November 26, 2020

Motoring: Well suited

The recently refreshed mid-size SUV from Mazda is smart, sophisticated, and offers almost everything the modern family could ask for.

We car buyers are a demanding lot. We want all the bells and whistles for a bargain-basement price. And we expect a single vehicle to demonstrate the chameleon-like ability to carry out the many functions we demand of it, from weekend off-road warrior to comfortable school run chariot to high-speed interstate cruiser.

Naturally, for our money, we want the maximum number of safety features, luxury features, technological features (even if we only use half of them) autonomous driving features and a plethora of cupholders, phone rechargers, USB ports, massage seats, privacy glass, heated steering wheel and anything else we can think of. I strongly suspect the first car maker to incorporate a coffee-making machine into their feature list will be onto a winner, regardless of which type of vehicle they install it into.

In fact, now that I think about it, having the car prepare my morning coffee to my precise demands (soy latte frappuccino, anyone?) and have it ready and waiting for me when I slide into the driver’s seat has considerable appeal. I’m sure a properly programmed smart key could manage to have my perfect coffee, freshly brewed, cupped up in an insulated mug and steaming in the console ready for my daily commute. Just don’t expect me to buy the beans and grind them – surely a car smart enough to make my coffee could manage that as well?

But let me, momentarily, revisit reality.

These days, $50,000 for a mid-size SUV is not unreasonable. Mazda’s offering is the CX-5, and it’s just undergone a gentle upgrade. There’s more room, more comfort and improved handling. There are five different versions, with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, petrol or diesel. We went with the middle model, the Akera (and no, I don’t know what that name means).

The CX-5 is a smart looking vehicle, and the design elements that look a little crowded on smaller models work better when applied to a larger canvas. Mazda’s hero colour, Soul Red Crystal metallic, really makes the car stand out but it also looks distinguished in blues and darker greys.

Mazda has managed to squeeze in more standard equipment for a marginal increase in price. Off road, traction assist is now fitted to all-wheel-drive models, but we suspect few CX-5 owners will venture far from the bitumen. Of more use to most will be the uprated autonomous emergency braking system, adaptive headlights, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and efficient six-speaker audio system (including digital radio). Front seats are power adjustable with heating and cooling (the rear seats also get heating) and all are covered in fine nappa leather, the rear tailgate is power operated, the sunroof gives the cabin a light and airy feel and, unusually these days, the door and dash inserts come from actual trees.

Inside, there are plenty of neat storage spaces, including a centre console with a small removable shelf. In the luggage area (usefully sized at 442 litres) the luggage cover rises when the tailgate is opened and the floor is flat (although there is a slight lip you have to negotiate).

If we’re being picky (and we always are), the stop/start function produced some disconcerting noises when it shut down the engine, and again when restarting. Fuel consumption may be an issue too. The official figure is 8.2L/100km, but even with quite gentle driving, we only managed 9.9L/100km, which with its 58-litre fuel tank, translated into a comparatively short driving range, especially when you’re a long way from civilisation. Another area of possible concern for an SUV is the fitment of a space-saver spare wheel.

And then there was the morning we heard a strange beeping noise from the car. It wasn’t there when we turned the car off a day earlier, and even if it had been, we wouldn’t have known what it was trying to communicate. The key wouldn’t unlock the doors but using the emergency key, we were able to get in. Pressing the start button produced precisely no response. A fruitless search of the usual places (including the owner’s manual) failed to reveal a phone number for Mazda Roadside Assist but after we tracked down a number online (thank you, Mr Google), the service was courteous and prompt. Once restarted and following a 20-minute drive, the problem didn’t recur, so we’re left wondering if an inside light was left on or when switching off, we’d inadvertently pressed the button twice and restarted the car (which, with stop/start, meant it was in “ready” mode). We’ll never know for sure, but it’s a reminder that modern technology has its own idiosyncrasies.

The Mazda CX-5 will continue to meet the needs of families and do almost everything they require on a daily basis. Unless it’s a freshly brewed early morning coffee. 

Confirm prices with dealer and add statutory on-road costs and dealer delivery.

This story first appeared in the October 2020 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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