I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about the monotonous life we’ve forced our poor CX-5 to live – so much so that, this month, I decided to give it a bit of a treat. Now that it’s been well and truly ‘run in’ with several thousand motorway miles, I thought it was high time to take it somewhere a bit more fun.
After some perusing of Google Maps, off to the Peak District we went – hoping for, along with some decent weather, enough twisty roads to test the Mazda’s sports-car-slash-SUV pretensions.
Luckily we weren’t disappointed – and the CX-5, it must be said, played a bit of a blinder. Aside from the occasional East Midlands roundabout, I’ve not had much of a chance to really put the Mazda through its paces in terms of handling; so it came as a bit of a surprise to find such a tall and otherwise comfy SUV hanging on in corners quite as well as it does.
Now look, Mazda doesn’t pretend the CX-5 is some B-road munching monster, so you won’t find any stiff suspension or fancy adaptive dampers here. But, what you do get is a fluid, lithe chassis setup – something that’s also often said about the MX-5.
Mazda has resisted the urge to simply bolt on some rock-hard suspension and label the CX-5 ‘sporty’. Instead, they’ve spent their efforts making every bit of the driving experience as fun and communicative as it can be, while leaving the ride compliant enough for day-to-day journeys.
In other words, the CX-5 won’t be breaking any Nurburgring lap times any time soon, but it’s a fun thing to hustle along at the national speed limit. After all, that’s what really counts, isn’t it?
It’s just as well that the speed limit isn’t any higher, of course, because our CX-5’s slight Achilles heel continues to be a slight lack of power – particularly for the uh, spirited driver. There’s definitely 162bhp buried somewhere in its 2.0-litre petrol engine, but finding it requires a bit of patience, many down changes, and a willingness to hear 6,000 RPM of screaming from under the bonnet.
There are some positives of such a rev-hungry powertrain, of course – not least that on twisty roads, you feel a much more integral part of the driving process. Power isn’t just handed to you low down the rev range – no! You’ve got to earn it.
As the former owner of many-a hot hatch, I have no problems with that way of thinking. But in a relatively chunky ‘family’ SUV – pretensions of sportiness or not – I’m afraid it doesn’t sit quite right. What the CX-5 is crying out for is some low-down torque: something that became particularly evident on the steeper sections of the famous Snake Pass.
Luckily there’s an easy solution to all this: buy the diesel. It’s got nearly twice the torque as our petrol, the same 0-60 time, and even costs roughly the same to buy. That’s not to say our petrol-powered version is without benefits or charms, of course – it just wouldn’t be my pick.
Engine choices aside, the CX-5 makes a great case for itself as a fun-to-drive SUV that’s easy to live with – both in terms of comfort, and impact on the wallet. We’re still managing 40mpg in all but extreme circumstances, which considering this isn’t a hybrid – with the increased price tag to match – isn’t bad going at all.
As for our little day trip to the countryside, it was great to finally let the Mazda stretch its legs, and was a nice way to see just what it could do with some twistier tarmac beneath its wheels. If I’m honest though, the CX-5 felt much better suited to easing the pain of an hour home on the M1. And d’you know what? That’s okay too.