So now, we’ve come full circle.  After reinventing every model in the Mazda range under the guise of the company’s Kodo and Jinba Ittai malarkey, it’s now the turn of the one that started it all, the CX-5, to enjoy a comprehensive going-over.

And to best explain it all, I’d like to start by talking about cargo covers.

Ok, I know that sounds about as exciting as watching water evaporate, but bear with me.

You see, the humble cargo cover is more than just a roller blind to stop people gawping at your shopping.  It’s one of a thousand tiny details that the average punter never thinks nor cares about, until a car manufacturer gets it wrong at which point it becomes a complete annoyance.

The Jeep Cherokee, for instance, has the most infuriating cargo cover ever devised by man: it’s poorly positioned so is permanently in your way, uses a series of flaps that clip feebly to the rear headrests to fill the yawning chasm between it and the seats, and should you dare to remove it you’ll find there’s nowhere else to put it.

Contrast that with the one in the new CX-5: it’s as far back and high up as possible, giving you the best use of the available space.  It features spring-loaded flaps that automatically retract as you recline the rear seats (a first for Mazda) so there are no unsightly gaps.  And it clips to the tailgate (now power operated on Sport Nav models) so that it automatically lifts out of the way when you open the boot.  Simple, yet brilliant.  On top of all that, there’s even a dedicated space for it in the boot floor so it can be stowed out of the way when not in use.

Now, that’s all well and good, I’m sure you’ll agree, especially if you spend your time riding around in the boot.  But the reason it’s important is because it shows Mazda really spent time thinking about how people use their cars and how they can make their life better, and it’s that type of thinking that permeates its way into every aspect of the CX-5.

it shows Mazda really spent time thinking about how people use their cars

The doors, for example, take a section of the lower sill with them as they open, protecting your clothes from any accumulated exterior dirt, while the rear doors open to almost 90 degrees making it easy to climb aboard.  Once you get there, besides the comfortable seats and the generous headroom, you’ll discover a central armrest with cup-holders and a pair of USB ports to keep your phone charged.

And so the list goes on: the rear seats fold in a convenient 40:20:40 split, a process that can be kicked off by handy levers from within the boot; the electronic parking brake releases automatically but also offers a useful auto-hold function; de-icing elements in the windscreen stop the wipers from freezing to it in cold weather; there’s a new head-up display projected onto the windscreen with speed, navigation and other info, while cars equipped with the optional Safety Pack use the forward-looking camera to adjust the pattern of the LED headlights to allow continuous main beam use without dazzling other drivers.

This all adds up to a car that’s incredibly easy to live with because all the small stuff has been taken care of.  But Mazda have gone further by making the new CX-5 a far more upmarket proposition than it was before.

That means there’s greater use of premium materials in the cabin: the leather upholstery feels thick and deliciously supple, the satin silver highlights add a well-judged sense of elegance, and we particularly like the finish on the trim that runs across the dashboard and the top of the doors.

There’s a greater sense of immersion, too, with Mazda having increased the height of the centre console, cocooning the driver reassuringly but also bringing the gear-lever closer to the steering wheel.

That makes it easy to enjoy one of the best gearshift actions in the business, mated to which is a choice of either a 165ps 2.0-litre petrol, or a 2.2-litre diesel with either 150 or 175ps.

Given the rise in anti-diesel sentiment, we opted to spend a week with the 2.0-litre petrol, at the end of which we’d achieved an average of just over 44mpg, but had also come to the conclusion that it was sorely lacking in mid-range grunt and, frankly, could really use a turbo.

It’s also not available with either an automatic gearbox or all-wheel-drive – Mazda say it’s technically feasible but reckon there isn’t demand – nor can you specify it with the optional Safety Pack or Radar Cruise Control.

The diesel is without question the better engine – in fact, the 2.2 is a peach, as far as we’re concerned – but the market is changing and Mazda need to ensure they have an offering to match.

the 2.2-litre diesel is a peach, as far as we’re concerned

That aside, the CX-5 is otherwise on the money – it rides impressively well, with an appealing balance of compliance and tautness, but follows it up with good wind- and road-noise isolation making it a perfect companion on a long journey.  The light steering makes parking a doddle, although it’s perhaps a little devoid of feedback when pressing on through the twisties, and while there’s plenty of body-roll on offer, there’s no lurching or pitching about.

In truth, it’s all very well judged.  The fact this is all wrapped up in a crisply-styled body that perhaps represents the best showcase of Mazda’s design language to date is just a happy bonus.

Prices start at £23,695 for a 2.0-litre SE-L Nav, while the likely volume seller, the 2.2 150ps starts at £25,695.  Sport Nav trim adds an extra £3,000 while AWD requires another £2,000, although you can’t add both without also moving up to the 175ps engine and its £31,395 sticker price.

No matter which model works best for you, take a moment to consider this: if Mazda’s engineers obsessed about something as humble as a cargo cover, imagine what they did when it came to something more important.

Tester’s Notes

  • A well-executed move to a more premium-feeling product
  • Leather feels great (particularly the optional Stone Leather), switchgear has well-oiled feel
  • Particularly like the trim across the dash, silver details picked out elegantly
  • Rear doors open to almost 90 degrees
  • USB charging ports in rear armrest
  • Easy to fold rear seats using levers in boot
  • Load cover has little flaps to automatically adjust to reclining rear seat, attaches to tailgate so automatically gets out of the way when opening boot, dedicated space to store under boot floor when not in use
  • Power tailgate doesn’t quite open far enough, tall drivers risk clouting it with their head
  • MZD Connect screen now much clearer thanks to new optical bonding process, although can feel a touch small compared to competition
  • Phone tray within front armrest just a little too small to allow a phone to be charged
  • EPB auto-releases, but only in forward gears
  • Petrol engine doesn’t have enough mid-range grunt, exhibits usual whine in first gear
  • Typically fabulous gear-change
  • Rides very well, well balanced handling despite plenty of body roll
  • Slightly frustrating model range: no AWD petrol, 150ps AWD is SE-L Nav only, Sport Nav is 2WD only unless opting for 175ps, Safety Pack and Radar Cruise Control only available on range-topping model
  • 44.2 mpg on test, just beating official figure
Entry-level Price £23,695 Price as tested £27,695
Engine 1998cc 4-cyl petrol Transmission 6-speed manual
Power 165ps @ 6,000rpm Torque 210Nm @ 4,000rpm
0-62 10.4 secs Top speed 125 mph
Economy 44.1 mpg CO2 149 g/km
Dimensions 4555 x 1840 x 1675 (LxWxH) Kerb Weight 1574 kg

Alex Kefford

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.