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It was looking touch and go there for a while. Would there actually be any snow this year? Driving to the Victorian high country for a ‘wet grassy hill’ adventure doesn’t really carry the same level of excitement and adventure that we were looking forward to this season.
Thankfully though, as July rolled around, the Arctic Vortex settled in and the skies opened – delivering decent snow coverage on all alpine resorts. With our 2015 Mazda CX-5 Akera ready for action, snow trips became the name of the game.
Since our last update, the Mazda CX-5 has been popular among the CarAdvice Melbourne team as the office runabout of choice. Practical, easy to drive and easy to live with, the Mazda manages day-to-day roles really well.
Sitting up higher than our long-term Renault Clio RS200, the mid-size Japanese SUV makes for a no-fuss option for cross-town meetings and production support. Most of the team have driven the car and to date, there have been no queries or issues.
That is, aside from the smell of the rubber mats. Fitted as an accessory as part of the CX-5's 'winterization' pack, the mats might provide better protection from wet and muddy footprints... but boy do they stink. If you get a set of these with your CX-5, we suggest you leave them OUT of the car until you really need them.
Consumption for a majority urban term was 8.3 litres per 100km, but we’ll do a month of dedicated fuel trials to look at range (both in and out of the city) as well as any gains made by removing the ski-carrier roof racks on the roof.
So on to the snow…
Videographer Christian from the Sydney team was in Melbourne for a shoot and took the opportunity to extend his visit for a few days and head to Mount Hotham – five hours drive from Melbourne – for a weekend of snowboarding action.
Loading up with a board on the roof and the rest of the gear in the back, the CX-5’s size worked well for Christian and his partner, but they weren’t totally enamoured by the contrasting colours.
“It’s spacious inside and the Akera variant offers a nice level of luxury, but I’m not a big fan of the white leather seats. The interior will get dirty quickly and even if you are extremely careful, your jeans will mark the side of the seat every time you climb in or out.”
He’s right, as dark-denim particularly tends to leave a blue-tinged mark on the seats. However, we have managed to keep them pretty clean by using nappy wipes – you can thank me later.
Again, the much-praised handling of the CX-5 was a standout. Christian noted, “The Mazda was great to drive on winding roads. It really feels like driving a hot-hatch – little body roll and very tight through the corners.”
With the temperature barely in the single digits, Christian became quite fond of the heated front seats in the Akera. “I have to say that I have never loved this feature as much as I did when it was -3 degrees Celsius in the mountains,” he said.
His favourite feature though, is the kerb-view camera. “The kerb-angle side camera is amazing! Perfect to stop you from hitting the alloys against the gutter. The best thing is that you can use it at any time, just click the icon on the top right corner of the screen.”
It is a handy feature both on and off-road, as beyond the obvious parking aid use, the camera is handy to check and see where you are positioned on the road – useful in snowy areas where visibility might not be the best.
A week or two after Christian’s Hotham trip, it was my turn to zap up to Mount Buller for my daughter’s annual school snow-sports weekend.
I will caveat this by saying that the girls in my family are unaware of a concept known as ‘packing light’ and so with three sets of ski boots, ‘apres’ boots, fashionable changes of clothes, school sports gear, cameras, computers and most of a chemist's inventory, the CX-5’s boot filled up quickly and some gear was relegated to join Miss Six in the back seat.
The flexible fabric parcel shelf was useful in this instance too, as you don’t need to be a Tetris pro in order to close the boot.
On the highway, the Mazda CX-5 does feel a bit ‘lighter’ than the family BMW X5 (there is a more than 300kg weight difference between the two after all) but it settled into the long trip well.
The snowboard on the roof added a little bit of whistling to the already prominent wind noise generated by the roof racks, but never in a way that couldn’t be drowned out by Taylor Swift.
Using the adaptive cruise control to maintain a constant speed and distance from other traffic worked well, and the little graphic in the instrument binnacle to advise when another car is ‘in range’ is again a nice touch.
Less than ideal though, the MZD Connect infotainment system froze and ‘rebooted’ a number of times – seemingly triggered by swapping phones to charge via the USB port. This has happened a few more times since, but I am yet to work out the sequence that ‘breaks’ it.
Once upset, the system did reboot (each time), but not without a few minutes of blank-screen, no audio and grumpy family silence. We have had similar issues in previously tested CX-3s with MZD Connect and we’d definitely be interested to hear if any readers out there newer Mazdas have experienced the same issue.
On the B-roads around Lake Eildon, the 2.2-litre diesel has enough poke to overtake slower vehicles, but it is a considered process and I found myself only jumping to the opposite lane when there was obvious visibility for many hundreds of meters in front.
The trip from Melbourne to Mansfield only knocked out a quarter of a tank of diesel (sitting a bit below 7.0L/100km on the highway) for the top-up to Alpine Diesel – a very important step for all diesel car drivers heading to the snow.
No chains were required to be fitted (although you must carry them) on the run up the mountain and we were able to park out the front of the hotel and crack open the schnapps with no issues at all.
Over the weekend, Miss Six competed in her very first race and did an excellent job staying upright and winning some points for her house. The same can’t be said for dad who managed to run out of talent and crack a rib in a heroic snowboard crash.
After a few days parked in sub-zero temperatures, the CX-5 cranked slowly but fired first time for the loading up of gear and trip back home. It took probably 20 minutes for the car to come up to full operating temperature and for the heater to kick in – a good reminder to allow plenty of time at both ends of a snow trip.
Heading down the fully graded mountain road, there was barley any evidence of slush to test the CX-5’s all-wheel-drive prowess — never a bad thing with the family in the car — but the Mazda felt surefooted and confident all the same.
A mostly uneventful drive home followed, but just out of Yea the oil change light came on – something many readers mentioned as a bit of a gripe with diesel CX-5s in our initial long-term report.
As with our long-term Holden Trax, we have booked the Mazda in for a service with a dealer and will experience the same process (and costs) as any other owner, and will cover this in our next update.
Fair to note too that the round trip to Buller yielded 8.1L/100km consumption – more than I expected, but inclusive of a slow mountain climb and plenty of idling.
If like us, you are heading to the snow this season, check out Tegan's Top 10 alpine driving tips from when she also hit the slopes in the CX-5 for her own Mount Buller day trip.
As always, post any questions or queries in the comments section below and stay tuned for the service and fuel consumption update in our next instalment.
Mazda CX-5 Akera AWD Diesel
Date acquired: May 2015
Odometer reading: 10,424km
Travel since previous update: 3882km
Consumption since previous update: 8.3L/100km
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Mazda CX-5 images by Christian Barbeitos and James Ward.