A firmer favourite

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - COVER STORY -

THE next gen­er­a­tion of Mazda’s top sell­ing CX-5 SUV is un­veiled on the Cairns water­front next week­end, re­ports and

It’s a sym­bol of how fam­ily mo­tor­ing has changed in Aus­tralia and a tar­get for com­peti­tors in the mid-sized SUV wrestling match.

The coun­try’s favourite SUV is pack­ing, among other things, a big­ger boot and up­graded safety.

There is a slight $800 price rise at the bot­tom end but Mazda Aus­tralia says it has in­creased value from the ba­sic man­ual Maxx at $28,690 to the fully loaded Ak­era diesel auto at $49,990. There is also a new model, the Tour­ing, to close the pre­vi­ous $7600 gap be­tween the Maxx Sport and Ak­era.

At first glance, the CX-5 looks al­most iden­ti­cal to the first gen­er­a­tion but a closer look shows a bolder nose, more def­i­ni­tion to the flanks and a dash­board that’s cleaner and eas­ier to use.

It’s slightly longer and wider with a lit­tle more us­able space in­side and a lower rear-seat po­si­tion, as well as a 40-20-40 split rear seat back.

The tech­nol­ogy matches the class stan­dard, with a sev­eninch in­fo­tain­ment dis­play. It’s good to see a USB port in the back and rear-seat vents on all but the ba­sic car.

Most ma­te­ri­als ap­pear to have been up­graded as Mazda tries to stretch the car into ter­ri­tory oc­cu­pied by Euro­pean lux­ury can­di­dates in­clud­ing the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, even though its ob­vi­ous op­po­nent is the Volk­swa­gen Tiguan, last year’s Cars­guide Car of the Year.

“The goal was to make the next-gen­er­a­tion CX-5 one class above,” says Mazda Aus­tralia mar­ket­ing direc­tor Alas­tair Doak.

“We wanted to evolve the ar­eas where peo­ple thought we had done well and im­prove in ar­eas where we needed some at­ten­tion.”

Three en­gine op­tions re­main — 2.0 and 2.5-litre petrol and 2.2-litre turbo diesel — with front and all-wheel drive. The in­di­vid­ual model count goes up to 12 choices, all be­low $50,000.

The CX-5 is yet to be crash tested but Mazda is con­fi­dent it will con­tinue with five stars and it says the “real world” fuel econ­omy is im­proved by more than 4 per cent.

Its pop­u­lar­ity is re­flected in its 115,000 sales in Aus­tralia to date and the ob­jec­tive is to con­tinue de­liv­er­ies at about 2000 a month — this should be easy at first as more than 13,000 peo­ple have reg­is­tered in­ter­est in the new­comer.

The Maxx Sport will be most pop­u­lar with about one-third of sales. Sur­pris­ingly, the ba­sic Maxx is pre­dicted to be the least pop­u­lar. One word sums up the new CX-5: re­fined. It’s slightly more re­fined in the way it looks, no­tice­ably more re­fined in the cabin and much more re­fined in the way it drives.

Prices start in the high$20,000 bracket but as a com­peti­tor for sim­i­lar-sized Euro­pean SUVs the model could eas­ily jus­tify a price tag $20,000 higher.

The ma­jor­ity of my time is spent in the most pop­u­lar vari­ant, the Maxx Sport 2.5 auto — and it’s a very good thing. The en­gine is def­i­nitely more re­spon­sive than the base 2.0 and the gear­box is smooth.

It’s no­tice­ably qui­eter, thanks to a thicker wind­screen and ex­tra sound dead­en­ing — far qui­eter than the pre­vi­ous CX-5 and more like the larger CX-9. That’s a fa­mil­iar theme — Mazda’s im­prove­ments from the big­ger model carry over to the mid-sizer.

Among the de­tails, in­te­ri­ors look and feel more classy, the rear seat back can re­cline slightly and the boot is con­sid­er­ably big­ger — up by 39L.

Safety ba­sics are right — auto emer­gency brak­ing, blindspot mon­i­tor­ing, re­vers­ing camera and rear cross-traf­fic alert. Avail­able tech in­cludes speed-sign recog­ni­tion, high­er­speed auto brak­ing, radar cruise con­trol, front and rear park­ing radar, and driver at­ten­tion alert.

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