First previewed as the Mazda Minagi concept back in 2011, the then-new Mazda CX-5 was a special model for the company, as it was their first-ever model to fully encompass all the goodness of SkyActiv; from its all-new platform to its equally-new powertrain.
While it has been reasonably established that the first-generation Mazda CX-5 was quite a capable SUV when it came to ride and handling, it was evident that the model’s cabin noise and lack of interior space was its key weakness.
So when work began on the second generation model, it was clear that these two areas - cabin noise and interior space - had to be improved. However, reducing cabin noise often involved adding more sound insulation materials which would in turn increase the vehicle's overall weight, to the detriment of Mazda's highly-prized 'jinba-ittai' driving feel. Overcoming this in a Mazda fashion would mean attacking the problem at its source rather than muffling it out. This involved re-engineering the side mirrors to reduce wind noise, in addition to tightening panel gaps and seals around the door and windows, which is not always easy to consistently achieve on a mass production vehicle.
As a result, the all-new Mazda CX-5 boasts a cabin noise that is 1.3 dB lower than the model it replaces, and it shows, but more on that later.
For the purpose of this review, we will be comparing the entry Mazda CX-5 2.0 GL against the previous generation CX-5, also in the 2.0 GL guise.
- Engine: 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G, 16 valves, transverse
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
- Power: 162 hp @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 210 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
- Safety: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, DSC, Hill Start Assist, Emergency Stop Signal (ESS), ISOFIX anchor points
- Price: RM134,205 OTR without insurance
The second generation Mazda CX-5 you see here is based on a modified platform of the first generation model. Not exactly a bad thing per se, seeing how capable the first generation CX-5 was.
In addition to that, Kulim-assembled Mazda CX-5 models carry over powertrains from the previous model, including the earlier-mentioned 2.0-litre petrol, 2.5-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel. All engines are mated to Mazda’s six-speed SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission.
Available in five variants with three different powertrains, Bermaz has a CX-5 for almost everyone. The range-topping models are diesel-powered, available as a 2WD or AWD.
While our test unit may be the entry-level model, equipment levels are still generous, as the 2.0 GL gets LED headlights with bulb-type DRLs, LED front fog lights, auto-dimming rear view mirror, 7-inch MZD Connect infotainment system with reverse camera, 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and ISOFIX anchor points.
At a glance, the all-new Mazda CX-5 has all the makings of a premium SUV. Finished in Mazda’s premium Soul Red Crystal, the Mazda CX-5 certainly looks the part. Coupled with Mazda’s second generation Kodo design language, the CX-5 is perhaps one of the sleekest looking SUVs out there.
Compared to its predecessor, the new Mazda CX-5 gets slimmer headlights and a more pronounced front grille. The fog light surrounds have been redesigned as well, now designed to look like extensions of the lower air intake.
Towards the rear end, Mazda has also slimmed down and sharpened the tail lights. One quirk we noticed was that part of the rear hatch is made out of plastic, as opposed to metal on the predecessor. Towards the bottom are two red reflectors, with the rear fog light integrated into the right side.
At a glance, it may appear that the interior of the new model is unchanged, though if you spend a bit more time inside the new CX-5, you’ll notice that quite a lot has changed despite the new model carrying over a lot of hardware from the old model.
For starters, the MZD Connect infotainment system now resides in a floating display, unlike the old model’s integrated design.
There are now 3 12V sockets in the CX-5 - one more than before, including one in the centre console. This position makes it easier for owners to charge devices while on the move. Mazda has also repositioned the USB port and SD card slot into the centre arm rest.
Elsewhere, in the same fashion as the Mazda 2 and 3 GVC models, the company has discontinued the use of the faux carbon fibre trim in the new CX-5, opting for a much classier-looking piano black finish.
The good news continues into the rear seats, as the new CX-5 has a centre arm rest that features USB charging ports, useful for the modern gadget-heavy families. Another addition to the new CX-5 is the rear air vents, a much-appreciated feature for those ferrying their family.
Despite the new additions, the new CX-5 loses out on Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which was available on the older model.
Okay, what about the driving experience between the old and new model?
In short, engineers at Mazda has managed to pull off the impossible; adding more sound deadening material without sacrificing its ‘jinba-ittai’ appeal.
Considering that we had the previous generation Mazda CX-5 at our disposal, we decided to pitch it back-to-back against the old model, as a direct comparison.
For starters, despite both models sharing its powertrain, engine noise in the new Mazda CX-5 is noticeably less than the old model.
Bear in mind that despite being an earlier generation model, our first generation CX-5 here has clocked roughly 5,000 km.
Then there’s the ride comfort. Mazda has done a good job with the new CX-5, as the new model boasts similar, if not better, driving dynamics. Body control is superior than other SUVs in its segment, as the rear of the SUV reacts instantaneously to steering inputs.
The other reason why the CX-5 handles so well is due to the presence of G-Vectoring Control (GVC), which helps reduce occupants' body movement discomfort when driving through twisty roads. We've explained how GVC works in this article.
We would dare say that the new Mazda CX-5 one of the best SUVs to drive, despite not being fitted with paddle shifters.
Pedal feel is also great, as the organ-type accelerator allows for more precise throttle inputs, while the brake pedal feel is progressive. The brakes bite strong enough to bring the 1.6 tonne SUV to a halt easily.
Another difference we noticed between both the new and old model is how the new CX-5 goes over potholes with ease as opposed to its predecessor. In the old CX-5, going over potholes are a bit more uncomfortable and noticeable.
Key rival to the Mazda CX-5 is the all-new Honda CR-V. Similar to the range-topping CX-5 2.2D AWD with Mazda iActiveSense, the top-of-the-line CR-V gets Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance. The flip side is that Honda Malaysia does not offer a diesel version of the CR-V, nor does the company offer a high spec AWD.
However the Honda CR-V counters by offering the most practical cabin in its class, offering more usable space than the CX-5. We especially love the CR-V's centre console box that is big enough to accommodate a medium-sized ladies handbag.
Continuing on the topic of safety, the Mitsubishi Outlander is also worth a mention, as this model features a grand total of seven airbags, including a driver knee airbag. On top of that, the Mitsubishi Outlander sits seven, as opposed to the CX-5’s five seats. We reckon that the biggest pitfall for the Outlander is the fact that rear air-conditioning vents are not available.
As a whole, the Mazda CX-5 has it all; handsome looks, improved cabin appeal, exciting driving dynamics and generous safety equipment, but is it enough to attract existing owners to upgrade?
For them, we would reckon a trip down to your nearest Mazda showroom is much needed to sample the new model, as the upgrade from the old model to new model is justifiable, in terms of refinement and added safety equipment. Besides, your family will appreciate the improvements at the rear too.
In short, if driving enjoyment and premium cabin ambience is your top priority, the Mazda CX-5 is the best choice. However, if you need a practical SUV, the Honda CR-V is an excellent choice. Then if you need to ferry seven people around, the Mitsubishi Outlander should be on your shortlist. Sure, the Nissan X-Trail is an option, but with just two airbags the model is no longer as competitive as it should be.