Despite not being the all-wheel-drive he had hoped for, the Mazda CX-5 soon dispelled any disappointment for Charlie Flindt, who was taken with its good looks, size and handling


THE email from the Mazda press office was only slightly apologetic: “We had originally allocated you the CX-5 2.2 diesel 184ps GT Sport AWD. However, on inspection, it was flagged there was significant damage which couldn’t be repaired in time.” What I would get instead was a lower-powered two-wheel-drive version. My first reaction was disappointment. I had pencilled in a long week of stubble-driving to check on failing game strips. My plans had been foiled by some hoon and a tree, by the sound of it. How irresponsible. I’d be left pootling in a bog-standard SUV.

Fortunately, Mazda doesn’t do ‘bog-standard’, and the CX-5 got off to a good start when it arrived in the yard. It is very beautiful, and Mazda’s ‘Soul Red Crystal’ (rapidly becoming its trademark, if expensive, colour) is easy on the eye. The size is right, too. It’s not one of those ‘compact’ SUVs that end up being snug, or one of the gargantuan seven-seaters that lose so much boot space and parkability in the name of faux practicality. No, the CX-5 is the Goldilocks SUV; the balance of exterior size and easily accessible interior space is just right. The interior itself is a joy as well; the seats are good, the driving position is perfect and the latest Mazda dashboards prove that simple old-fashioned dials cannot be beaten for clarity.

mazda cx-5

There’s an old-fashioned theme running through the mechanical bits, too. Diesel engines are still an option – Mazda has no issue with them. (I watched a very interesting video from Mazda the other day on the future of the internal combustion engine; it’s not going away – it’s the fuel we need to change.) Engine power goes through a simple six-speed manual gearbox to the front wheels – and that’s it.

An on-foot inspection of the game strips kept all the dogs happy but revealed multiple bare patches, so a trip to the valley of the badges was needed for some bags of patch-up seed. It proved to be a good workout for the CX-5, with some dual carriageway, some town centre work and some winding A-road. It handles and rides surprisingly well for a big machine, helped by that lively diesel and a snappy gear change that has faint echoes of Mazda’s most famous gearbox. Thick pillars are the blight of modern cars, and even the CX-5 hasn’t dodged these supposed structural necessities, but there’s no excuse for the silly key fob – a credit card-sized slab with tiny buttons down one slim edge, guaranteed to make you look a twit as you try to unlock the boot while two sturdy warehousemen look on, leaning on their laden trollies. But we were all surprised at how easily both trollies emptied into the back of the Mazda.

mazda cx-5

Once dignity had been restored, I could set off on the way home, and I warmed to the CX-5 even more. It’s a bit of a long-distance hauler, too, with a fuel gauge that hardly moved, despite its huge and fragrant load. I was sad to see it go. The man from Mazda was just relieved that I hadn’t wrapped it around a tree.


♦ Engine: 2,191cc four-cylinder diesel

♦ Power: 150ps

♦ Gearbox: six-speed manual

♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 9.9 seconds

♦ Top speed: 127mph

♦ Combined fuel economy: 50.4mpg

♦ Insurance group: 22E

♦ Price: £33,115