Leg­gat Mazda Burling­ton de­buts a more re­fined CX-5

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS -

Mazda’s CX-5 com­pact cross­over has been a suc­cess story since its de­but in 2012.

No doubt the Ja­panese au­tomaker ex­pected to do well with its stylish, new, fun-to-drive com­pact SUV back then, but the re­sults have surely sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions by a wide mar­gin.

The CX-5 now ac­counts for about a quar­ter of all Mazda sales world­wide and has be­come one of its core ve­hi­cles as crossovers eat away at com­pact car sales on a monthly ba­sis.

A re­cent va­ca­tion trip through eight coun­tries in Asia gave this writer a glimpse of just how pop­u­lar the CX-5 has be­come. It seemed ev­ery­where you went, there was a CX-5 driv­ing past or parked in front of you.

In fact, Mazda sold 370,000 of them world­wide last year (more than 1.4 mil­lion since launch) in­clud­ing one to yours truly— a 2016.5 mid-level GS, a re­place­ment for our 2013 GS.

Now for 2017, a new sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion CX-5 has ar­rived at Mazda deal­er­ships. And rather than stand­ing on its lau­rels, Mazda has made a whop­ping 698 changes for 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to Masaya Ko­dama, pro­gram man­ager for the CX-5, the goal was to cre­ate a new level of driv­ing plea­sure and at the same time pas­sen­ger com­fort. En­gi­neers fo­cused on mak­ing the cabin qui­eter, the rear seat more invit­ing and the ride more com­fort­able with min­i­mal torso-sway for all ve­hi­cle oc­cu­pants.

Af­ter a week with the new model, I would say Mazda can say “done, done and done”, both im­prov­ing on and re­fin­ing what it had with the first gen­er­a­tion CX-5 and cre­at­ing a more pre­mium look and feel.

This was es­sen­tial for Mazda as the CX-5 sits in a crowded mar­ket, match­ing up against such heavy-hit­ters as the Nis­san Rogue, Honda CR-V, Toy­ota RAV4, Ford Es­cape, Jeep Chero­kee, Chevro­let Equinox and the like.

In all, there are now 17 ve­hi­cles in this seg­ment, ac­count­ing for more than 80,000 unit sales in the first three months of the year in Canada.

So it’s easy to see how im­por­tant it was for Mazda to get this right.

Among the new stan­dard fea­tures for 2017 are LED head­lights and day­time run­ning lights, rearview cam­era, 17-inch al­loy wheels, noise-iso­lat­ing wind­shield, seven-inch touch­screen with Mazda Con­nect and HMI Com­man­der and Blue­tooth and G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol. What is G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol, you ask? In short, it’s an in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy that ad­justs en­gine torque elec­tron­i­cally to im­prove ride and han­dling.

Not some­thing that’s easy to test, but take one for a test drive and you’ll see how eas­ily it tracks through cor­ners and hugs the road. It’s easy to steer and easy to track through the twisties in the coun­try or around tight park­ing lots in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment.

The CX-5 of­fers three trim lev­els — GX, GS and GT, start­ing at $24,900. This gives you an en­trylevel GX with front-wheel drive, a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion and 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gine, mak­ing 150 hp.

All other trims get a 187-hp 2.5-litre in­line four, matched with a sixspeed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Later on this year, Mazda will add a 2.2-litre turbo diesel en­gine to CX-5 lineup.

All-wheel drive is a $2,000 ad­don in the GX and GS lev­els, and stan­dard on the GT, while the 2.5-litre en­gine is a $1,400 op­tion on the GX.

The GS-line starts at $29,100, while our tester ar­rived in top-level GT trim and priced out at $36,750 plus $1,895 freight and PDI.

It was fin­ished in the new sig­na­ture paint colour for 2017, Soul Red Crystal Metal­lic that pro­vides a rich, vivid look that stands out in any crowd.

The ex­te­rior has a bolder look, par­tic­u­larly up front where the Mazda fam­ily face has been re­freshed. The ve­hi­cle has a more planted look with a lower cen­tre of grav­ity and 10 mm wider front and rear treads.

Aside from the re­fined look of the cabin, the most ob­vi­ous change for 2017 is the repo­si­tion­ing of the seven-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen.

The screen in our 2016.5 model is placed within the cen­tre stack, but the new one sits atop the dash­board for bet­ter sight­lines.

In keep­ing with its goal of tak­ing the brand to a more pre­mium level, Mazda has made avail­able stan­dard or op­tional fea­tures such as a power rear lift­gate, front wiper de­icer, heated steer­ing wheel, heated rear seats, 10 Bose speak­ers on the pre­mium au­dio sys­tem, a traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion sys­tem, head up dis­play and a seat mem­ory func­tion.

I would ex­pect the GS trim will have the high­est take rate among buy­ers, but with its more up­scale look and feel, the GT model may

now pull in some con­sumers shop­ping the en­try-lux­ury seg­ment. It’s that good.

Our tester was beau­ti­fully fin­ished in­side with plush Pure White leather up­hol­stery. Not some­thing you’d want with lit­tle ones of the two- or four-legged va­ri­ety, but cer­tainly chic-look­ing for the cou­ple en­joy­ing an ur­ban lifestyle.

Driv­ing wise, I didn’t no­tice a

huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the first and sec­ond-gen mod­els, but the ef­forts to cut down cabin noise didn’t go un­no­ticed and the ride is more com­fort­able and a lit­tle less choppy on rough roads.

The new CX-5 is still very much a driver’s car and one that should be in ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion when you talk about the best com­pact crossovers on the mar­ket.

The writer’s 2016.5 CX-5 on the left and the new 2017 on the right. Note, the new front grille and sleek LED lights on the new model.

The in­te­rior of the CX-5 for 2017 has a more pre­mium look and feel. Shown here is GT trim with plush Pure White leather up­hol­stery.

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