MAZDA'S CX-5 is a dynamic five-door SUV that's very big on style, performance, practicality and technology and it certainly covers all the essential bases for any active family.
Now in its second generation, the CX-5 looks fabulous from any approach thanks to a powerful front end with a wide grille, sweeping light clusters, slim tail lights, privacy glass, a low roofline, body-coloured mirrors and bumpers, a sunroof, black sills and wheel arches, plus 19-inch silver alloy wheels. The Soul Red Crystal metallic paint is the perfect finishing touch.
Move inside and the CX-5 is beautifully designed and clutter-free. Somehow Mazda has packed all the necessary techno treats and creature comforts into the car, but kept the cabin styling looking minimalist.
The leather seats are power adjustable and can be heated along with the steering wheel. There is a seven-inch infotainment screen with operations controlled via a dial or steering wheel buttons. On-board kit includes the likes of sat nav, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, a head-up display, full smartphone connectivity and a separate panel where all the climate control functions are easily accessed without having to navigate your way through a complicated touchscreen menu.
Powering the car, which costs £34,785 (this one cost £36,585 with options), is a 2.2-litre 184ps diesel engine matched to a six-speed manual gearbox. The CX-5 can complete the 0-62mph sprint in a respectable 9.3 seconds and tops out at 129mph while delivering a combined 42.8mpg and carbon emissions of 175g/km under WLTP testing.
And when it comes to performance, this is an area that the Mazda has an edge over many of its rivals because the CX-5, despite being very practical, is definitely a driver's car.
Out on the open road, the acceleration through the gears is smooth and responsive with ample power on tap from the punchy engine for overtaking. The road holding is grippy through tight bends and the suspension does a reasonable job of ironing out bumps and dips along the way. That said; hit a larger crack or small pothole and it sends a shudder through the car.
The cabin is very well insulated against road surface, engine and wind noise. In fact, I took a call (hands-free of course) while travelling at 70mph on a motorway and my friend said it didn't sound like I was driving - it was that quiet.
It's a car that is happy cruising along motorways, but also proved nimble and easy to manoeuvre in busier settings with excellent all-round visibility. This is a vital factor as the CX-5 will often be used on the school run with cars and people darting out from all angles.
So, the CX-5 is fun to drive and bursting with technology. But how does it fare when it comes to practicality and versatility? The answer is very well indeed. There is ample space for a couple of adults in the back - three at a bit of a squeeze and the spacious boot, with power-operated access, can swallow 494 litres of luggage - a limit that increases to 1,608 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
In addition, there is a glovebox, central cubby where the USB ports are found, door pockets, front and rear cup holders, a sunglasses compartment, practical tray and pockets in the seat backs.
As one would expect from Mazda, the CX-5 is packed with safety kit, including the Japanese car maker's intelligent all-wheel drive system that uses 27 sensor signals to monitor the road conditions and driver intentions, instantly determining how the power should be split between the front and rear wheels. The car was awarded the maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating.