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1800rpm is strong and steady to the 5200rpm red­line.

The CX-5 is al­most per­fect in any traf­fic sit­u­a­tion, from stop-start ur­ban crawl, up a hilly in­cline or on the open road.

It’s a quiet engine with min­i­mal road noise and just wind rush from the big mir­rors up­set­ting the am­bi­ence, par­tic­u­larly when punch­ing into a head­wind.

The stop-start func­tion un­ob­tru­sively cuts the engine at idle to save fuel and cut emis­sions. My av­er­age was 8 litres/100km over a wide range of driv­ing and a spir­ited run from Ma­reeba to Mt Car­bine. Mazda sug­gests 5.7 litres/100km.

The best part of the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is the chas­sis dy­nam­ics.

The elec­tric rack-and-pin­ion steer­ing sys­tem is light yet sharp, pro­vid­ing ease and feed­back in good mea­sures.

The Mazda han­dles cor­ners keenly, like a well­con­trolled hatch­back, with a flat and sorted pos­ture, to keep the cho­sen line.

The poise of this SUV is quite un­be­liev­able. It’s cer­tainly not as rolly-polly as oth­ers.

It re­ally can be punted along quite quickly and there’s a con­trolled and com­fort­able ride as well. Inside is a bit dis­ap­point­ing. There’s too much black, from the car­pets, to the seats and the dash­board.

There’s not much to break up the som­bre in­te­rior and the dash is a bit of a slab too.

A lot of the switchgear and but­tons are too low in the cen­tre stack.

A good driv­ing po­si­tion is easy to find due to the reach and height-ad­justable col­umn and driver’s seat, while the sporty three-spoke steer­ing wheel cov­ered in leather is a beauty.

The Mazda has the tra­di­tional three-bar­rel in­stru­ment can­is­ter de­sign for the ana­logue speedome­ter and tachome­ter, with the third for the digi­tised fuel gauge, trip com­puter and out­side tem­per­a­ture dis­plays.

They look classy back-lit in white but the cen­tre con­sole clashes with its red lighting.

There’s plenty of room front and rear and a 403-litre cargo area with a re­tractable par­cel shelf that is con­nected to the tail­gate.

DE­CID­ING

The CX-5 was a de­light to drive across the Table­land and is an ac­com­plished open road tourer.

It was a bit of a down­hill sprinter tack­ling the Rex Range be­tween Ju­lat­ten and Moss­man.

In diesel guise, the CX-5 GT sits at the top of its class, not just in terms of value, but also dy­nam­ics, engine ef­fi­ciency, diesel drive­abil­ity, trans­mis­sion, steer­ing feel, ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and pack­ag­ing.

Mazda has the fresh­est SUV but the up­right “toothy grin” at the front and the dark in­te­rior are not the most ap­peal­ing.

Mums will love its prac­ti­cal­ity, ease of park­ing, the el­e­vated driv­ing po­si­tion, its econ­omy and stacks of gear.

Dad will savour its per­for­mance and han­dling, even if it doesn’t look as sporty as the CX-7.

The diesel is the pick of the range, de­spite it be­ing more ex­pen­sive.

Mazda has de­liv­ered an ac­com­plished and classlead­ing com­pact SUV which will ap­peal to a wide cross-sec­tion of buy­ers.

>> TEST CAR COUR­TESY OF WESTCO MAZDA, MUL­GRAVE RD, WEST­COURT.

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