MOVING THE GOALPOSTS

2015 Mazda CX-5 2.5L AWD Sport

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The Mazda CX-5 received a minor facelift outside but received a throng of high-tech features inside.

IT is midway through a vehicle’s showroom life when a manufacturer makes a few changes and improvements to enhance a product’s competitiveness in the market. That applies to the new Mazda CX-5, as the brand known for zoom and more zoom had just made some rather useful adjustments to an already competitive nameplate.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the Mazda CX-5, it’s the company’s entry into an extremely competitive compact crossover segment, accounting for a significant percentage of Mazda Philippines’ sales volume. The model was initially launched in 2012 by the previous distributor of Mazda in the country, and served as the first time the domestic market received a SkyActiv model.

Visually speaking, the Mazda CX-5 only gets minor updates to the exterior; that’s because the CX-5 already benefits from the advanced and dynamic look of Mazda’s Kodo design, generating a style that still looks as fresh in 2015 as it did in 2012. Mazda took the crossover and put in a new front grill, a new pair of “smoked” headlamps, some new trim pieces and a striking set of gunmetallic 19-inch rolling stock on all four corners.

Step inside and a clean and premium interior awaits. There’s space for five but the driver’s seat is really where it’s at, offering plenty of support and cushioning for a long and spirited drive. The wheel is wrapped in leather and so are the seats and many other bits. There are also some new trim panels for the steering wheel.

Examining the cabin more closely, Mazda made some major changes to the center console. The climate control panel is very new, but the major update was to the in-car entertainment. The previous 2-DIN screen was replaced with a new version that can be manipulated by the same controller found in the newer models like the Mazda3. The parking brake is now a button and the automatic gearstick is new. Also, the conventional column makes space for a new Sport mode switch for the transmission’s electronic control unit for a more engaging drive. We’ll test that later.

The carryover 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G engine offers plenty of go with 188 horsepower and 250 Newton-meters of torque. The engine is efficient too, thanks to direct injection and a high compression ratio. It even conforms to Euro 4 emissions standards. A 6-speed automatic gearbox is standard on all CX-5s, albeit this variant gets the all-wheel drive system so you’ll always have traction on even the trickiest of driving conditions.

On a daily commute, the 2015 CX-5 performs as expected. This crossover drives smoothly, quietly and maneuvers around the city with ease; even when faced with tight, 90-degree urban roads. One drive makes it clear the CX-5’s suspension has a bias toward good handling with a slight compromise on ride comfort, but the fuel efficiency completely makes up for it. In really heavy traffic (13 kilometers per hour average speed) the CX-5 2.5L registered 5.6 kilometers per liter. In more normal traffic conditions (23 kph average speed) the number improved significantly to 8.4 kpl; that’s quite an achievement for a crossover of this size and displacement.

Take it on a drive out of town and the CX-5 simply shines. Activating the Sport mode sharpens up the throttle response and alters the transmission’s behavior. Acceleration is sharper than most crossovers; you’d have to go for turbocharged models like the Ford Escape EcoBoost and Subaru Forester 2.0XT to top this. What’s really nice about the CX-5 is how the crossover suppresses the wind noise when cruising on the highway. If you’re cruising efficiently, this CX-5 will also oblige with fuel economy that can realistically and easily reach 13.5 kpl (92 kph average with one passenger).

Head onto a mountain road and the CX-5 impresses still. The handling that may have compromised ride comfort makes itself a joy on a twisty road, managing the weight in a way that few crossovers can match. The brakes feel positive but do be wary of pushing a relatively weighty crossover over a series of corners with heavy braking. The SkyActiv transmission is intuitive and natural to drive spiritedly, though the Sport mode does allow the driver to explore the more exciting limits… at the expense of fuel economy, of course.

Truth be told, the CX-5 didn’t really need to be refreshed, but Mazda went ahead and did it anyway. That’s how a competitive team stays at the top of its game, continually making improvements and moving the goalposts, even though they actually don’t need to. The best part about the 2015 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport is its price that was barely changed, or P1.695 million. That makes it a steal for a Japanese-made crossover.

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