here’s nothing like a ‘strange’ colour on a car to divide opinion – and that’s exactly the case with Mazda’s stylish new CX-5 SUV.
Introduced earlier this year, we rated the 2.2 184PS AWD GT Sport model highly for its razor-sharp looks which make it stand out from the SUV crowd, its fun driving characteristics and generous equipment levels.
Mazda also introduced a new colour for 2022 – Zircon Sand – and it’s total ‘Marmite’, splitting opinion wherever it goes.
Enter the registration number of a Zircon Sand model into any parking or DVLA website and it comes up with ‘bronze’ (clearly officialdom doesn’t pander to marketing terminology). But it’s not bronze at all; it’s one of the fashionable new, muted, ‘clay’ paints that manufacturers such as Audi, Volvo and now Mazda have taken to heart.
At once cutting edge and retro, they’re great for instagrammers because – as these pictures show – the new colours ‘pop’ against a neutral background.
But after 4,000 miles in the city, on country roads and motorways, what is the new Mazda CX-5 really like to live with? Does it meet its initial promise at launch?
In London the 184ps model – with its 2.2 Skyactiv-D diesel, claimed to be one of the the firm’s cleanest yet – is a real pussycat. Despite that GT Sport badge it’s highly refined, smooth and – on account of its elevated stance – great at junctions for looking over other traffic.
In town there’s little sense of the Mazda’s ‘Sport’ ethos. It feels like a ‘normal’ SUV, with average throttle response and a nicely responsive gearbox with ratios well matched to traffic conditions.
The steering is quick but not too quick and there’s a decent turning circle; essential for city snarl-ups. Tickle the throttle, look far down the road, use minimal steering input and it’s quiet, refined, comfortable.
Only when encountering sleeping policemen does the CX-5 lose some of its composure. Being the Sport model, its suspension is biased towards faster, sweeping roads; it can be harsh over broken surfaces and ramps at slower speeds. The more passengers on board, however – or the bigger the load in the boot – the more this improves.
Facets that make the CX-5 a winner in town include its suite of safety and environmental aids. The AWD GT Sport Auto Diesel comes with i-stop (so that it cuts out when idling, reducing noise and pollution), and heated, auto-power folding mirrors, making them less likely to get clonked while parked.
Privacy glass is standard – nice in cities for obvious reasons – while it not only has front and rear parking sensors but also a great reversing camera, making it possible to move almost within touching distance in a tight spot.
Other city benefits include Advanced Smart City Brake Support, a forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking system that works at lower speeds, and Intelligent Speed Assist, using GPS and cameras to advise the driver of the speed limit. With the proliferation of 20mph zones, it can be hard to tell.
In practical use, other benefits for day to day life include a powered tailgate and a Head Up Display which includes clear, useful satellite navigation symbols. Of particular use is Mazda’s Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which helps detect other road-users when reversing.
The load space is a useful 510 litres of boot space with useful corner cubby holes but – disappointingly – no fold-out carrier bag hooks to prevent your shopping spilling on the way home.
The built-in satellite navigation system is satisfactory but not great at avoiding traffic congestion. The answer is to switch to Apple CarPlay mode, simply achieved with the great 10.25-inch colour display screen and the central rotary control knob. With my iPhone 13 Pro connected, I rely on Waze instead, which sidesteps holdups and introduces previously undiscovered parts of London. The disadvantage is that in this mode directions are not relayed to the Head Up Display. However Apple CarPlay also gives instant access to most of the features on your i-Phone, too.
With most of its mileage in town, the CX-5 2.2 diesel has, unsurprisingly, failed to live up to the claimed/combined 42.8 MPG figure but, at an average 39.3 MPG, it has comfortably exceeded the official ‘low’ figure of 35.8. In London many authorities impose penalties on diesels – even the cleanest – but the CX-5 comes in 2-litre petrol guise too.
Out on the open road the CX-5 comes nicely to life with lithe handling, nicely positive steering, a great turn of performance from the engine and gearbox all living up to that Sport badge. At higher speeds the suspension evens out beautifully on motorway, A, or B-roads, to provide high levels of refined comfort, soaking up undulations nicely, serenely even.
So while the colour continues to annoy some and delight others, the CX-5 proves to be a highly able, fun, sporty all-rounder.