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2017 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport review (video)

With the arrival of the 2017 Mazda CX-5, rivals can’t seem to catch a break from the pummelling they already received from its predecessor. Even towards the end of its life, the outgoing CX-5 enjoyed market dominance for the last four years as Australia’s most popular SUV.

The magic formula of Mazda’s sporty styling, efficient powertrains and a more car-like and involving driving experience than its foes, combined with Japanese reliability, low running costs and practicality has proven impossible to beat.

It’s understandable, then, that the second-generation CX-5 doesn’t stray far from those parameters. In fact, it is dimensionally almost identical and is a careful evolution that irons out some flaws while keeping the best ingredients intact.

We have the $37,390 Maxx Sport here, in all-wheel drive form to see what it’s like, what’s improved and if any of the magic has been lost.

2017 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder
Output: 140kW@6000rpm / 251Nm@4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 17×7.0, 225/65
ANCAP: Five stars (scored 35.10 out of 37)
Tare weight: 1565kg
Power-to-weight: 11.17:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 7.5L/100km
Economy during test: 8L/100km

Fuel capacity/Type: 58L/91 RON
Power efficiency: 18.66kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.45 seconds*
0-100km/h: 9.31 seconds*
60-110km/h: 6.79 seconds*
1/4 mile: 16.90 seconds at 135.2km/h*
100-0km/h braking: 3.10 seconds at 40.57 metres*
Decibel at idle: 44*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 80*
Priced from: $37,390

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2017 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport – THE PACKAGE

Starting from $28,690, the new CX-5 features an evolution of the ‘Kodo’ styling language that has defined modern Mazdas, with more sophisticated surfacing and a heavily revamped interior. The new thin headlamps stand out as something that characterises the new CX-5 as very premium looking, and embodies the subtle improvements they’ve made in the looks department.

Dimensions of 4550mm long by 1840mm wide and 1675mm tall with an identical 2700mm wheelbase mean internal space continues to be generous for five occupants. The only differences are 10mm of extra overhang and 35mm lower height.

When you enter the cabin, you notice a higher quality environment, with softer dash padding, nifty surfacing on parts such as the vents, a more raised centre console and just a more insulated feeling that you also get in the larger CX-9. All sight and touch points are premium in look and feel. Even the new power window switches, with auto up/down for all four windows are a noticeable improvement.

Mazda’s MZD Connect remains, as before, a very intuitive and distraction-free device to use on the move. The satellite navigation with live traffic and its quick response is excellent to use. If we have any criticisms, maybe it’s with the colour scheme of the interface, which is starting to look a bit tired in our opinion. An update may offer new graphics, when Mazda configures its system to adopt Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but we’ll see. Audio quality, for the record, is impressive, with no distortion.

The instrumentation, including speedo, proves a bit squinty with the steering wheel at its lowest position. A digital readout for cars not equipped with the head-up display option would be welcome, too.

The seats are extremely comfortable, with a nice, breathable sports trim and perfect cushioning that gives excellent thigh and lower back support. Whatever foam Mazda is using in these seats should be examined closely by rivals.

New safety features such as autonomous city braking and rear cross-traffic alert are very useful in the daily grind, although PD had a hard time getting the former to work with cardboard boxes – we weren’t game enough to try it against a car but Mazda and ANCAP assures us it’s sound.

Usable luggage capacity is 442L with the seats in place and a massive 1342L with them folded 40/20/40. All CX-5s come with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with services at 10,000km intervals varying between $304 and $333. ANCAP rating is five stars.

2017 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport – THE DRIVE

Here’s an area where the CX-5 has always majored, and right off the bat, we can confirm it still does.

The 2.5-litre engine is a superb unit, feeling punchy, super responsive and clean-revving. At no point in the rev range does it feel strained, and there is a nice surge available at all times. It’s not sports car fast, but it has an immediacy that downsized-and-turbocharged rivals simply can’t match. It’s tied to a very intuitive and fast-acting six-speed automatic unit that is standard fare on all CX-5s except the base Maxx 2.0L FWD. We’re confident that car would go well too, since it doesn’t have the weight of AWD .

Mazda has worked hard at improving refinement, with only nice rorty notes from the engine permeating the cabin. Wind, tyre and idle noises have been well-suppressed, with measures such as carpeted wheel wells paying dividends in the real world.

Chassis-wise, the steering feel is still as good and communicative as before, but with a more damped and refined ‘big car’ feel, which hasn’t come at the expense of agility. The eagerness with which the CX-5 sniffs out corners is augmented by the new G-Vectoring system that tidies up your cornering line and keeps the car settled. All-wheel drive grip, in this case, helps it tuck into and fire out of corners more gracefully.

Put it in ‘Sport’ mode and the CX-5 becomes more frenetic, keen to stay in the upper quadrant of the tachometer and hold shifts for longer.

Fuel economy is quoted at 7.5L/100km and we kept it in the 8s, in an even mix of country and city driving. Auto stop-start was useful for this too. As we’ve observed with other Mazdas, the closeness to the official figure is vindication of the company’s SKYACTIV engine approach, with no turbos (except CX-9). Now that real-world emissions testing is coming into effect in many countries, we hope they persevere with this formula.

Those in pursuit of more frugality can opt for the 2.2-litre diesel that slurps a miserly 6.0L/100km, while generating 129kW and 420Nm.

2017 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport – THE VIDEO

2017 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport – THE VERDICT

The way all the parts of the CX-5 come together so harmoniously highlights many compromises that rivals have. Some have wooden, dead steering, droney CVT automatics and soft, disconnected driving experiences. Add in the fact this is a practical, family car and an SUV to boot and it shows that Australian consumers do care about how their car drives, not just how many cupholders it has.

Those in need of seven seats will be better served by the larger CX-9, or one of the CX-5’s rivals such as the X-Trail, Honda CR-V or Mitsubishi Outlander – unless Mazda Australia can get the upcoming CX-8 here at some point.

This is a rare example where the best car in the class is the best-seller. Mazda has improved the CX-5 while at the top of its game and we expect it to keep its mantle for some time.

PROS:
– Improved styling
– Quieter and more refined
– Smooth, punchy, clean-revving and efficient engine
– Intuitive six-speed auto
– Good active safety features
– MZD Connect
– Excellent dynamics and steering for class
– Very comfortable seats

CONS:
– Colour screen graphics starting to look dated
– No digital speedometer
– No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (yet)

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Mitchell is a contributing journalist and features writer at PerformanceDrive. He has been a passionate petrol-head from a very young age. He is excited by the future of the industry, and considers himself as a bit of a fanatic when it comes to the technical aspects of cars. He is also fascinated by new cars that are popping up in developing markets.