Review: Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

Bigger and better, but more expensive
by Dinzo Tabamo | Aug 26, 2017

About five years ago, Mazda’s ownership changed hands from Ford Philippines to current distributor Bermaz Auto Philippines (BAP). The CX-5, first of its name, was the transition model from Ford to BAP.  

More than its symbolic significance, Mazda’s compact crossover was the first model to carry the Kodo design language. And equally important, it’s the first full model with Skyactiv technology. 

And now we have the all-new CX-5, which means Mazda’s lineup is about to begin its new cycle, with this Soul Red Crystal crossover at the vanguard. 

It’s hard to describe how lovely this car color is. Soul Red has been Mazda’s signature paint job for several years now, and you can see this highlighted in its well-executed motor show displays. This time it looks deeper, redder, and more lustrous. I thought only premium Euro brands could afford to create this kind of automotive sheen. The finish is so deep trees and skies are reflected on it as you drive.

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An impressive coat of paint complements the CX-5’s beautiful new body. There was nothing ugly about the first CX-5, but the all-new model boldly forges its own look. 

LED headlights are housed in slits on either side of a massive honeycomb grille. Perhaps in an unintentional nod to its former owners, the hood reminds me of the current Ford Mustang. 

Seen from the side, there is a gap between the chrome grille frame and the hood edge. It makes it appear like the CX-5’s brow is furrowed, looking you in the eye when you stare too long—because your eyes will really linger. 

Look long enough and you might think it grew bigger, but the numbers will show that while it is longer, taller and wider, the increase in dimensions is not even an inch in all areas. This is basically the same footprint.

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In the cabin, I’ll start off by getting my disappointment out of the way: The MZD Connect infotainment system looks the same. It was lovely and cutting edge when we first saw it years ago, but I expected a new version by now. Mazda says there’s a new OS and more memory, but the graphics look outdated compared to its peers. Although if this is your first modern Mazda, it’s highly possible you won’t mind.

That being said, the interior is still one of the best in the business. In this AWD Sport variant, lush dark leather with contrasting stitching abound. The plastics are also top-notch. Befitting its driver-centric focus, everything is within easy reach. From the steering wheel buttons to the iDrive-ish control knob behind the shift knob, mastering the CX-5’s functions will only take a day or two. After that you can rely on intuition. 

Like its predecessor, you get to enjoy a 10-speaker Bose audio system. We know this might sound superficial, but seeing that brand’s logo on the speakers in the doors and A-pillar gives the CX-5 a premium vibe. And to be fair, it really does sound good. 

Where this crossover really excels is its driver aids. The first-gen CX-5 was one of the first to implement lane detection, and now the new model adds blind-spot warning and a heads-up display. Yes these aren’t new—at all. But what’s amazing is how well-executed they are. 

I don’t know how Mazda did it, but vehicle speed is projected ahead so cleanly it looks like it floats magically. And the blind-spot warning beeps gently when a vehicle approaches from either side, accompanied by a glowing icon on the side mirrors. 

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Another notable improvement is space. This feels roomier than the first-gen CX-5, although I must say that part of that generation’s appeal was its snug, driver-oriented cockpit. Still, families and rear occupants will appreciate the space the backseat has to offer. 

Speaking of space, I had the opportunity to test the cargo capacity when I loaded a home air-conditioner—a 1.5hp unit, mind you—with its box and all in the back. All that needed to be done was remove the rear cover, and the A/C unit slid right in. To me that was solid proof of the CX-5’s utility value. Sadly, only the top-spec AWD Sport Diesel has the power liftgate feature. 

On the drivetrain side, G-Vectoring Control arrives in the CX-5. Using its computer, the crossover controls the torque it sends to the wheels so that stability and traction is maintained on the road. Neat stuff. 

On the street, this Mazda lives up to its jinba ittai (horse and rider) company DNA. The body is rock solid thanks to better materials used in its construction, the NVH is superb, and the cabin insulates you from the unpleasantness of the outside world. 

The body does feel heavier though, and the specs confirm there has been weight gain—about 50 - 70kg. I feel a slight delay off the line; the 187hp and 251Nm from the 2.5-liter in-line four pausing just a bit as it gathers power. 

Once I get going, I flick the driving mode into Sport and everything becomes more responsive, so I leave it there. There’s very little body roll, and the brakes are easy to modulate. My fuel economy doesn’t suffer so much; I manage to average almost 8km/L in urban driving. 

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The all-new Mazda CX-5 improves on its predecessor in nearly every way, although it now comes with a higher price tag. Are the improvements worth the extra cost? If you keep staring at it on the street in admiration, then you already know the answer.

SPECS: Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

Price: P1,911,800

Engine: 2.5-liter petrol I4

Power: 187hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 251Nm @ 4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Layout: AWD

Seating: 5

Score: 18/20

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PHOTO: Lai De Guzman
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