Maz’ good as it gets | 

Facelifted Mazda CX-5 is still a brilliant SUV… just choose your colour carefully!

And while Kia and Hyundai have given their respective SUVs a much bigger makeover than Mazda, this CX-5 isn’t worthy of being dismissed just yet. In fact, it’s a cracker.

The facelifted CX-5 in Zircon Sand Metallic

Daragh Keany

Usually I prefer not to get a high-spec fully-loaded version of a test car because it can be misleading for my reviews. But when it comes to refreshed models with relatively-minor tweaks I think it is a good idea.

So, when Mazda announced a midlife facelift to their popular CX-5 I jumped at the chance to take it for a spin last month.

It was a 150bhp (there is a 184bhp version also, by the way) all-wheel drive diesel manual in a polarising ‘Zircon Sand Metallic’ paint job. The engine was Mazda’s impressive 2.2litre Skyactiv D, which is far more fuel efficient than its predecessor.

The influx of high-riding SUVs into the market means that the established big boys can’t afford to sit on their laurels. And while Kia and Hyundai have given their respective SUVs a much bigger makeover than Mazda, this CX-5 isn’t worthy of being dismissed just yet. In fact, it’s a cracker.

Especially when you look at the asking price of €36,745.

To look at it, and when you take into account that this is an improved version, the entry level asking price is very good. For context I was driving a high spec version and it only cost €43,325. So, what’s new?

The boot comes with ample space at 510 litres

You might have to look closely but there is a revamped grille, redesigned taillights and lightly revised bumpers. There are also new paint colours and fresh trim levels, which normally doesn’t warrant a big publicity push.

But I won’t hold it against them for getting us to drive this because it is (and always has been) a great car. Luckily, they haven’t rolled out a huge number of changes inside or outside.

It all looks very well and unlike a lot of car companies these days, Mazda has arranged all of their dials and controls in a very user-friendly and logical manner. That’s a formal way of saying everything is where it should be.

Like before, there is a tactile dashboard with a nice colour schemed trim and supportive, comfortable seats. The build quality is, as always, very good, and you get a sense that Mazda is well and truly confident and comfortable in their ability to produce brilliant cars these days. They now back themselves completely by not tweaking things too quickly.

Behind the wheel is a very clear instrument display that is still digital (where others use traditional dials) and easy-to-read white on black. There is a good Heads-Up Display too that complements this screen really well.

The same can be said for the central touchscreen infotainment system. It's much the same as before, with logical menus and the right amount of features on the front end. And I found myself gravitating towards the rotary control on the centre console, which you can operate with minimal distraction. Muscle memory kicked in very quickly on this test car which is a great sign because a lot of cars take the full week to get used to.

There is a lot of space in this car too and my kids loved being in the back too as they were afforded both legroom and headroom. And the boot too comes with ample space and at 510 litres is similar to, or better than, most of its closest competitors.

The aforementioned paint job seemed to be the biggest talking point for my test week. I wasn’t keeping score but I can guarantee you that more people disliked it than liked it. The nicest way of describing was ‘Cappuccino’ colour but you can use your imagination as to some of the other descriptions. In a slick move, Mazda produced the same colour on the key fob too, by the way.

This ‘Newground’ trim did come with a lovely and vibrant green trim in the air vents and matching piping on the seats. I liked it, but it seemed out of place here.

There are no EV, HEV or PHEV options which is a big shame because the market is crying out for it and I think a car of this size, look and popularity would do really well with a 50-60km PHEV powertrain option.

I usually harp in with an impassioned speech about how we should all be driving automatics at this point in my review, but in truth this manual gearbox is really good, hard to fault and possibly better than the automatic transmission.

All sorts of roads and surfaces are soaked up easily making the drive feel composed and stable. Easy cornering, loads of grip and more-than-capable handling means this is, simply put, a brilliant drive.

The CX-5 range kicks off at a competitive €36,745, which pays for the basic GS-L model. But despite being at the foot of the range, that car still comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration software and automatic climate control. Automatic wipers are standard, too, and you get plenty of safety kit. It really isn't bad value at all.

Further along the range is this ‘Newground’ model with its big bright green trim that adds plenty of equipment and only €2,000 to the price. GT trim costs the same as the Newground, though, and it's probably the sweet spot in the range, with leather upholstery and other useful goodies. Then there's the GT Sport, Homura and GT Lux models, which add varying amounts of kit and extra styling features but, inevitably, bump up the starting price.

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