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Mazda CX-5

Adecade ago, we had never even heard of a crossover car. Then the Qashqai appeared in 2006, and a new breed of family car was born. Now there is something of a traffic jam in the tall middle zone of the car market, inhabited by models from other manufacturers cashing in on what Nissan started. Mazda is one of them, and its newly updated CX-5 is an early refresh for a model first launched only three years ago, showing how rapidly things are moving on in the crossover zone.
Most of the changes are cosmetic, including a new grille, the availability of LED lights and an upgraded interior, all of which Mazda claims are progressing the CX-5 on its "journey towards the premium sector".
Yes, well, we've heard something similar often enough before. The engine choice is unchanged, a 2.2-litre diesel in a choice of two power outputs. The 148bhp diesel is the most popular version, so that is the one we tested, and in front-wheel-drive guise accounts for 70 per cent of CX-5s sold in the UK, thanks to a typical useful saving of £1,600 over the cost of a four-wheel-drive edition.
The car has a sprightly feel, with a sprint time of ten seconds and very adequate power through the mid-range. The handling never quite lets you forget the lofty body height, but it doesn't lean unduly on the bends and grips well into the corners. One of the mild gripes about the CX-5 until now has been its slightly choppy ride quality, and this has been addressed with damper adjustments that give the ride a more settled and comfortable feel - albeit on mostly very smooth roads on our test route.
The steering could do with a bit more feedback, but the overall driving experience is agreeably polished. Inside there are obvious changes that have smartened and streamlined the cabin. This is the first Mazda to be equipped with an electric parking brake instead of a traditional lever, and it's a welcome improvement.
Height adjustment has been added to the driving seat, and a rotary volume control for the radio has been handily sited between the front seats. There is also a new seven-inch touchscreen set high in the dash. Mazda claims that the CX-5 has the best rear legroom, knee and foot space of any of its similarly sized rivals, and a good area for rear passengers to stretch out.
Boot space is pretty reasonable too, with 503 litres in five-seat mode, stretching to 1,620 litres with the rear seats tumbled down. Top-spec models come with satellite navigation, which has a good clear map display but is sometimes a bit slow with instructions. There is also an infotainment system that Mazda calls MZD Connect, which links the car via a smartphone.
Cost-wise, the most frugal model comes with the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine paired to a six-speed manual transmission, which has 119g/km CO2 emissions, costs £30 a year for vehicle excise duty and falls into the 19 per cent Benefit-in-Kind taxation bracket. There are no shortage of choices amongst mid-size crossovers, and the CX-5 has some tough competition. This mid-life update is modest, but is significant enough to keep it on the potential shopping list for anyone considering this kind of car.

Model tested 2.2 2WD SE-L Nav Diesel Automatic
Price £25,695
Made in Hiroshima, Japan
Configuration 5-door SUV, 5-seats, front-wheel-drive
Drivetrain 2191cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel with stop-start
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Power output 148bhp @ 4,500rpm
Maximum torque 280lb ft @ 1,800-2,600rpm
Top speed/0-62mph 123mph/10.0 secs
CO2 emissions (tax band) 139g/km (E) Euro 6
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 45.6/60.1/53.3mpg
Fuel tank size/range 56 litres/657 miles
Insurance group/BIK rate tba/23%
Size (length/width without mirrors) 4,555/1,840mm
Boot space (minimum/maximum) 503/1,620 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,597/2,000kg

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