2018 Mazda CX-5 Akera
(4 / 5)
The Mazda CX-5 has always been a good thing, but is squeezing a few more years out of an SUV platform that’s getting long in the tooth a good idea?
Botox, fillers, augmentation – the world seems obsessed with improving people’s looks. But plenty of folks go too far, for too long.
Mazda may be on a roll with its SUVs, but if you look underneath, the underpinnings are all several years old. The CX-9 has been with us a while, the CX-3 is getting on, and now the CX-8 is using the CX-9’s platform.
Then there’s the CX-5. The car it replaced was already five years old, but the current CX-5 uses pretty much the same platform. Check out the wheelbase – it’s identical. Sure, it’s 10mm longer and 35mm lower, but that’s cosmetic stuff.
So has it paid off, and have the updates been worth putting it under the knife? It certainly seems so.
The CX-5 is the definition of sleek. It seems strange to describe a mid-size SUV that way, but leaving behind Mazda’s previous design language was a good thing.
It now features a wider grille, narrower headlights and chrome accents that link the two. It looks much more like the Mazda6 and CX-9, with a more aggressive front end.
The rear is slightly more tapered, and overall the visual enhancements are just enough to keep it looking fresh.
Open the doors and in the case of our Akera test vehicle, the smell of the tanned leather is lovely, while the presentation is simple but classy.
Fine-grained material, soft-touch plastics, lovely silver accents and an ergonomically sound layout make this a very nice place to spend time.
Seat heaters help in winter, and the MZD Connect infotainment is simple to use, thanks to its combination of both touchscreen and rotary dial controller with shortcut buttons. Sure, it’s a copy of BMW’s iDrive system, but it works. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.
Here’s the thing, and it’s helping Mazda shift CX-5s – Mazda’s built quality is simply best in segment. The update to the CX-5 last year brought more leg and knee room, too, and 442 litres of luggage space is enough for most.
The CX-5 offers 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, auto LED headlights, powered tailgate, heads-up display, and radar-based cruise control.
Dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, Bluetooth telephony and streaming, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen, USB, a 10-speaker sound system with DAB+ digital radio and various internet apps are included, but we’d like to see Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Press the start button and a slightly fettled version of its 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol fires up. With its outputs of 140kW (187hp) and 251Nm (185 lb-ft) it’s not ever going to challenge a diesel for torque, and it can seem underdone compared with the ubiquitous 2.0-litre turbocharged fours that everyone else is running with.
Certainly we’d love to see the turbo version of this same engine, as per the CX-9 and Mazda6, but we won’t hold our breath for that one.
Because there’s no forced induction, the CX-5’s throttle response is far sharper, but it’s very buzzy when asked to move briskly. That said, it does get up and go when needed, and its fuel consumption doesn’t jump massively from the 7.5L/100km figure quoted, even when hammering along.
The SkyActive auto feels quite solid in its shifts, seeming like a dual-clutch transmission, but it does respond quickly when asked to downshift, and pairs well with the 2.5-litre engine.
Turn it into a corner and the steering on the Mazda feels very natural, with a good amount of heft and feedback. It’s not the best handler out there, but it’s far from bad. Something like the VW Tiguan is a better bet if you’re going to be slinging the family around corners all the time, but the Mazda is quite happy driven at seven-tenths and below.
EuroNCAP and ANCAP have both rated the CX-5 five stars, and the the safety suite is comprehensive.
It includes reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, six airbags, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and lane keeping assistant.
Here’s the deal
The 2018 Mazda CX-5 is one of the nicest medium SUVs around. It’s impeccably built, has tonnes of up-to-date technology (save the smartphone connectivity) is rated five stars for safety.
It’s also satisfying to drive, has enough space for the family, and is very stylish.
Plastic surgery is often overdone, but in this case that little bit of botox has taken those wrinkles away and kept it looking very stylish indeed.