Mazda's trail-blazing new CX-5 has arrived in South Africa just few months after its international debut and it's easy to understand why it has ignited such a world-wide frenzy of debate, praise and enthusiasm, most of it about its pace-setting new Skyactive technology.
The headlights swivel - helping you see around the corner.
From now on all Mazda vehicles will benefit from this technology which reaches deep down into the engine and transmission as well as the suspension, chassis and body. This new DNA was developed to collectively make the key components of the vehicle lighter, more effective, eco-friendly (and trend-setting, no doubt).
What Mazda did to achieve all of this would require several handbooks to describe in detail, but key features include raising the engine ratio to an impressive 13.O:1 and then linking it to Skyactive-Drive, a highly efficient six-speed automatic transmission or to a new and smaller, lightweight MT manual gearbox.
As part of the new thinking Mazda also created a rigid body and chassis combination (one of the key factors contributing to the CX-5's five star Euro NCAP rating) which is safer and lighter. The reduction in weight also improves the car's performance and boosts fuel economy.
Weight reduction processes and special engineering techniques have also been applied to help reduce weight, right down to the thickness of the metal sheets which make up the body shell... and even the suspension structure and mounts were tweaked for optimal effectiveness.
The result is a boldly styled, high-riding small SUV, brimming with smart features and pushed along by a peppy direct-injection 2-litre engine that kicks out 114kW and 200Nm. The engine, which has more power (and is more eco friendly and economic) than the current Mazda 2-litre in the outgoing Mazda5 and the Mazda6, is linked to a six-speed manual or six-speed auto transmission.
At the recent Media launch I drove both the manual and auto versions and enjoyed its ride quality and handling. There is very little body roll and the small SUV handles and feels like a family saloon.
The steering is nicely-weighted although a bit light at lower speeds (although good for parking) and the feedback is not all that muted, even though it is electro assisted. The CX-5 certainly benefits from its Weight Watchers treatment and it feels agile and fairly well planted.
On the subject of being in the seat
In some SUV's the occupants feel as though they are sitting on the seats rather then in them but the seats of the CX-5 are well designed and comfortable enough to be kind to back and bum, even on long trips. The living quarters are typically black and silver smart and a tad bland, but functionality is good and all the key bits are logically placed and easy to find and operate. The cabin is also well insulated, quiet and spacious enough to accommodate five plus a generous pile of luggage.
I drove the entry-level manual Active model as well as the more expensive Individual automatic version and like most of the other motoring scribes I preferred the manual option. Both transmissions are smooth shifters but the automatic set-up feels as though it is inclined more towards smooth and optimum economy than rapid progress. In fact the zippy engine felt decidedly sleepy in the auto version.
The living quarters are a tad bland, but the functionality is fine.
But then most new CX-5 buyers will probably hail from Venus and the ladies will certainly prefer the auto's ease of driving, particularly on school and commuter runs and in congested traffic. The good news is that fuel consumption is virtually identical at 6.8 litres/100km for the manual and 6.9 for the automatic models.
In terms of kit, standard in all models are Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) incorporating a Traction Control System (TCS), ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) as well as Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) which automatically flashes the hazard lights to warn the driver behind of sudden braking. It also has Hill Launch Assist (HLA), which is a standard feature on all models.
Peering around corners
The Individual model also features Bi-Xenon headlights with an Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) which swivels the headlights up to 15º in the direction that you are steering to reveal more of the corner at night.
The entry level Active version has a 6-speed manual transmission, height-and-reach adjustable steering wheel, 17-inch steel wheels, body colour bumpers, door handles and power fold mirrors, 4-speaker sound system, rear spoiler, roof rails, manual air conditioning and auxiliary power point.
The ladies will certainly prefer the auto’s ease of driving, particularly on school and commuter runs and in congested traffic.
The Dynamic AST model has all the above plus 17-inch alloy wheels, alarm, 6-Speed automatic transmission, Bluetooth cell phone interface, cruise control, front fog lights, leather gear knob, leather steering wheel, a 6-speaker sound system, a special Karakuri tonneau cover and vanity mirror illumination.
The flagship Individual version adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a 9-Speaker Bose sound system, dual control automatic air-conditioning, adaptive front light system (AFLS), auto headlamp levelling, auto headlamp on/off, auto interior rear view mirror, back-up monitor, bi-Xenon headlamps, driver and passenger heated leather seats, driver's seat lumbar support, parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, power seat adjustment, smart entry system and sunroof.
All models have a full house of passive and active safety features such as crumple zones, front, side and curtain airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, a steering column that shifts forward during an accident to absorb driver momentum and ISOFIX attachments for the little ones.
A boldly styled, high-riding small SUV, brimming with smart features.
The small SUV market is growing rapidly in this country and Mazda is confident that it is going to grab a substantial slice away from the likes of the Honda CRV, Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai, Toyota RAV and VW Tiguan and their optimism seems quite justified because the new CX-5 is not only attention-grabbing stylish but also safe, clean, economical as well as comfortable and fun to drive.
Initially there are only petrol derivatives and the Mazda CX-5 models and prices are:
Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
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