The crossover market has long been dominated by gas-powered mills since they were first introduced. From the CR-V to the RAV4 and the Vitara, gasoline engine reliability was always a selling point compared to their bigger SUV and ladder-frame counterparts.
In recent years, though, diesel power has become a rather big factor in the decision to purchase a certain model (or not). This, however, was left to the larger sized SUVs. Imagine, then, the elation of many when diesel engines have started becoming an option for crossovers, too.
Enter the Mazda CX-5. Since it first hit our shores, the Mazda crossover's following has all but grown. In a world where SUVs have started becoming a primary choice for new car buyers, Mazda offered a competitive package versus its contemporaries. But what did the CX-5 have that the others did not? Was it the design? Was it the diesel engine under its hood? Was it performance plus economy that trumps the competition?
Recently we had the chance to drive the 2.2 AT Diesel variant of the CX-5. Putting it through its paces, we sought to find the answers to those questions.
Let's start in the looks department. The unit we had was colored in Sonic Silver. Usually I would prefer either white or a darker shade for bigger cars, or even Soul Red since this is a Mazda, after all, but this wasn't bad at all.
Mazda's designs have gone through a renaissance in recent years and whether in a light or dark color, the CX-5's lines and curves come through perfectly. The chrome accents also do a lot to add to the premium look of the CX-5. From the grill's outer edges that blend into the bottom of the headlights to the black front lip that wraps all the way to the rear skirt, down to the almost concealed design of the fog lights and their housing, it's all subtle but significant accents to the CX-5. The lighting assemblies for both headlights and tail lights might look quite small for the vehicle's size but it's not as if they scrimped on them.
In the overall scheme of things, their fitment just gave more attention to the 5's relative bulk. No, it's not a monstrously-sized crossover, but let's just say it has curves in all the right places. I particularly like the fenders; the front and how it blends into the curve of the hood, and the rear and how its character line sweeps from the C-to-D pillars. If anything, the Silver made the CX-5's lines a lot more visible, and that's a good thing. Something to nitpick about is the wheel-size. An inch bigger for the wheel size and I think that could fill the wheel wells much better than the standard 19-inch alloys, but that's just me.
As with all the Mazdas we have driven, hopping into the cabin is always a joy. Leather upholstery, comfortable seats, the familiar floating infotainment screen, piano black accents, everything just screams premium. For this particular variant, it also comes with Bose speakers. For those hardcore audiophiles, maybe it's not the best out there, but for us laymen, believe me when I say that these speakers sound really good. Sure, the head unit itself has some limitations to tuning but hey, we don't exactly buy this car for its sound system, right?
The gauge cluster has remained the same for the most part, but everything you need to see and know are all placed in front of you, no muss, no fuss. The heads-up-display, though, is still something to get used to. Yes, we can adjust it or just turn it off altogether, but it's a novelty that I think people will simply either like or hate.
Going back to the seats, they're up there in the most comfortable I've sat on. Padding is good and the side bolsters do their job in holding even the rather husky individuals in place. Leg and head room in the front and back are also more than ample. Given my driving position, someone about as tall as I am will still be able to sit behind the driver's seat and be able to stretch his or her legs out further.
As for the cargo space, the CX-5 has a lot of it. Vertically, the tonneau cover may limit higher stacks of boxes and groceries, but the horizontal space that you can push your stuff into more than makes up for it. Besides, we can opt to retract the cover anyway, so not much of an issue there.
Now, on to the CX-5's engine. Previously I was able to drive the gas-powered AWD drive variant. That was a fun trip up the mountains, but how does a diesel engine compare? In my opinion, it was more fun this time. There's something about the torque of diesel engines that gives you a nice punch, whether it's from a standstill or taking twisties on a bit of a spirited drive. With 420Nm of torque available at a low 2000rpm, getting the CX-5 moving and sustaining its momentum through a corner is just too easy. Sure, 175PS of power may not sound that impressive on paper, but once its gets rolling, that power is more than enough to keep this crossover going. Returning around 11 Km/L in the city is yet another selling point of this engine, too. Sounds outrageous, maybe, but that's already with horrible Commonwealth and Edsa traffic. Give the CX-5 long stretches of road, and it won't be a surprise if it goes up to maybe 15 or 16 Km/L, maybe more. For a 2.2L mill, no that's not bad at all.
But how was the ride itself? Up front, you barely feel bad roads. The suspension handles uneven EDSA and the occassional potholes rather well. There was barely any noise in the cabin, too. The rear seats, though, do raise some eyebrows. The ride gets a little bit harsher at the back. No, it's not violent by any means, but there you can feel much more on your seat when you go past uneven patches. With 2 people seated, the ride can feel just a little bit too soft at times, but with maybe 4 or 5 including the driver, it all evens out. It's a crossover after all, and it's meant to ferry people and cargo with more ground clearance than a regular sedan. Not a drawback at all, if you ask me.
Overall, you won't get any sore joints or a bad back even after a long drive with the CX-5, whether as a driver or as a passenger. Again, along with the proper suspension, brownie points for the soft cushy seats, Mazda.
So what really is the deal with the CX-5 SkyActiv Diesel? Yes, on the outside it looks almost exactly the same as its gas-powered counterpart. Sure, it has bigger wheels and a nice big moonroof, but apart from that, what gives? The answer is probably the most obvious: its engine. Much like the gas CX-5, the SkyActiv D gives you all the features and creature comforts that we've all come to know and expect from Mazda's compact crossover. But what really takes the cake is how the engine performed. It may not have stellar specs and numbers, but as a city-slicker, you can't really ask for much more. It's not as noisy as the other diesel engines in its class, there's not much vibration common for a power plant of this type, it has a lot of punch given its torque, and best of all, it's a sipper and not a drinker. Pack that under the hood of what is the CX-5 and what you have is the best of both worlds: a compact crossover with more space and luxury bits than its contemporaries, and an efficient diesel-powered vehicle that is capable on (and possibly off) the metro roads.