When you build the car that has been Australia’s best-selling SUV for the last four years and customer feedback remains positive, you don’t mess with the recipe. That explains why the second-generation 2017 Mazda CX-5 that we drove this week feels similar, and looks familiar, to the tremendously popular outgoing model. Mazda have played a smart, if conservative game with the CX-5 update, but that makes total sense. There were few glaring issues with the previous car, which was barely five years old, so most of the changes in the new model are directed towards the easy criticisms of the old version: the new CX-5 is much quieter, more upmarket inside, and offers more standard toys across an enlarged range. Prices do rise a little – the base model is $800 dearer – but this new CX-5, sitting beneath sharper, simpler exterior lines, is an altogether more premium car.
It’s more premium to drive, but also to look at. The first-generation CX-5 introduced Mazda’s Kodo design language – and while Kodo lives on, the new maturity of the concept is obvious. Gone are the oversized lights and chunky cues; the second CX-5 keeps the athletic stance, but adopts a far more restrained and upmarket image, in line with its larger sibling, the much lauded CX-9 seven-seater.
The family resemblance to the CX-9 is even clearer inside, where the CX-5 makes its biggest leap forward. On first impression, the CX-5’s cabin appears as the most refined, elegant set up in the medium SUV class. Atop the classy, wide dash is an Audi-like floating navigation screen, and material quality feels leagues ahead of the old car. Leather and soft plastics, especially in the higher-end GT and Akera grades, are everywhere you look and touch. Finally, this is also an interior that stays quiet on the move – massive increases in harshness insulation means the CX-5 is so quiet, it’s like driving the old model 20km/h slower.
If the new look inside and out, coupled to real improvements in quietness, are clear wins for the new CX-5, it’s when we turn to the rest of the driving experience that things aren’t so clear cut. That’s because the three engines from the old model have carried over almost entirely unchanged. While the 2.2-litre turbo diesel – a $3,000 option, though it receives additional sound deadening – is a true delight, the two naturally aspirated petrols feel outdated compared to the turbo petrols available in the Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson – and we’re left wondering why Mazda chose not to adapt a version of the CX-9’s terrific turbocharged four-cylinder for this CX-5, in which it would be so well suited.
Key specs (as tested)
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