With its improvements in ride, handling and equipment, the second-generation Mazda CX-5 feels even more European than the first one.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
With its improvements in ride, handling and equipment, the second-generation Mazda CX-5 feels even more European than the first one.
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THE first-generation CX-5 was introduced in 2015 and it went on to become a core model for its manufacturer, accounting for one in four Mazda sales worldwide.

Over 1.4 million CX-5s were sold during its five-year lifespan.

The second-generation CX-5 builds on the strengths of its popular predecessor, but has put on some weight (40-50kg) along the way.

According to Mazda, the extra kilos are due to the beefedup insulation against NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), tougher crashworthiness, improved ride comfort and the expanded equipment list.

The crossover looks like it lost weight though, thanks to its flatter profile (10mm longer and 35mm lower) and slightly lowered beltline.

Also visually slimming down the exterior are its lamp clusters and door-mirror casings, all of which are sleeker than before.

The newcomer is slicker through the air, too, with a drag coefficient reduced by about 6 percent versus the previous model. This was made possible by a duct-shaped grille opening and an active air shutter. The newcomer is stiffer, too, with the torsional rigidity of its bodyshell upped by 15 percent.

One of the nine paintwork choices is Soul Red Crystal, which is said to be 20 percent brighter and 50 percent deeper than Mazda’s current signature colour, Soul Red. The really-red paint job is also said to represent a major advance in the automaker’s Takuminuri painting technology.

Nice, new wheels are de rigueur, of course – 17-inch in either “steel” or dark silver, and 19-inch in gunmetal. The latter looks great with the Machine Grey Metallic body colour, to my eyes at least.

The wheelbase is unchanged at 2700mm, but the front and rear tracks have been widened slightly. The suspension (front strut and rear multi-link) has been carried over, but with enhancements which include bigger-diameter front damper pistons (for smoother and more linear vehicle behaviour during quick steering actions) and liquid-filled bushings for the front lower arms (to increase the damping of minute vibrations).

At the same time, the electric power steering system has been given rigid couplings to provide a more direct connection to the suspension cross-members.

More obvious to end users is the powered tailgate, a first for this independent car company.

The newly specified feature would bring an end to one of the most common questions posed to Mazda’s salespeople in Singapore by CX-5 buyers/owners – “Why isn’t the big liftgate electric?” 

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The complete answer includes convenient operating switches, the option to set the degree of opening, and touch sensors to prevent damage/injury while the tailgate is closing.

The boot is roomier than before, with 477 litres of stowage space under the tonneau cover (up from 403 litres), including 30 litres of oddments space beneath the boot floor (up from 10 litres).

Newly added, floor-mounted cargo hooks and the carriedover 20:40:20 split-fold rear seatbacks boost the car’s loadlugging capability.

The cabin space for passengers remains ample, and benefits from a two-step reclining mechanism for the rear seats (so their occupants can lean back and relax to an angle of 28 degrees), and more supportive cushioning for the front seats.

Another welcome new addition, especially in sunny Singapore, is the pair of rear air-con vents.

For the driver, most of the switches on the redesigned dashboard look (and click) like those in the earlier CX5, but subtle qualitative improvements have been made.

For instance, the motors which adjust the front seats are less noisy now and the glovebox lid doesn’t rattle gently anymore when opened.

The printed film decorating the dashboard and doors is a nice touch – according to Mazda, it “conveys both the warmth of wood and the strength of metal”; according to me, it’s less silly than mock wood and less chintzy than fake metal.

More importantly, there are useful new gadgets to assist the driver.

One of them is the Active Driving Display, which is a neater and clearer head-up display than the one available in the Mazda 3, 6 and CX-3. Another is the MRCC (Mazda Radar Cruise Control), which can automatically “follow” the vehicle in front, from stop-go-stationary right up to 200km/h on the expressway.

One more useful new gadget in the CX-5 is the 7-inch infotainment touchscreen.

It has the same colour-screen size as the previous version, but optical bonding of the LCD and the touch panel (like today’s tablets) has made its text and graphics sharper.

More noticeable to the end user is the new 4.6-inch multi-information display within the right-side dial of the instrument cluster. Pertinent info is coloured/grouped for fast and easy reading on the go.

The audio entertainment system is still supplied by Bose, but it now plays through 10 speakers (instead of nine with the old unit), two of which are silk-dome tweeters mounted in the A-pillars. It’s hi-fi with higher fidelity.

All the interior upgrades are great, but too bad the first CX-5’s 2.5-litre engine and its 6-speed automatic gearbox weren’t upgraded along the way.

They’ve only received tweaks – shift lever positioned 60mm higher than before and thus handier, and new software for the transmission to make it more responsive to the driver’s inputs.

The whole machine responded well to my intentions at Mine Proving Ground – not as well as the nimble MX-5 roadster I drove just before the new CX-5, but better than the old CX-5.

That said, both CX-5s gave plenty of all-wheel-drive grip from their 225/55 R19 tyres and steered surprisingly sharply for elevated everyday hatchbacks.
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But the newer model has the advantage of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control (GVC), which varies the engine drive torque (depending on steering angle and throttle position) to optimise the vertical load on each wheel when the car is powering into a corner. The objective is to extract more grip from the front and rear tyres, stabilise the vehicle as it goes from the entry to the exit of a corner, and enhance steering precision.

GVC seems to help maximise the chassis’ mechanical grip, which is already good, but it’s probably only perceptible in a proving-ground environment where the driver can explore higher limits for acceleration, cornering and traction which cannot be experienced during day-to-day driving.

Compared to the old CX-5, the new one kept a tighter rein on its body movements, while its stable chassis, properly damped suspension and accurate, well-weighted steering gave me greater confidence to spear through the corners of the circuit.

It almost became overconfidence at one point when the car started to skid a bit, but the stability control intervened promptly to save my skin.

Of course, for urbane crossovers like these, racetrack situations are less relevant than city roads, traffic jams and suburban excursions. The latest CX-5 should be able to handle them equally well, because it is quieter on the move than the previous model, has a more pliant ride and is adequately equipped with user-friendly features that make the motorist’s life easier.

Mazda’s second-generation CX-5 will come to Singapore in the third quarter of this year.