Why the Mazda CX-5 is the best SUV in the P1.7M-P2.3M range

People have the tendency to attribute human traits or even whole personalities to material objects, especially those that are precious to them or those that they use on a regular basis. This is why I know a fair number of people who have even given nicknames to their favorite objects, most of which are cars.

I don’t necessarily have a nickname for it but, for me, the Mazda CX-5 is the partner/spouse that makes for a gorgeous arm candy, but also turns out to be a wonderful parent, an excellent cook, a capable corporate executive, and is an accomplished sportsperson to boot.

That timeless KODO design

While new car designers seem to be falling over themselves in grafting gaping grilles on the fronts of their cars to mimic the compelling visages of the current Lexus and Audis, Mazda’s design team is judiciously applying its sensual KODO design language—not to mention two of the most eye-catching colors to ever be sprayed onto sheetmetal, Soul Red and Machine Gray—to the CX-5.

Result? A timelessly beautiful collage of sensuous curves, graceful pillars, slim LED headlamps and taillamps, and a distinctive chrome-surrounded mesh grille that’s not exaggeratedly big.

Mazda did not succumb to the temptation to slap on all manner of “off-road” styling gimmicks like faux metal under-bumper brushguards, wide plastic fender flares, and roof rails that jut out and create unnecessary wind noise at highway speeds. Instead, the CX-5 has proper short front and rear overhangs, flush black plastic protective fender flares, and concealed roof channels where you can fit aftermarket bike racks or cargo boxes. It also has a more-than-adequate 195mm of ground clearance. In short, the rough-road/adventure lifestyle functionality is still there without having to shout about it. This is the kind of mature design you’d expect of a Volvo XC60 or even a Porsche Macan—sleek, subtle, upscale, yet highly functional.

Genuinely premium cabin

It’s funny how ad copywriters seem to always overuse the term ”luxurious cabin.” They seem to equate a handful (or in a growing number of cases, a barrage) of cabin features as the only requirement for entry into the luxury car realm. Far from it.

Luxury is the tactile feel of the supple leather and the double stitching on the seats and steering wheel, the feel of cushioned surfaces for your arms and elbows, the exact same height (including having identical covering material and degree of cushioning) of the center armrest and door armrest so you can rest your arms comfortably even after long hours on the road, the silent opening and closing of a glove box and center console bin, the smooth and well-damped action when you pull on the door handles, swing down the sunvisors, or pull on the seatbelts, or how smoothly the buttons and knobs work. These are the small details that make you appreciate not just the amount of thought but the sheer passion that a carmaker gave to a product.

Of course, the amount of space counts a lot. And here, the CX-5 scores high as well. It’s usually hard to package a lot of space within a curvaceous shape, but Mazda pulled it off. A 5’10 person can sit behind a 5’10 driver and both occupants will still have generous legroom. Three full-size adults can sit comfortably on the second row. The cargo area is likewise cavernous even with the rear seats up. Credit goes to the long 2,700mm wheelbase and the generous exterior dimensions (4,550 x 1,840 x 1,680mm) that seem more compact due to the well sculpted exterior.

On the road, that premium feel continues with a very hushed ride. I tested the top-of-the-line Signature AWD Diesel variant and I am hard-pressed to hear any telltale diesel clatter from inside the cabin. The usual traffic noise is very subdued, even with the superb-sounding Bose audio system turned off. Turn the aircon blower to its max setting and the wind roar is impressively subdued. That’s detailed engineering for you.

Polished performance

Luxury also means effortless performance. You don’t really need monster power, especially if it comes at the expense of noise or higher fuel consumption. You want refinement balanced with power and efficiency, and this is exactly what Mazda serves up. The 2.2L Diesel CX-5 churns out 190hp and 450Nm of torque. That’s actually higher than the 180hp/400Nm TwinPower Turbo diesel engine of the BMW 420d Gran Coupe I drove with lots of enjoyment for over two years. That BMW, which had an eight-speed automatic, could accelerate from zero to 10 km/h in 7.5 seconds. The six-speed automatic-equipped CX-5 felt just a tad slower, probably due to its heavier weight. Still a low-eight-second acceleration from a generously proportioned SUV is nothing to sneeze at—especially with its wonderfully economical SKYACTIV-D diesel engine sipping fuel to the tune of 9 km/l in heavy traffic and bettering 15 km/l when cruising.

The often-contradictory balance between ride and handling is spot on. This is a consistent disappointment for me with a growing number of high-powered SUVs. The combination of high power and high centers of gravity often necessitate stiffer springs and shock absorbers/dampers to keep the vehicle from tilting too much in hard cornering, but unfortunately resulting in an inordinately stiff ride. This applies even to the hyper-luxury SUV brands.

The Mazda CX-5 will put many more expensive SUVs to shame. It’ll be an exaggeration to say that it glides over bumps and potholes, but it does manage to properly snub them. You’d feel those road imperfections but your riding comfort won’t be untowardly upset—none of those cringe-worthy moments when a wheel hits a speed bump or drops into a big pothole.

Having said that, the CX-5 balances (there’s that word again) its supple ride with responsive handling. It’s no MX-5 (the CX-3 is what you get if you need a sports car-like crossover), but it’ll carve up apexes obediently in the hands of a spirited driver. Braking is likewise eminently easy to modulate, all trademarks of a well-developed chassis and the astute choice of tire size (225/55R19)—large enough to boast big alloy wheels yet retaining the perfect aspect ratio to strike the ideal balance between visual sportiness and a comfortable ride.

A feature-rich experience

Enough with the subjective observations. Here now is the barrage of features that everyone loves to brag about, but which Mazda filtered down to what is truly useful, essential and truly advanced.

First, there’s Mazda’s state-of-the-art G-Vectoring Control that ensures a stable ride, especially through winding turns on slippery roads. AWD variants also enjoy one of the key pillars of Mazda driving technology, i-Activ All-Wheel Drive.

Inside, you get the Mazda Connect Infotainment System for the eight-inch LCD monitor/10-speaker Bose audio that’s controlled by a very intuitive Command Controller Knob (which works very similarly to BMW’s iDrive controller). There is also an Active Driving Display that projects the vehicle speed and other driving details on a floating heads-up display.

For driving efficiency, the CX-5 boasts Mazda’s i-ELOOP regenerative braking system that stores heat energy otherwise lost during braking and uses it as electrical energy to power the car’s electronics. Together with the car’s i-STOP Idling Stop technology, i-ELOOP can save as much as eight percent of fuel consumption.

For safety, the CX-5 features 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, DSC, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, smart keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, ISOFIX seat tethers, and Mazda’s I-ACTIVSENSE suite of electronic driving aids comprised of Smart City Brake Support, Driver Attention Alert, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, and Blind Spot Monitoring.

The verdict

Graceful styling, a spacious and finely crafted cabin, polished and balanced performance, and a lengthy array of advanced comfort, convenience, luxury, and safety features—the Mazda CX-5 has got all bases covered. My flagship Signature AWD Diesel test unit’s SRP of P2,350,000 certainly isn’t for the budget-conscious (the CX-5 range actually starts at P1,730,000), but I’d grab it over any of the top-of-the-line pickup-based midsize diesel SUVs on the market now. You’ll enjoy almost the same passenger space (never mind the third-row seats that almost no one uses), the same diesel torque and fuel economy, but with vastly more genuine luxury and refinement. The Jaguar-esque sensuousness is just the icing on the cake. You’ll always find yourself glancing back at it when walking away from it in a parking lot. Now that’s priceless.

Most Popular


More Articles Like This