When I was a young'un, the Mazda badge was a common sight in my parents' garage. My Dad owned an 1800 ute, followed by an E2200 truck that went everywhere. I even remember Dad dropping me off to primary school dressed as a dog for a dress-up day.
Fast forward to today and the Mazda love continues in my family, with Mum driving a bright yellow Mazda 6 that has featured a lot in family holiday snaps. Over the brand has earned a reputation, not just with my family, of being reliable, well-built and just the right level of fun to drive.
This is why I was looking forward to spending some time behind the wheel of the all-wheel-drive 2017 Mazda CX-5 GT.
Mazda have recently adjusted pricing and specification of the CX-5 range and the mid-level $44,090 GT now has the driver safety pack bundled in (previously a $1060 option), for just a $700 price increase.
This includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, smart city brake support (forward and reverse), and an auto dimming rear-view mirror.
While the CX-5 is still the top-selling medium-sized SUV in the country, regularly popping up in the top 10 of Best Selling Cars here at CarAdvice (19,090 sales so far this year), there is some stiff competition from the likes of the Kia Sportage (8181 sales) and Hyundai Tuscon (14,969).
Under the bonnet is a 2.5 litre, four cylinder petrol engine, boasting 138kW of power and 250Nm of torque. This has the Mazda with more power than the aforementioned Tucson (130kW), and the equivalent Subaru Forester model, the 2.5i-S (126kW), although the 1.6-turbo Tucson beats it for torque at 265Nm.
A 129kW/420Nm four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine is also available for an $47,090 premium.
The Mazda’s engine has peak torque available from 4000rpm and power from 5700rpm, indicating that the best performance is had when properly revving the CX-5. Mazda’s SkyActiv engine technology runs the 2.5-litre motor at a higher compression to help reduce exhaust emissions while optimising efficiency.
On the up-side, it’s quite a fun and sporty feeling engine, revving freely - providing you are either using the Sport transmission mode or manual selection of the six-speed automatic.
The down-side is fuel consumption, which Mazda claim is 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle. However, we did some long highway touring (300km round trip) and saw the figure at about 7.5L/100km after this, so perhaps ‘combined’ means ‘mainly highway’. For context, the 1.6-litre turbo Tucson has a claimed consumption of 7.7L/100km.
In terms of weekend fun, too, towing a jet-ski or a motorcycle behind the CX-5 is possible with a braked towing capacity of 1800 kilograms - 300kg more than the equivalent Nissan X-trail and Ford Kuga.
Overall, though, the CX-5 is very easy to drive during my daily 40-minute commute to and from the CarAdvice Melbourne office. I tended to leave the transmission in its standard automatic setting as this was more than adequate for the traffic conditions and my style of driving.
The 19-inch alloy wheels look great and in concernt with the MacPherson struts in the front and multi-link suspension in the rear, do a good job of soaking up the bumps.
The CX-5 is often praised for its handling, and while the ride is comfortable it does err towards firm. This results in a car with direct and enjoyable control, that definitely puts the ‘Sport’ into SUV.
In fact, we spent time with a group of North Melbourne Football Club players who used the CX-5 as part of a defensive driving course, and even with a day of weaving through witches hats the Mazda stood up to the challenge!
You do feel some sharper bumps like railway tracks, and the ride isn’t quite as ‘magic carpet’ as the Hyundai Tucson, but for a driver who likes to feel a bit sporty, even on a basic commute, the CX-5 is still a great option.
There’s a bit of road noise at high speeds, and, as noted earlier, if you like to rev the engine high, the four-cylinder buzz will increase and the note isn’t exactly what we’ll call ‘throaty’.
Getting in the car is made all the more easier by a keyless entry via all four door handles. Your bum will love the heated electric leather seats and, with two memory settings, it’s handy if you or the other half will be taking turns in the driver seat.
In the cabin, the reversing camera and parking distance control on the 7.0-inch MZD Connect touch screen helps with those shopping centre trips. But after entering a destination in the Satellite Navigation in the carpark, the safety warning of “Please check your surroundings” appears and does not clear while driving at low speed. This can be frustrating when you don’t know which way to turn out of the carpark! Also, after driving out from under a railway underpass during daylight, the screen takes some time to switch back from night mode.
Storage wise, it is great to see two map holders behind the front seats and there is ample storage up front, including a slot that is perfect for your phone to snuggle into. The area under the armrest is that deep, your whole arm disappears. Well, almost.
In the back, there are twin ISOFIX points, and a centre console housing two cup-holders with side storage areas. The centre hump isn’t all that high, so sliding across to each side is a cinch. Climbing out from the rear, especially for an adult, can be difficult though, with the wheel arch proving to be an obstacle.
There are no conventional centre console-back cooling and heating vents in the rear. Instead, ducts beneath the front seats channel external air to the second row - if the vehicle's vents are open to the outside - while the air conditioner's heat blower settings will also channel warm air to the rear row, if desired, via those same ducts.
The same cannot be said for cooling the kids on a hot day, which means second-row occupants can get only whatever cool air makes its way back through the cabin space from the front row vents.
Boot size is 403 litres, even with a 17-inch spare tyre under the cargo area. To stretch the space out to 1560 litres, you simply fold down the 60:40 split seats via a lever on each side.
Along with a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, the Mazda CX-5 comes with head and side airbags, along with dual front airbags.
The inclusion now of the standard safety package shows the strong commitment Mazda is making to customers in terms of everyday driving safety, particularly given the CX-5 is a very ‘family’ family car.
Servicing costs average $300 every 10,000kms, which incidentally climbs to around $330 with the diesel.
The CX-5 is backed by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is far from some other key players - but the reason why my parents keep coming back to Mazda, is for their incredible customer service. Being greeted with pleasant and passionate staff make the Mazda owner experience even more enjoyable.
In the hotly contested market of medium SUVs, the family favourite and now better value 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT continues to be an excellent option and maybe it too will become a part of your happy family memories.