Smooth is the name of the Mazda new-game CX-5 as company pumps up the ride and comfort of SUV
The Thailand International Motor Expo serves as a stage for automobile companies to introduce new models and ramp up orders before the year closes.
One of the stars at this year’s Motor Expo is the new Mazda CX-5, which was officially introduced weeks before the show.
While also taking orders for the CX-5, Mazda followed up the launch with lengthy media test drives which started off in Chiang Rai and ran alongside the Mekong river before returning to Bangkok.
Mazda had in fact invited Thai media for a preview of the CX-5 in Penang where short drives were offered, allowing a glimpse of the new model in a closed area. The real test drive, meanwhile, is this one, with the CX-5 being driven in demanding real-life conditions. The CX-5 test drivers had to motor the vehicles through all types of roads, starting with treacherous mountain curves in Chiang Rai.
I was placed in Group B, which was responsible for driving from Ubon Ratchathani to Udon Thani, spending the night by the Mekong riverside in Nakhon Phanom.
The new model is slightly longer, and while the 2,700-millimetre wheelbase remains untouched, the front and rear tracks have been widened. It’s also 30mm lower, adding to the sportier predator stance.
The CX-5 is a crowd magnet at the Motor Expo in many ways, the first being the exterior design. While the new model is based on the same platform as the predecessor, Mazda designers have made sure that the exterior looks have been updated enough to turn heads. The Kodo design’s evolution in the CX-5 results in a sleeker looking vehicle with higher levels of elegance.
The front grille in particular makes you think of European luxury cars (I thought of Jaguar) while the headlights and taillights are narrower. The flowing bodylines and glossy paintwork make the CX-5 stand out in traffic, especially if you drive one with the new “Soul Crystal Red” colour.
Step inside and many would be surprised with the quality of the interior. Leather upholstery and double-stitching on the console, door panels and seats give the CX-5 cabin a premium feel.
The significantly improved craftsmanship and high-grade materials like aluminium and detailed fabrics, particularly in the interior, is noticeable in the new model. The CX-5 is the first Mazda with a two-step reclining backseat system, and the luggage area for the new model measures 505 litres (with sub-trunk).
On the instrument panel, there’s a new 4.6-inch colour TFT LCD multi-information display, while the 7-inch centre display has been relocated from the centre console to the top of the dashboard.
The engine and transmission has been carried over from the original model, but they have been improved for better emissions.
I drove the top 2.2-litre diesel model, which develops the same 175hp and 420Nm as in the previous model with its dual turbochargers. However, the engine is smoother and engine noise is much lower in the new model, thanks to new sound-frequency control systems and improved interior soundproofing (there is also less wind noise). Apart from better ride comfort, it also allows the audio system (read the CX-5 audio system review below) to perform better since the cabin is quieter to begin with.
The gearbox is also the same, with the 6-speed automatic coming with manual shift mode for “zoom-zoom” driving.
Those who love the sharp handling of the first-gen CX-5 may be a little disappointed to learn the new model has been tuned for higher comfort levels in order to serve a wider customer base. The ride has been smoothed significantly and the CX-5 can now go over local potholes more comfortably.
Mazda said the diameter of shock absorber pistons have been increased for a more linear response and liquid-filled bushings help lower vibrations. But the highlight for ride quality seems to be the G-vectoring control (GVC) system that is offered in this model for the first time. The software adjusts engine torque to provide a smoother cornering performance and helps reduce fatigue during long drives. Meanwhile, the head-up display on the front windshield has been improved with sharper graphics and wider display area that now also shows the navigation system alerts.
The top diesel model also features a new i-Activ all-wheel-drive system as well as four-wheel-disc brakes with brake hold function. Bear in mind that the 225/55 tires on 19-inch wheels will be costly to replace, but boy do they look good on the CX-5.
A new-generation i-Activesense package is offered, with automatic cruise control, emergency braking and LED headlights with adaptive high-beam control. There are also dual front airbags and side airbags, as well as window airbags.
While the Honda CR-V had stimulated the midsized SUV market during the first part of the year with a new diesel variant, Mazda is hoping to win back market share with the new CX-5.
Mazda customers will be delighted with the new model, which may have lost some of its macho character, but is a better all-round vehicle that everyone can enjoy.
Mazda CX-5 2.2 XDL specs
Engines: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve VVT dual-stage turbocharged
Bore and stroke: 86.0 x 94.3mm
Compression ratio: 14.0:1
Max power: 175ps/4,500rpm
Max torque: 420Nm/2,000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Suspension: MacPherson strut,
Steering: electrically powered rack and pinion
Min turn: 11.0 metres
Brakes: vented disc/disc
Wheels: 19-inch alloy
Tires: 225/55 R19
Length x width x height: 4,550mm x1,840mm x1,680mm
Track (front/rear): 1,595/1,595mm
Fuel capacity: 58 litres
Price: Bt1.77 million
Distributor: Mazda Sales (Thailand) Co Ltd