See all of ‘Sef­frica’ in the CX5

Mazda’s old and new cross-overs are jaw-drop­pers, but the new one yaws less around cor­ners

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN

ONLY at one point on a 1 000 km run did the ruts prove too rough for the sus­pen­sion of the Mazda CX5 — and that was on a cow path head­ing down to the waves in Cof­fee Bay.

To be fair, even the lo­cal mare stepped care­fully down this path to sniff at the CX5 — per­haps smelling all that ‘jinba it­tai’ spirit of a horse and its rider that Mazda tries to im­bue all its cars with.

Hav­ing driven long gravel roads through the Free State and down the De Beers pass to get to those ruts, we knew the CX5 can and does do dirt roads.

We steered the out­go­ing CX5 along these roads to com­pare it to the new CX5, which was launched on the skid­pan at the Gerotek ve­hi­cle test cen­tre in Pre­to­ria West last week.

The pas­sen­gers in the out­go­ing model — all adults with long legs — loved the com­fort of the back seats, but I can now tes­tify the new Mazda CX5 is even more com­fort­able on the long road, thanks to G-force con­trol that en­sures pas­sen­gers in the back go around cor­ners with the least amount of yaw, even if the driver tries to make their jaws drop.

The un­changed en­gine also re­main a joy. Power from the 2,2 diesel is 129kW and there is more than enough torque at 420Nm.

Mazda said at the launch it has re­fined ev­ery el­e­ment of the new CX5’s de­sign and tech­nol­ogy; “rais­ing the bar for the line-up’s com­bi­na­tion of fuel ef­fi­ciency, driv­ing fun, award-win­ning looks and top-class safety”.

These up­dates are im­por­tamt as the CX5 ac­counts for about one quar­ter of Mazda’s global sales vol­ume.

Fea­ture up­dates on the 2017 CX-5 in­clude LED head and front fog lamps, auto head­lamp lev­el­ling, newly de­signed 17” al­loy wheels, rear ven­ti­la­tion, USB for rear cen­tre arm­rest and auto door lock from the Ac­tive petrol deriva­tive.

The new 19-inch al­loy wheels look good in their arches and in­side the leather seats pro­vide eight-way power ad­justable set­tings.

Lit­tle de­tails I ap­pre­ci­ate most in the new CX5 is how the start but­ton no longer hides be­hind the steer­ing wheel, but has been moved an inch lower to be more vis­i­ble; and in the Dynamic model the mir­rors fold au­to­mat­i­cally when the ve­hi­cle shuts down.

Still ir­ri­tat­ing me is the auto stop start, which has to be turned off if you want to be able to slip into gaps dur­ing peak hour. Keep auto off on, and the half-a-sec­ond it takes to start will see the gap close again.

More im­pres­sive are in the CX5 In­di­vid­ual model are the 10speaker Bose sound sys­tem, a head-up dis­play, a pow­er­lift tail gate, as well as the Smart City Brake Sup­port (SCBS) and Driver At­ten­tion Alert (DAA) ad­vanced safety fea­tures.

Mazda’s tried and tested er­gonomic cabin lay­out en­sures that each but­ton is where your prob­ing fin­ger ex­pects to find it in the dark, and the lane de­par­ture as­sist keeps the cross­over SUV neatly in the mid­dle of the road even around bends. It does de­mand a hand on the wheel ev­ery few sec­onds though, so this is not fully au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, yet.

All this should hint that Mazda is no longer the cheap and cheer­ful brand name es­tab­lished by the ever-will­ing 323.

In­stead, Mazda now aims to make pre­mium cars that can take on the Ger­man tri­umvi­rate of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in terms of lux­u­ries and per­for­mance, and be­cause most peo­ple or­der a 2-litre petrol, Mazda now also of­fers the CX5 2 Dynamic with an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

The whole range of the new CX5 adopts the first of the Sky­ac­tiv-Ve­hi­cle Dy­nam­ics, which is a mo­tion con­trol pro­gramme that uses G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol to smooth out jaw and sway dur­ing even harsh driv­ing.

As Mazda ex­plained: “This in­no­va­tive soft­ware-based sys­tem con­trols body roll for bet­ter han­dling, while sus­pen­sion and pow­er­train im­prove­ments fa­cil­i­tate su­pe­rior ride qual­ity.”

Also new is Mazda’s next-gen­er­a­tion pre­mium colour pal­ette; with the Soul Red Crys­tal sure to be a win­ner, but I ex­pect only panel beat­ers with a Spies Hecker spray booth will truly ap­pre­ci­ate the re­al­is­tic metal­lic feel cre­ated by a deep translu­cent body, con­trast­ing shad­ows and a high-den­sity fin­ish. Lo­cally the seven model line-up has a choice of three Sky­ac­tiv en­gines — a 2,0 or a 2,5-litre petrol, or a 2,2 diesel with an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

CX5 prices starts at R379 900 and the top of the range 2,2 DE Ak­era AWD Auto model we drove sells for R557 500, com­pared to the out­go­ing model that sold for R541 400.

To my mind, the sweet spot is in the mid­dle, at R416 900 for the new 2-litre Dynamic sixspeed auto.

The new Mazda CX-5 model range will be avail­able from June 1 at all Mazda deal­ers, but the out­go­ing model had one of its best months dur­ing its run out, so don’t ex­pect a buy­ers’ mar­ket.

PHO­TOS: AR­MAND ATKINS

Mazda’s ‘jinba it­tai’ spirit, the con­nec­tion be­tween horse and rider, pos­si­bly at­tracted this horse near Cof­fee Bay.

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