Fam­ily fun wagon

A Car of the Year judge sub­jects this SUV to her per­sonal tor­ture test

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test -

SOME cars make you feel sexy, mad, bad and dan­ger­ous to know. Mazda’s CX-5 is not one of those cars.

It is, how­ever, a sen­si­ble crowd pleaser, filled with high­end touches and safety fea­tures that de­serves to woo the fam­ily buyer. The mas­cu­line styling gives the CX-5 a broad base of ad­mir­ers, en­tic­ing more than just SUV-lov­ing mums.

Our test model, the 2.5-litre Ak­era petrol AWD, im­pressed ev­ery­one from a team of builders, par­ents at the school gate, school kids and re­tirees.

The top of the line model isn’t a cheap ride but the price buys a whole lot of tech­nol­ogy and driv­ing smarts. The in­te­rior is roomy and com­fort­able and, be­ing in the midst of a ren­o­vat­ing frenzy, we lit­er­ally man­age to fit a kitchen sink com­fort­ably in the cargo area along with the weekly gro­cery shop.

The rear seat one-touch 40-20-40 split op­tion makes jug­gling chil­dren and lug­gage easy and the flush fold en­sures pack­ages like the awk­wardly boxed sink slide in flat.

I love Mazda’s blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing tech­nol­ogy. Any­one who has to bat­tle the cra­zies on Syd­ney roads ap­pre­ci­ates these in­ge­nious wing mir­ror sen­sors that de­tect ve­hi­cles ap­proach­ing stealth­ily out of the driver’s line of sight.

The warn­ing is es­pe­cially out­stand­ing dur­ing free­way travel, light­ing up an icon built into the mir­rors any time fel­low driv­ers roar up over your shoul­der, then beep­ing if a col­li­sion is likely.

There was also a lot to like in the Mazda’s ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity. It parked into tight spa­ces ef­fort­lessly, backed up by re­vers­ing cam­eras and front and rear park­ing sen­sors. The pow­er­ful head­lights also scored a big tick — on a dark coun­try road they were out­stand­ing, pro­vided sweep­ing cov­er­age thanks to the adap­tive swivel tech­nol­ogy that fol­lows cor­ners up to 15 de­grees rather than point­ing straight ahead.

The 5.8-inch touch-ac­ti­vated in­for­ma­tion screen — which con­trols ev­ery­thing from ra­dio sta­tions to CDs to hands-free phone calls — makes man­u­ally se­lect­ing au­dio op­tions sim­ple if you pre­fer not to use the steer­ing wheel or voice-ac­ti­vated con­trols. Strangely the time dis­play is awk­wardly lo­cated un­der the dash­board vents, just out of the driver’s di­rect line of sight. I found this a jar­ring note in an other­wise in­tel­li­gently laid-out cock­pit dis­play.

Handy USB ports for juic­ing up iPads are great for lit­tle pas­sen­gers on long jour­neys and mod­ern par­ents will prob­a­bly spring for the op­tional rear seat tablet hold­ers and re­tractable USB ca­bles to en­sure their con­tin­ued san­ity.

On the road I found the cabin a lit­tle noisy at high speed but when trundling on sub­ur­ban roads, this wasn’t an is­sue.

My money is on the Ak­era not win­ning a drag race — the i-Stop fuel sav­ing sys­tem shuts the en­gine down at rest — but at speed it com­fort­ably roared up moun­tain roads and han­dled well on cor­ners.

For steep in­clines from slow or start­ing speed it lagged, mak­ing drop­ping to man­ual gear nec­es­sary. The grab-bag of five star ANCAP safety fea­tures in­cludes airbags, ABS, emer­gency brake as­sist, trac­tion con­trol and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing.

One glar­ing de­fi­ciency was the lack of ven­ti­la­tion for the rear pas­sen­gers, who are ser­viced by just one vent un­der each of the front seats.

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