Test Drive: 2017 Mazda CX-5 GT

The 9,000 or so kilometres between Japan and Germany isn’t shrinking, yet Japan’s getting closer to the Bavarian homeland – at least as it applies to automobiles. The new Mazda CX-5 may be the most emblematic example to date of a mid-size Japanese crossover emulating those from Germany.

Throughout my week with the 2017 CX-5, I couldn’t help but feel that I was climbing aboard an Audi Q3, or even a BMW X3, each time I got behind the wheel; the Mazda is that good. Completely redesigned for 2017, engineers focused on improving the vehicle’s previously impressive levels of operational refinement and occupant comfort, and succeeded.

I participated in the 2012 launch of the original CX-5, and while it was praiseworthy in many aspects, it wasn’t as polished or powerful as today’s version, which exhibits a strong presence on the road thanks to Mazda’s latest iteration of their KODO design language. It’s a great improvement on the former look, which in my view was a little too wavy in its backbone.

The vehicle’s cabin is also a nicer place for 2017, with seats that now provide greater depth and comfort, especially in the rear where occupants riding in second-class will find heated perches, which come standard with the GT trim.

Of course, it’s the driver’s seat where many of the attributes of the 2017 CX-5 are found, and which underwrite my metaphorical assertion that Japan is moving closer to Germany. Though a 2.0L 4-cyliner engine is employed as the base power unit, found only in the GX trim level, this week’s tester was powered by a 2.5L SKYACTIV 4-cylinder.

The larger engine produces 187 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 185 ft-lb of torque at 4,000 RPM. A six-speed conventional automatic transmission – sans paddle-shifting – efficiently manages gear changes in advance of torque being allocated as needed to all four-corners by Mazda’s I-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system.

The acronyms and specs distill to create a driving experience that’s remarkably pleasing, though not overly stimulating due to performance that’s sprightly around town but can be somewhat meagre in the passing lane. No worse really than its direct competitors, such as Honda’s CR-V, Toyota’s RAV4, and Nissan’s Rogue, but not in keeping with my “Japan does Germany” proclamation.

Despite the “zoom zoom” deficit, the CX-5 GT is a highly-capable machine on roads that fail to follow the doctrine of “straight and narrow.” Subjectively, I would give the CX-5 GT the edge in handling competency over its aforementioned colleagues from Japan, and even hold it tacitly in the same broad category of those premium marques of Bavaria.

Some naysayers will call me on this claim, but outside of the handling extremes found only on a track, the CX-5 is – despite potential critics – as much fun to wrangle though the curves in a lawful manner as the Euro benchmark-setters. And frankly, will perform this role with similar or better levels of operational refinement and cabin-quiet.

Ideally though, I wish the electronic power-steering setup offered a little more on-centre feel, especially on the highway where minute course corrections become necessary to keep centred in the lane.

Ride quality in the new CX-5 is quite delightful, highlighted by an absorbent chassis that isn’t reluctant to take on roads ravaged by winter. The underpinnings effectively quell any jolt well before it reaches the cabin while never becoming “thumpy” or noisy as I’ve heard in other crossovers.

Fuel economy in the GT is rated at 10.2L/100km city and 8.3L/100km highway. My in-town motoring settled at 11.1L/100km, which unfortunately missed the posted rating by a full litre of regular-grade juice.

The GT trim level includes a broad array of standard equipment, however, adding the Technology Package at $1,600 nets a host of driving and safety-related aids, such as Radar Cruise Control with Stop/Go Technology and Mazda’s Active Driving Display, which is a head’s-up printout reflected on the windscreen.

Premium Bose audio is also included along with navigation and the latest in smartphone connectivity.

The as-tested price of my fully-kitted CX-5 GT was $36,600, which in the realm of its contenders is a relative bargain given the level of polish and refinement it brings to the segment. Its door “thunks” speak more German than Japanese, as do all aspects of its operation.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT
Price as tested (before taxes): $36,600.00
Configuration: front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.5L I-4 / 6-speed automatic
Power/torque: 187 hp / 185 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 10.2, highway 8.3
Observed fuel-economy (L/100km): 11.1
Warranty (basic): 3 years / 80,000 km
Competitors: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

Related links:
Mazda Canada


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