What is it?
Mazda’s hot-selling CX-5 mid-size SUV that continues to carry all before it in the Australian SUV market.
After blitzing the sales charts since its debut in 2012, the CX-5 has found home in more than 140,000 Australian households.
In what is now a five-grade range, buyers get the choice of two petrol or a turbodiesel engine.
The pecking order remains the same — Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera – but there are two big ticket items for 2018.
The first is price reductions across the range of between $400 and $800.
The other big story relates to the already excellent 2.2-litre turbo-diesel powerplant.
Those clever Mazda engineers have waved a magic wand over the engine and boosted the power output from 129kW to 140kW at the same 4500 revs.
More impressive is the increase in torque which has jumped from a class leading 420Nm to an even more muscular 450Nm at the same 2000 revs.
Not even Audi’s way-more-expensive Q5 TDI with its 400Nm can hold a candle to the Mazda.
At the same time fuel consumption has been cut from 6.0 to a claimed 5.7L/100km.
The engine gurus have achieved this through speedier rapid-stage combustion, newly designed combustion chambers and piezo injection.
Central to the engine story is a new variable-geometry, two-stage twin turbocharger and a boost in the compression ratio from 14.0:1 to 14.4:1.
The overall result is a quieter, more-refined engine.
The 2.5-litre 140kW/242Nm petrol engine has also has its fuel-consumption figure improved slightly, from 7.5 to 7.4L/100km while its 2.0-litre sibling with 115kW/200Nm comes in at 6.9L/100km.
Helping to achieve this is a new cylinder-deactivation system that shuts down two of the four cylinders during light-load conditions, such as when the the motorway.
Mazda’s so-called Skyactiv technologies have been adopted across the engine line-up, with improvements to efficiency and performance, as well as a reduction in noise, vibration and harshness.
Top-spec Akera buyers can now look forward to a new 360-degree overhead camera and all variants from Touring upwards now sport a new head-up display that’s projected on to the windscreen rather than the previous flip-up screen.
As you’d expect from a family-friendly SUV, there are plenty of cubby holes for all those bits and pieces and this includes a handy roof-mounted sunglasses holder.
With the rear seats occupied, there’s 442 litres of luggage space or 1342 litres with the seats folded down.
What’s it cost?
Pricing-wise, the entry-level 2.0-litre six-speed manual petrol Maxx kicks things off at an unchanged $28,690 while the superb range-topping turbo-diesel Akera with its six-speed automatic transmission rounds things off at $49,190 — $800 less than before.
The 2.0-litre FWD Maxx is the only variant that allows buyers to specify a manual gearbox but is also the only one not available in diesel.
Maxx and the Maxx Sport are the only variants that offer FWD, but you can specify an AWD Maxx provided it’s with the 2.5-litre petrol engine.
An automatic adds $2000 to the price.
As with the outgoing model line-up, standard kit is pretty generous.
Even entry-level Maxx buyers can look forward to the likes of LED headlights, power folding exterior mirrors, a 7.0-inch screen with Mazda’s MZD Connect system, basic air conditioning, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth/USB, a reversing camera and rear-parking sensors, plus blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and forward-and-reverse automated electronic braking.
For the range-topping Akera – the variant we’re going to focus most on here – there is a massive suite of goodies.
It includes the new 360-degree view monitor, a tilt-and-slide sunroof, leather trim (either white or black), adaptive LED headlights, 7.0-inch colour touch screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Premium Bose audio with a 240watt amplifier and 10 speakers, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.
All CX-5 variants have a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
What’s it go like?
The most impressive variant my media co-driver and I sampled on the Canberra-based launch was the new Akera turbo diesel.
It’s so refined, that we were hard-pressed to tell whether it was petrol or diesel.
Once you’re up and running the refinement story continues, thanks in changes introduced with the previous model.
These include hiding the windscreen wipers below the bonnet, making the exterior mirrors and front windscreen pillars more aerodynamic and also making the underbody more aerodynamic.
The car feels classy sitting behind the Akera’s great leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel.
The front seats are beautifully shaped and supportive and for the driver, everything falls naturally to hand.
As I said when I reviewed the previous Akera, its interior design and quality is right up there with the best from Europe.
The great new turbo-diesel engine mates beautifully with the six-speed automatic.
With lashings of torque, gear changes are kept to a minimum — but some gear change paddles would be nice (are you listening Mazda?)
That said, you can flick the console-mounted stick shifter into manual mode and use it to change gears.
All CX-5s have electric power steering and ride on a MacPherson-strut front-suspension and multi-link rear arrangement.
As is the case with all Mazdas, the ride is on the sporty side and while I was quite happy with the Akera’s ride, its 19-inch alloys with their lower profile tyres do make things a tad firmer.
Speaking of tyres, the test car was shod with 225/55/R19 Toyo Proxes R46 “boots” — and it’s a tyre I haven’t encountered before.
I thought the tyres worked exceptionally well with the Akera’s underpinnings.
Part of the nearly 300km drive program was on badly corrugated gravel and the combination of the car’s all-wheel-drive system and Toyo rubber worked a treat.
Despite some enthusiastic punting, a feeling of surefootedness was the order of the day.
Back on nice smooth bitumen under freeway conditions the 450Nm Akera “oiler” just loafs along, laughing at hills and barely raising its pulse during overtaking.
In fact, at 110km/h the engine is ticking over at just 2000 revs and the problem is that you can be doing 120km/h in a blink, if you don’t watch out or click the cruise-control buttons.
Rated at 5.7L/100km, we saw 7.5 at the end of our drive sector.
What we like?
- Great new torquey turbo-diesel engine
- High level of safety with all the safety kit
- Classy, comfortable interior
- Despite a raft of upgrades, $800 less expensive
What we don’t?
- Space-saver spare
- Stingy three-year warranty
The bottom line?
Mazda has made a great medium-sized SUV even better – especially with that diesel engine – and the Akera is the star of the show.
It’s a superbly packaged vehicle with high levels of standard features, passenger comfort, safety and fuel efficiency.
Technology-wise, Mazda is without doubt a world leader and its policy of constant research and development certainly pays off for customers.
No wonder it’s now the number two selling car company in Australia behind Toyota.
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Mazda CX-5, priced from $28,690