27 May 2012 by Paul Clarke
Mazda CX-5 AWD SKYACTIV-D 2.2 Sport Nav
Model/Engine size: AWD SKYACTIV-D 2.2 (175PS) Sport Nav
Fuel economy combined: 54.3 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 8/10
The Mazda CX-5 AWD SKYACTIV-D 2.2 Sport Nav has a combined fuel economy figure of 54.3mpg and emissions of just 136g/km CO2, which makes it class-leading for a mid-size 4×4.
• First Mazda to incorporate new SKYACTIV technology
• Class-leading economy for a 4×4, without any hybrid element
• Good to drive
• Relatively expensive in this spec, yet interior ambience still behind best in class
Mazda is very late to the green car party. The company has not had any class-leading green products to date, however all that has now changed with the arrival of SKYACTIV technology. This is the name for a collection of measures that result in low emissions and high economy – without resorting to hybrid technology, which adds complexity, weight and expense – and which often doesn’t improve the driving experience.
In the past, Mazda had a partnership with Ford, whereby the huge development costs of new vehicles were shared. Such a relationship doesn’t exist any more, so Mazda has had an extra-special challenge to develop and bring to market a new model with such innovative technologies.
The design of the CX-5 is all-new, as is its engineering. The design is supposed to follow Mazda’s new flowing and curved design language, known as ‘KODO’. Although the company’s concepts look impressive, the appearance of the production CX-5 has been somewhat watered down. This is in contrast to the Range Rover Evoque , which looked stunning as a concept car and which made it to production virtually unchanged. The CX-5 still looks good, but slightly bland when compared to an Evoque.
Mazda says that the interior is a big improvement, but the design and materials of the dash are still a considerable way short of the class-leaders. The CX-5 has a Tom-Tom based satnav system, which seemed to work reasonably well, although it did not display the detail that some other systems do such as surrounding place names.
However it’s the ‘SKYACTIV’ engineering that is the most interesting story. Mazda has introduced a number of innovations in the interests of efficiency, in three key areas: engines, transmissions, and lightweight construction.
The engines, both petrol and diesel, are new. It’s the diesel engine that we are particularly interested in, as this gives the best economy, and it will be by far the biggest seller in the UK. Perhaps most importantly, it’s much better suited to a medium-sized crossover than the petrol engine (diesels are expected to account for 85% of sales). As well as having twin-turbos, the diesel engine has a 14:1 compression ratio, which is the lowest of any current production turbo diesel engine. This means better economy, and lower levels of nitrous oxides; in fact, the engine meets stringent 2014 EU Stage 6 emission levels without the need for any expensive after-treatment systems – which is of significant importance in terms of engine build costs.
The gearboxes, both manual and automatic, are also new, and are lighter in order to result in better economy. The third key element has been to make the CX-5 chassis and body as lightweight as possible, whilst retaining stiffness.
The all-wheel drive models feature variable torque distribution and slip detection, giving a front/rear torque split ranging from 100/0 to 50/50 percent (so it’s not possible to have more than 50% of the torque going to the rear wheels).
The two-day launch of the CX-5 took place in the Scottish Highlands, including over the mountain routes of Applecross. We’re talking roads that are twisty, hilly, and we even had some snow (in late May). The Mazda CX-5 took all roads in its stride, and in particular proved to be extremely stable at higher speeds.
A number of different models were tested. The all-wheel drive version eliminates the occasional tendency for torque steer from the front-wheel drive models. The automatic version is competent, although it’s preferable to control the gears manually on challenging roads – and there’s no steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, so gear changing in the auto has to be done by pushing the gear lever forwards and backwards.
The diesel manual, in higher power 175PS form, is smooth, quiet, refined, powerful and economical. The six-speed manual ‘box has a very short shift, and is similar in feel to that in the MX-5, which is a good thing. The light weight of the CX-5, apart from helping with its efficiency, also helps with the driving experience; ‘sports-car like handling’ may be somewhat of an exaggeration for such a large and tall car, but due to its light weight, the supple chassis and flexible diesel engine, the CX-5 certainly doesn’t feel like a relatively large diesel 4×4. As well as having good handling, it even has a decent ride, apart from being crashy over some poor surfaces.
The all-wheel drive system worked well in relatively limited testing, and the CX-5 has a useful 210mm of ground clearance. The CX-5 is a crossover rather than a proper 4×4, but with the right tyres it will get you further through the snow than two-wheel drive cars.
With a combined fuel economy figure of 54.3mpg and emissions of just 136g/km CO2, the Mazda CX-5 AWD SKYACTIV-D 2.2 Sport is class-leading in this category of 4x4s. Stop-start (called i-stop) helps to keep the emissions low, and this technology appears on all manual and automatic models. This model’s Benefit-in-Kind rate is 21%, which translates to monthly BIK payments of £96 (20%) or £192 (40%).
During our drive along the length of Loch Ness we achieved over 60mpg, but around 40mpg in the mountains, so it would be realistic to expect around 50mpg in careful everyday driving. If you go for the auto box option on the 175 PS diesel, the emissions increase from 136 to 144 g/km CO2. The two-wheel drive SKYACTIV-D (manual) version can manage 61.4 mpg, with emissions of 119 g/km CO2.
The Mazda CX-5 AWD SKYACTIV-D 2.2 Sport Nav costs £27,595. This is quite expensive, and this is before options. In isolation, the CX-5 is a good car, but things get tricky when it’s looked at in comparison to its rivals. Many rivals are also competent all-round options, for not much more cost. Unfortunately, many of these rivals also have a more upmarket interior ambience, and they are more obvious choices for buyers. However most can’t touch the CX-5 in the area of economy.
The CX-5 is available with petrol or diesel engines, and manual or automatic transmissions. It’s also available with front or all-wheel drive, and two power outputs for the diesel engines – 150 PS and 175 PS. Then there’s four equipment levels – SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport and Sport Nav. What you can’t have is an all-wheel drive petrol option, but otherwise there are 18 different model combinations, starting from £21,395.
Every Mazda CX-5 is equipped with ‘Smart City Brake Support’ (SCBS), which aims to help a driver to avoid a low speed (up to 19mph) frontal collision by activating the brakes and reducing the engine output if the system detects that a frontal collision is likely.
Mazda CX-5 AWD SKYACTIV-D 2.2 Sport Nav –
The CX-5 enters a tough market segment, with some well-known, well-established and highly regarded rivals, so it will have a fight on its hands to convert buyers from such choices. However it deserves to succeed, as it drives well and it’s class-leading in terms of its efficiency. It gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10, and this is an acknowledgement of the efforts that Mazda has made to come from nowhere to class-leading in terms of efficiency.
Car Facts and Figures
Mazda CX-5 AWD SKYACTIV-D 2.2 Sport Nav data
Fuel economy extra urban: 60.1 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 47.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 136 g/km
Green rating: VED band E – £120 per year
Weight: 1530 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 21%
Insurance group: 23E
Power: 175 PS
Max speed: 129 mph
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
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