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Mazda CX-5: Test Drive Review

Date: 16 May 2012   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

Mazda CX-5
Category: Small 4x4
P11D price: £23,340
Key rival: Volkswagen Tiguan

The CX-5 marks Mazda's first foray into the compact 4x4 segment and the debut of the firm's new Skyactiv technology.

The former is a bold move but the latter is a necessity because the new development gives the company a more competitive and efficient set of petrol and diesel engines, something it has lacked of late.

The new engine range enables Mazda to compete with models bearing established eco branding, such as VW's Bluemotion and Ford's Econetic. CO2 of 119g/km and 61.4mpg also render the CX-5 the cleanest and most economical small 4x4 of the moment.

Against established rivals such as the VW Tiguan, the CX-5, typically, has sound driving dynamics on its side. Keen to surf on the success and reputation of the MX-5 sports car, Mazda has applied more of the same thinking to its small 4x4 - so weighty steering, a short-throw gearchange and responsive handling are a given.

Four-wheel drive models add noticeable weight and emissions, and the six-speed auto gearbox, while effective, robs the car of the manual's involvement, so it's no surprise that the leaner, front-wheel drive manual variant is the best option for business drivers.

Performance from both the 150hp and 175hp variants of the diesel engine is strong, but there's little between them in reality, so the lower-powered model is a no-brainer.

Refinement is where the Mazda falls short, as it suffers from wind buffeting from around the A-pillars and wing mirrors, and the diesel engines make their presence known above 2500rpm, although the 150hp version is a little more muted, especially at idle.

The interior is a little dour in its presentation, but that same plainness renders it refreshingly straightforward and easy to use. Fit and finish is good for the most part, but practicality is a far stronger suit. Space for rear-seat occupants is exceptionally generous given the relatively modest dimensions as far as 4x4s go, and the boot is also large. The rear seats spring down and fold completely flat at the push of a button that's mounted on the boot wall.

Impressive though it is - particularly on the costs and emissions front - the CX-5's biggest stumbling block remains the VW Tiguan. While still a way off the Mazda, the VW is the closest to it in terms of emissions and fuel economy. The equivalent 2.0 TDI 140 SE model also just undercuts the CX-5 in terms of cost per mile at 53.3p next to 54.6p.

The Mazda truly moves the game along in front of the competition, but it has its work cut out if it's to wrestle corporate buyers away the safety and panache of a VW badge.