Mazda has been slowest of the Japanese manufactures to bring fuel-efficient models to market, not helped by the fact that as a relatively small company it is harder to develop hi-tech solutions. As a result Mazda has employed some lateral thinking and maximised the efficiency of 'conventional' engineering rather than developing hybrid systems.
The Mazda CX-5 benefits from the fruits of this exercise, which Mazda calls SKYACTIV technology. In practice this means focusing on engine and transmission efficiency and lightweight construction. Of particular note is the 2.2 litre diesel engine which is powerful and efficient and crucially has much reduced NOx emissions - enough to reach Euro 6 regulations that are due in 2014 - without the need for expensive exhaust after-treatment, something generally thought to be impossible.
In addition to the inherent cost, Mazda is keen to develop conventional engines because it has always focused on building cars that are good to drive, something that Mazda believes is easier to achieve without hybrid technology. The CX-5 is no exception, for an SUV it is entertaining and does a better job than most rivals at delivering fun whilst also having supple suspension.
Unfortunately the CX-5 also sticks to type when it comes to interior design. The basic layout of the dashboard is sensible and easy to use, but the material quality lags behind the class standard and there is a distinct lack of design flair. However it is all put together well enough so we have no reason to believe that it won't last the course.
Mazda's decision to develop SKYACTIV technology may have been partly forced by a lack of cash but it neatly demonstrates what is possible without resorting to exotic solutions. The fact that the Mazda CX-5 is good to drive and proves that diesel engines can have low NOx emissions without expensive after-treatment means that we can overlook issues such as the interior.