New 2017 Mazda CX-5: Driving Toward a High-End Market

More chic, more refined

April 19 2017, André Melancon

Introduced in 2011, the first generation of the Mazda CX-5 was a resounding success for the Japanese automaker, with global sales approaching 370,000 units. Sales growth for the CX-5 has in fact outpaced overall growth in its category – which is saying something given that compact SUVs are presently seeing an exponential increase in worldwide sales!

The KODO philosophy, which rests on the Japanese design concepts of simplicity, purity of lines and attention to detail, has in conjunction with the development of SKYACTIV technologies allowed the Hiroshima-based manufacturer to carve out an impressive niche for itself in the segment among big names like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, not to mention the Volkswagen Tiguan, Jeep Compass and several other significant players. For its part, the automotive press has shown great enthusiasm for the CX-5, having bestowed on it no fewer than 90 major awards around the world.

The marketing team at Mazda is clear about its mandate for the 2017 CX-5: to present a product that approaches the high end of the market, which also entails leaving the mass market behind. To this end, during the North American media launch, the manufacturer didn’t hesitate to have us drive the luxury models which the new CX-5 seeks to emulate: BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Lexus NX 200. 

To be sure, the bar is being set high. But the design of the next-generation CX-5 is remarkable, and features styling details normally associated with prestige models. Its visual qualities are many and impressive, for exampling in its attractive alloy wheels, headlamps, lower-body shape, side-view mirrors and rich and distinctive colours.

The interior of the 2017 Mazda CX-5 has been upgraded (in GT version) with quality black or white leather, which fits in nicely with the upholstery-lined dashboard, the stitching and the lacquer-style finish of the central console. Much care has been given as well to the design of the main interface and to the different commands. It’s worth noting that the intermediate GS trim now comes with standard leatherette and suede upholstery that is both attractive and pleasant to the touch.

As a result of a dedicated hunt for noises and vibrations on the part of Mazda’s engineers, the new CX-5 has gained substantial points in terms of sound insulation. And for those wanting to add some luxury commodities, Mazda is offering a wide range of seductive options including an electric rear hatchback, front and back intensity-adjustable heated seats, the newly-perfected Mazda Connect system accessible via an iPad-style screen, a 10-speaker Bose audio system and a Head Up display for the windshield.

Enhancements to the passive and active safety elements include the Smart City Brake Support braking system, as well as blind-spot detection, adaptive speed regulator and lane-departure warning systems.

On paper at least, the mechanical setup of the second-generation CX-5 seems pretty similar to what came before, with 2.0L and 2.5L 4-cylinders providing comparable power. Two areas Mazda engineers did focus on involve acceleration from a stop to cruising speed, and engine gear-shifting, and both have been improved. The 6-speed transmission, for its part, has gained in precision and in suppleness during gear changes, especially in the automatic version. 

While Mazda’s concept of jinba ittai (rider and mount in unity, as one) may seem a bit idealistic, road testing the CX-5 – as well as the 2017 Mazda3 – proved to us once more the seriousness of Mazda’s approach to that concept, and the company’s abiding focus on ergonomics.

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