By Suave Otieno
If one is looking for distinctive style or grand times behind the wheel, they shouldn’t look at small crossover SUVs. These are vehicles that emphasise the “utility” in SUV and wring maximum space for people, personal effects and pets nowadays in a quest for daily-driven competence.
Mazda has given its popular CX-5 SUV a mild update for 2022 and it has managed to rise to the top of the class with its tight rear quarters and cargo space. The CX-5 delivers joy to its driver. Not mere satisfaction for a job well done, but the same pleasure you might get from a small sports saloon and open highway, with the added benefit of room for supplies from the home improvement store.
Visually, the updated CX-5 gets a revised headlight cluster that now features rectangular LED lights and a new-look front grille. Inside, there are some trim material updates with woodgrain and Nappa leather, while the cabin has been enhanced ergonomically with redesigned seats and a new drive select switch.
Under the skin, the 6-speed automatic transmission has been updated to be more responsive and deliver smoother acceleration. The suspension has been enhanced to reduce vibrations and road noise. All-wheel drive is now standard across the range, which will please those who enjoy driving off the beaten track and provide additional stability in slippery conditions.
The international line-up has changed with the 2.5-litre turbocharged model replacing the base derivatives.
This will be the final update from Mazda for this generation of CX-5 as the all-new model will be built on a brand-new rear-wheel-drive platform that’s estimated to be production-ready in 2023. Along with this upmarket platform will be straight-6 engines, fuelling rumours that Mazda will be going even more upmarket with its next-gen offerings.
The new-gen motors feature SkyActiv-G petrol and SkyActiv-D diesel technology, as well as the new SkyActiv-X compression ignition hybrid petrol engine. One of the new motors will have a displacement of 3.0 litres and given the size increase, it is clear Mazda is pushing hard into the premium space. It’s not confirmed yet for the sub-Saharan market, but rumours are strong the CX-5 name will be dropped in favour of a CX-50 badge, which brings it in line with the current naming convention.
The CX-5’s base four-cylinder engine was a good introduction, but the car comes alive with its optional turbocharged counterpart. For 2022, the turbo engine gets a slight boost, up 6 horsepower from the previous model. The CX-5 has always deftly balanced ride comfort and responsive handling, but this year’s minor suspension updates aim to reduce road noise and vibrations and tighten up control. Finally, subtle revisions to the front and rear bumpers, the aforementioned headlights and sundry panels give the CX-5 a dose of fresh style.
Rivals such as the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson and Nissan X-Trail offer more rear legroom and cargo volume, but the CX-5 is unmatched when it comes to combining performance and refinement in such an affordable package when also compared to the Toyota Rav-4 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
As aforementioned, the CX-5 is at its best when equipped with its turbocharged engine. Unfortunately, you can only get it with the pricey Turbo or Turbo Signature trim. If you need a value pick, consider the Preferred trim. It comes with just about everything you’ll need from a small SUV, including a few premium upgrades, such as leather upholstery.
The 2022 Mazda CX-5 is a five-passenger SUV sold in eight trim levels: S, Select, Preferred, Carbon Edition, Premium, Premium Plus, Turbo and Turbo Signature. As of time of press, we were still awaiting confirmation from CMC Motors Group which trim levels will be available for the local market for 2022.
The standard engine makes 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, while Turbo and Turbo Signature trims get a boost with 227 hp and 310 lb-ft on regular petrol. With high performance petrol – such as V-Power from Shell, those numbers rise to 256 hp and 320 lb-ft.
Every CX-5 comes with a comprehensive set of driving aids, which include forward collision mitigation – which warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert – that warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot during a lane change or while reversing, lane departure mitigation – which warns you of a lane departure when a turn signal isn’t used and can automatically steer to maintain lane position and adaptive cruise control – that maintains a driver-set distance between the Mazda and the car in front.
The Select model adds a handful of convenience features, such as proximity keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, simulated leather upholstery, rear air vents, rear armrest and six-speaker audio system
The Preferred trim adds auto-dimming rear-view mirror, sunroof, power liftgate, driver’s seat memory settings, power-adjustable passenger seat, leather upholstery and Carbon Edition. This trim simply adds a few cosmetic touches, such as 19-inch black-painted wheels, exclusive grey exterior paint, gloss black side mirrors and trim plus black or red leather upholstery.
The Premium trim enhances the CX-5’s performance and infotainment offerings with 19-inch wheels, adaptive headlights – they swivel as you turn the steering wheel for better illumination in curves, heated mirrors, transmission paddle shifters, adjustable drive modes, upgraded driver information display, satellite radio and 10-speaker Bose audio system.
The Premium Plus raises comfort and convenience with power-folding mirrors, head-up display – which displays important information in your sight line onto the windshield, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel.
Moving up the Turbo gets you the aforementioned turbocharged engine 227 hp and 310 lb-ft (256 hp and 320 lb-ft with performance fuel), black-painted wheels, special exterior and interior trim plus a wireless charging pad.
The range-topping Turbo Signature goes all in on luxury appointments, including upgraded leather upholstery, wood trim, ambient interior lighting, navigation system, 360-degree camera system – that gives you a top-down view of the CX-5 and its surroundings for tight parking situations, parking sensors – that alert you to obstacles that may not be visible in front of or behind the vehicle when parking and rear automatic braking – that brakes if sensors detect an imminent collision with an object behind the vehicle.
Mazda was truly keen on improving the handling and steering to make the CX-5 enjoyable to drive. The cabin is attractive and upscale, further emphasising Mazda’s aim to offer a premium experience. The optional turbocharged engine provides plenty of power and is surprisingly quiet at highway speeds.
The downsides to note is that the ride is a little firm for the class and rear legroom and cargo room is less than most competitors.
Do feel motivated to visit the Mazda Division of the giant CMC Motors Group showrooms on Lusaka Road for a closer look. One thing is for sure, the Mazda CX-5 is probably the best looking – in terms of exterior design, in its class when put next to its competitors thanks to its updated front and rear styling. All-wheel drive now comes standard which is great for the Kenyan rugged terrain, coupled with improved suspension and power output for increased performance.