Subtlety is the key to the Mazda CX-5 in its latest guise
Having arrived at a level of svelte style and street presence that provides high satisfaction, states Iain Robertson, Mazda realises that change-for-change’s-sake on its mid-size crossover model could upset an unnecessary applecart.
Elegance, in my eyes, is a beautiful Frenchwoman wearing a plain, single-colour dress, without adornments, a whiff of Chanel No.5 and the finest of 23ct white gold chains around her neck. It is an international style statement that few nationalities can carry off more successfully. Worn with a quiet braless confidence to just level with the knees, it is a minimalist style statement par excellence. There are no additional details. No waste. Zero fripperies. Finest denier, ecru silk stockings and a crisply smart pair of stilettos complete the image.
Take your pick of furniture, white goods, electronics, glassware, even foodstuffs and especially venues; the correct combination of colour and minimal accoutrements carries vital class and appeal. It is so easy to become beguiled by splashes of the avant-garde but plain and simple carries the message most fluently. My favourite typeface is Arial, which is sans serif and unmistakably clean and clear. My favourite hotel chain is Malmaison. My favourite chocolate is Bournville.
Now take a long, lingering look at the latest Mazda CX-5. It is an automotive design that is quietly confident and devoid of excess, while making a bold on-road statement that is convincing and uncomplicated. The observer is in no doubt as to its purpose. The CX-5 stands taller than the family hatchback, even in its top specification, riding on 19.0-inch diameter alloy wheels that fill the wheel-arch cavities to hunker it subtly and closely to terra firma, aiding its poise.
Mazda is a Master of Design integrity and clarity, of which colour choice becomes an optional consideration and not because the car looks better in one shade, over another. In fact, Mazda can prove that it is form and not function that will turn heads; it possesses a history of timely expressions of grace and stultifying beauty that has the additional benefit of timelessness. They are the measure of the brand that provides classical elegance, where perceived value becomes a secondary consideration. They are unswerving characteristics.
Enter the cabin and the occupant is not overwhelmed by confusing switchgear, or digital panels possessing multiple applications. Instead, an aura of calm familiarity, ringed with high quality, supported by comfort, in its choice of fine hide and high tactility. It is the impression of feeling totally at home with the CX-5 that impresses most. The instrument faces are clean and legible. The touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard is readily understood and all controls fall precisely to hand, with sensory adroitness, from the positive click of the indicator stalk, to the snick-snack of the manual gear-lever around the gate.
Yet, changes have been wrought. The first CX-5 was launched in 2012 and given a comprehensive mid-life refresher in 2017 to result in the ‘Mark Two’ version, itself revised only a couple of years ago, mainly to introduce improved electronics and cleaner engine technology. While 2020 will enter the annals of history as one of the least forgettable of years, however much we may wish it never happened, Mazda is using it as a means to make Kaizen improvements to the CX-5. There are far more than appearances suggest but it remains a gentle evolution of a proven machine.
Cylinder deactivation, on manual 162bhp Skyactiv-G petrol models, reduces CO2 emissions by 8%. The 14-strong model line-up features six petrol and eight diesel variants. Most of them are front-wheel drive, with a choice of automatic, or manual gearboxes across all models and the revised petrol unit being available in all three trim grades: SE-L, Sport and GT Sport. Mazda continues to support diesel technology, the 2.2-litre Skyactiv-D diesel being offered in 147bhp and 181bhp forms. The former unit is available in SE-L and Sport grades, with front-wheel drive, while the latter version features all-wheel drive in either Sport, or GT Sport trim levels.
The central command screen now sees the mapping extend to the full width of the monitor. However, in a range, where sales are predominated by higher-end models, Sport buyers can now look forward to a reversing camera and a power-lift tailgate, while the cabin benefits from an eight-way power adjustable drivers’ seat, black leather, heated front seats, heated steering wheel and a windscreen projected, colour head-up display, plus a Bose 10-speaker audio system.
The CX-5 has always been an SUV praised for its dynamic stability and Mazda’s commitment to driver engagement witnessed subtle tweaks to the CX-5’s suspension set-up in the 2019 update, which further refined the car’s highly-regarded agility and ride quality. A thicker front-anti roll bar, smaller rear anti-roll bar and revised front stabiliser bushings combined with new urethane material in the rear damper top mounts and amended damper valve structures to deliver the improvements. In addition, the 2019 updates saw the introduction of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system (GVC Plus), which now features direct yaw control to enhance stability at higher speeds. While the latest Mazda CX-5’s dynamic set-up is largely unaltered, improvements have been made to sound insulation, to refine the cabin further.
At the top of the shop is the flagship GT Sport. As you might expect of a luxury crossover, the GT Sport features an array of equipment highlights over and above the regular Sport, which include front seat ventilation and heated outer rear seats. In addition to the ADAS safety tally fitted across the range, the GT Sport’s standard trim includes adaptive LED headlights, Driver Attention Alert, Rear Smart City Brake Support and 360-degree around-view monitor, marked out externally by the aforementioned, 19.0-inch bright alloy wheels.
Mind you, there is a price to pay and it starts at £27,030, rising to a whopping £39,085, at the top end of the scale. Mazda has already proved that its CX-5 is capable of converting higher-end crossover/SUV owners to the brand. It never forces their arms and relies on that insouciant draw of subtlety and street presence, which is always preferable to crass commercialism.
Conclusion: Mazda knows how to make an impression on the automotive scene and it does so, without over-wordiness, without over-egging the omelette. Unerringly and timelessly attractive, it is clarity and a delicate touch that wins fans.