My earliest memories of the Mazda CX-5 were the during the times when Mazda South Africa had a TV advertisement featuring some CGI cheetahs introducing the facelifted CX-5 range. This was around 2014-15 and triggered a turning point after the CX-5 has quietly been running on South African roads since 2012. It also marked the beginning of a new Journey for Mazda South Africa after separation from Ford South Africa.

 

I still remember that because it made an impression on me before seeing it in metal. That first generation ran its race until the second generation was introduced in 2017 and boy-oh-boy it took the baton and ran like it was finishing the relay race. Not only did it go on to become one of Mazda's bestselling vehicles in South Africa, but it became Mazda's bestselling vehicle in the world as of 2021. The sales were not only a result of performance, comfort, and affordability but one of the most significant selling points is reliability. The CX-5 has been dubbed one of the most reliable mid-size SUVs in the world. I have read several reports indicating that Mazda is one of the most reliable brands as of 2021 and some of that success is owed to this SUV.

 

With that little story out of the way, I need to add a little bit of my relation to the Mazda CX-5: from late 2019 to early 2020 I was looking for an SUV to cater to family changes and the CX-5 was on top of my list. I remember sitting down with my wife to draw the budget and we were out by a thousand rands a month from a Machine Grey 2.0L CX-5 Dynamic. I could not come to terms with the disappointment, but I had to pass to maintain peace in the household.

 

Fast forward to 2022, Mazda South Africa has given the second-generation CX-5 minor tweaks to make you remember that it still got it. We had the top-spec Akera 2.2DE AWD on test, which means it had everything that Mazda offers on the CX-5 in South Africa. 

 

Let's start with the updates that have been made to the vehicle.

The Exterior

From the front, you will immediately notice the newly designed LEDs with JJ or LL DRLs (You decide), no more fog lamps, the grille has been changed from just a braai grid to incorporating some 3D pattern and the bumper has been opened a bit at the bottom to bring some mean look compared to the pre-facelift version. On the top-spec Akera, we are now blessed with some red accent in the grille, black gloss cladding around the wheel arches, and trimming at the bottom of the vehicle all around. This is part of the black gloss packaging which extends to rims and side mirrors. The black exterior package used to be on the Carbon Edition only, however, it was not glossed. We also get bigger tailpipes that complete the rear-end look of the vehicle.

 

I was raising my hand for the pre-facelift CX-5, but I am now in with the updates made, this must be one of the best-looking vehicles on the road, people could not stop turning towards it especially wearing Mazda's famous Soul Red Crystal paint and the gloss black. The combination worked so well together that you'd hate getting it dirty.

The Interior

Not so much has been done on the interior except for the changes made to the roof lining, now offered in black on the Akera, which makes it look premium from the inside. The Akera now features red stitching to match the red accent added to the grille. I have to compliment Mazda for the quality of the vehicle from the inside, there is little to none when it comes to parts that say you are in a third world vehicle; everything is well stitched, feels like it's made to last, and on the choice of materials, from the door armrests to the steering wheel, top of the dashboard to the center console, quality is the order of the day. The leather, stitching, polyurethanes, plastics, and chrome bending appears to be done with care and quality craftsmanship.

 

It does not come without disappointments though, one of the biggest being that Mazda held on to the MZD infotainment that comes with an 8" touch screen. This infotainment has been with Mazda for so long that you cannot miss its age when looking at it. The screen itself is not the clearest, the graphics appear to be old and the camera system is also not the clearest. Mazda hit us with a fist here, especially with products now being more global than ever, being aware that other parts of the world have got a bigger and plusher screen is a bitter pill to swallow.

 

It almost ends there though because the layout is still a tick for 2022 standards. I, for one, am still loving the rotary wheel to navigate my way into the infotainment screen while driving, it is more effortless and less distractive than touch screens, especially when driving. 

 

The Drive

On paper, there are reports of enhanced suspension to reduce vibrations, noises, and harshness. Also reported that seat support has been enhanced to improve seating ergonomics. Could we tell though?

I have to say the seating was incredibly supportive, and I could do long distances without feeling tired, especially with the under-thigh support. When it comes to the suspension, I can't tell if it is materially different from the pre-facelift, but it can soak up the bumps. I did multiple terrains from smooth roads, bumpy roads, and even dirt roads but it never felt like it was taking it hard. The road and wind noise suppression was on par with the expectation, thanks to the choice of materials.

 

We have to talk about the powertrain though, the 2.2 litre turbo diesel is whatever it thinks it is. I had never driven on it as I have only been exposed to Mazda's 2.0L normally aspirated when it comes to the CX-5. I have some love-hate relationships with the 2.0 litre, but this one I love. It has confidence, and it moves this two-tone metal with ease. It has some elements of screams on hard pulls, but I don't find them annoying at all, you can even think the sound is pumped from the speakers as it has a lower "grrr" tone underneath than just a natural hurt scream. I loved the performance even in instances when the air conditioning was on and the car had four passengers in it, it did not feel like it was about to drown. It is not a performance vehicle but the 140kw/450nm is enough to let you enjoy the long trips without feeling like you are carrying a pile of bricks.

 

I have reservations about the vibrations though, quite subtle and need you to be very much attentive to feel them but they start creeping up on the steering wheel at around 120km/h. I don't know if it was the unit we had on test or if it's a CX-5 thing, but I noticed it quite early in the test week and it bothered me a little. I may be harsh on this one but I did not expect them to be there, especially at 120km/h because that is where most "reasonable" CX-5 buyers will be driving at.

 

Otherwise, the engine and transmission combination is a great match. You can even play "sporty" with it, since it does not have sports mode, you can put it on manual and let it redline before shifting up (either down by the gear lever or using paddle shifters), the 6-speed transmission allows you to do that, and I found it to be very well matched to the engine. That will drink up the fuel though, however, for a car of this size, the fuel consumption was impressive at 7.6L after 600km of extra-urban travel.  This was almost 2 litres above the claimed 5.7L/100km by Mazda, much of which is owing to how hard we have been pulling it during the test period.

Let's talk about Tech and Safety

Well, the car has a lot of standard features from the lower-spec active variant, and this has not been changed, as matter of fact I did not pick up any changes. Some notable mentions on offer from the top-spec point of view:

 

Keyless entry with proximity sensor, front electronic adjustable seats with lumbar support for the driver, dual-zone climate control, projected heads-up display, adaptive LED lights, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, 360 degrees camera, auto liftgate, and 10-speaker Bose Sound System.

 

It misses some of the things offered by the competition like adaptive cruise control and interior ambient lighting projected on the dash which adds life to the interior in the dark.

 

Practicality

It has grown a bit in terms of overall body dimensions; the length has increased by 25mm to 4575mm, and the width increased by 5mm to 1845mm. I can attribute this to exterior design changes as they are almost redundant to increase interior space, especially considering that the wheelbase and the height have remained the same at 2700mm and 1675mm, respectively.

 

One can say not much has changed on the practicality front. You can still travel with the whole family, with a child seat in the middle, and still, get enough space on the side and legroom. The boot is not the best in its class but still very generous at around five hundred litres. 

 

Otherwise, you also get multiple areas to put in the cups and bottles in the cabin including the rear middle cup holders which can only be useful if you are traveling with two people at the back as they are hidden inside the rear armrest. Talking about the rear armrest, that is about the only place at the back where you will also find the two USB connectivity for charging, the other two ports are inside the front armrest bin.

 

Pricing and Competition

The line-up is as follows (correct at the time of penning the article):

 

Mazda CX-5 Active 2.0L FWD - R493 100

Mazda CX-5 Dynamic 2.0L FWD - R507 800

Mazda CX-5 Carbon Edition 2.0L FWD - R540 400

Mazda CX-5 Individual 2.0L FWD - R612 600

Mazda CX-5 Individual 2.5L AWD - R697 600

Mazda CX-5 Akera 2.2DE AWD - R731 900

 

So here is the thing, the competition is quite hot, especially coming from China. Haval and Chery are probably on every consumer's radar since they have been providing consumers with reasons to come their way. Looking at the Haval H6, it is ranging from R441 900 to R539 900, and the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro is coming in at R496 900 and topping at R546 900. There are others in the competition line, like the recently introduced Hyundai Tucson, incoming Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008, etc. The reason I pointed out Haval and Chery is that, even in this segment people are price sensitive.

 

That brings me to the pick of the bunch, I think the most value for money is derived from the Carbon Edition, the 2.0L normally aspirated may not be the best on offer but it is very much capable, the vehicle looks like the top-spec Akera and it is priced well within the toughest competition price point.

 

The service plan and warranty are standard at 3 years or unlimited kilometers, this may discourage some consumers as many competitors offer 5 years and above, however, this comes with a reputation that says it may outlast the competition. That should give a lot of people peaceful sleep at night.

 

Overall, in hindsight, if I had to go renegotiate with my wife to buy the CX-5, we would not take time negotiating because she started seeing what I was talking about when she got to ride in it. This is one of the most solid products on the market and deserves the accolades it has accumulated over the years.

 

Photos: Sebuwa M

Pen: Sebuwa M