Family fun wagon
A Car of the Year judge subjects this SUV to her personal torture 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.