and I’ve received largely positive feedback about the car.

Everyone has commented on the brilliant handling and how it’s surprisingly fun to drive for a relatively large car. The gutsy acceleration and excellent refinement of the 2.2-litre diesel engine have also come in for plenty of praise. The CX-5 rides very well, too, doing a great job of soaking up lumps and bumps on the road.

There hasn’t been much to dislike about the Mazda. One colleague had reservations about the styling, but I think it looks distinctive and smart. In fact, there’s no other car on our fleet that I’d rather be driving – including race-bred specials.

Our view

“My race car is all about performance, but the CX-5 is a great all-rounder. It’s fast and handles well, and is very comfortable, too. Yet it emits only 119g/km of CO2.”Owen Mildenhall, Senior road tester

Your view

“I’m sure the CX-5 is great to drive, but why does it look so odd? The design is full of clashing shapes and unresolved lines – it looks wrong to me.”pajbse, via autoexpress.co.uk

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