AFTER a most enjoyable 200 miles drive across country covering every kind of road and surface, I think Mazda's CX-5 is one of the best mid-size 4x4's on the market.
It compares brilliantly against all the opposition - including VW, BMW, Audi and Land Rover - and in top GT Sport Nav spec comes with as much standard kit as any of them at a lower price.
This big SUV did everything remarkably well and was a joy to drive and to live with.
I drove the top 181bhp 2.2 diesel with a manual six-speed gearbox and four wheel drive and, although I would normally prefer an automatic in such a vehicle, it was so easy to drive that I loved it.
Build quality both inside and out are right up there with the premium makes and Mazda's Skyactiv tech boosts economy, lowers emissions and should bring running costs down generally.
The engine is amongst the most refined and quiet diesels you can buy and will pull happily from just above tickover in the lower four gears.
At tickover, there is no vibration whatsoever, and the engine is only discernible with concentration.
It comes with a start/stop system to help save fuel, but after it stopped the engine and would not start automatically as I came to a roundabout, I could no longer trust it and turned it off.
This has been a problem with other cars and it is one all the makers would do well to sort.
There is huge urge from low revs in all six gears giving very good acceleration and fourth and fifth are the ideal ratios for overtaking, which it does with great ease.
When pressed up towards the 5,000 rev red line, this engine has another card up its sleeve because unlike the vast majority of four cylinder diesels, it sounds good.
On my cross country trip and driven fairly hard because as usual I was late, it returned 39 miles per gallon, which is really excellent. I would think this equates to more normal usage giving a real 45 and for such a large vehicle, that is brilliant.
I would venture that this engine is just about the quietest and most vibration free four cylinder diesel on the market, and is the mark other makers should aim at.
The ride was superb around town over the previous couple of days, but over my longer trip, covering everything from minor B roads to the motorway, it was completely comfortable, with very little of poor surfaces getting through to my seat.
It's also amazingly agile for a tall vehicle, with composed and very safe handling even when pushed very hard indeed and fantastic grip.
The steering is informative and precise and the driving position can be electrically adjusted to be perfect for people of all sizes.
Excellent brakes saved a cyclist's bacon when he rode off the kerb in front of me without looking. Talk about a death wish.
And the quality inside is more than a match for BMW and Audi with an excellent level of kit.
This top spec CX-5 has an autohold parking brake that comes on and goes off automatically every time you stop, a light clutch and a good left footrest.
It also has climate, traction control, an electric tailgate, parking sensors, lane departure warning and keyless entry and starting.
There's an electric sunroof, sat nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio with steering wheel mounted remote controls, leather heated seats with electric adjustment, a head up display and an alarm.