I DRIVE a Mazda CX-5 diesel automatic because I like its stylish looks as well as it blend of performance and practicality.
An updated version with a few changes arrived earlier this year and so it was really interesting to get behind its wheel, sample the improvements and also try out the new petrol engine featured in the test car.
Having made its debut last year, the clever 194ps 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G engine joins the CX-5 range exclusively in GT Sport trim paired to an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.
Thanks to cylinder deactivation, this 194ps direct-injection four-cylinder engine seamlessly switches between four and two-cylinder operation to improve real-world fuel economy.
It is capable of 121mph and takes just 9.2 seconds to power this substantial SUV to 62mph smoothly and without fuss via its 6-speed automatic transmission.
Expect to get under 30mpg around town but official figures rate it at 40.9mpg at its best with a combined WLTP figure of 35.3mpg. Emissions are quite high at 182g/km.
Other highlights of the 2021 Mazda CX-5 include an upgraded infotainment system across the whole range and the introduction of Connected Services.
All models in the range now feature a new larger, faster and clearer 10.25-inch centre display screen, more intuitive Mazda Connect Commander operation and an expanded range of Connected Services operable by the latest MyMazda App.
Convenience and peace-of-mind connectivity features include remote door locking, a vehicle finder, the remote pre-programming of multiple navigation destinations, service booking requests and security alert.
Thankfully Mazda has not tinkered with its looks and the CX-5 looks great from any angle thanks to its Kodo design. Its strong nose features a wide grille and sweeping light clusters while the smart rear has slim tail lights.
You also get privacy glass, a low roofline, body-coloured mirrors and bumpers, a sunroof, black sills and wheel arches, plus 19-inch silver alloy wheels. Eternal Blue paint finished the deal.
Inside the 2021 version is pretty much the same, superbly designed with quality materials, bags of tech and free of clutter.
The leather seats are power adjustable and can be heated along with the steering wheel. There is the new larger infotainment screen with operations controlled via a dial or steering wheel buttons.
Kit includes 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 layers of touchscreen menu.
It may be very practical transport but the CX-5 like most Mazdas is still great fun to drive. The steering is sharp and as you would expect from an AWD car it has plenty of grip and loves tight bends while the suspension deals with most surfaces to provide a comfortable ride.
The CX-5 is quite nimble and it is easy to pilot in town thanks to its excellent all-round visibility. It is a great motorway cruiser and has a nice turn of speed for overtaking.
There is room inside for four adults to travel in comfort and five for shorter journeys and the power -operated tailgate allows access to the spacious 494 litre boot which can be increased to a substantial 1,608 litres if the split-folding rear seats are folded flat.
There is a good sized glovebox and a central cubby which houses the USB ports and I wish Mazda would relocate them as I find them awkward and regularly snap cables when I close the lid. Other storage areas are handy and there is also a compartment to keep y our sunglasses safe.
The CX-5 bristles with all the latest safety kit and boasts a five-star rating from Euro NCAP. The intelligent all-wheel drive system uses 27 sensor signals to monitor the road conditions and driver intentions, instantly deciding how to split the power between the front and rear wheels keeping the vehicle stable and safe.
Commenting on the 2021 Mazda CX-5, Mazda Motors UK managing director, Jeremy Thomson said: "Since the launch of the first-generation CX-5 in 2012, this SUV has been a crucial car in the UK market. It's always been a hugely popular car that's loved for its style, practicality and dynamic appeal, the second-generation car only enhanced that further and thanks to successive updates and refinements it's remained right at the top of the class.
"To date, 490,849 units have been sold in Europe and more than 3.1million globally making it Mazda's best-selling model. Here in the UK, the CX-5 accounts for 26 per cent of our new car sales and it's a car that performs consistently strongly in the used market as well."
He added: " So it's great that the 2021 CX-5 has arrived in dealerships, with improvements to the infotainment system, improved connectivity and an enlarged engine range it will offer customers even more choice. It's also great that we have the Kuro in the line-up, as this limited-edition model is perfect for customers who want a stand-out SUV with unique detailing inside and out."