WHEN the original Mazda CX-5 was launched five years ago, it heralded a new approach to engines and design philosophy for the Japanese firm.

Not only was this compact crossover the first vehicle to have Mazda’s fuel-saving SKYACTIV technology, it also saw the introduction of the firm’s new KODO ‘Soul of Motion’ design language.

Since then, those innovations have been gradually applied to the wider Mazda fleet, resulting in a brand that has gone up a notch in many people’s estimation.

Within that context, the latest CX-5 scales new heights, bringing extra driving pleasure to SUV owners thanks to a series of upgrades to its styling, refinement and dynamics.

While there might not be anything radically different about this second generation CX-5, the tweaks amount to a natural evolution of the original model.

In terms of looks, the all-new CX-5 has a sharper and more mature design when compared with the previous soft and curvy look.

The vehicle has a dominant, imposing front, with a grille shaped in such a way that it almost seems to smile at you when viewed head-on.

Meanwhile, the roofline is lower than before and the car has sleeker sides than its predecessor.

Under the skin, a completely-revised body structure has been created under the concept of Mazda’s so-called ‘Refined Toughness’ programme.

Inside, the cabin is both high class and spacious - to the extent that it doesn’t feel dissimilar to that found in some of the premium brands.

If you opt for the Sport Nav variant - the higher of the two trim grades - you are treated to a wide selection of upmarket kit, including perforated and heated soft leather seats which help long journeys pass in extreme comfort.

Mazda has also paid plenty of attention to reducing road and wind noise in the cabin.

You’d expect a fair bit of racket from a vehicle of this size but, in reality, noise and vibration are kept to a minimum.

Space inside is plentiful, front and back, while the raised driving position means visibility is excellent. Meanwhile, the large boot can be extended as the rear seats can be dropped.

Behind the wheel, the CX-5 feels more nimble than its larger dimensions would have you believe. The steering is accurate – offering more engaging handling than before – and the vehicle is grippy in the corners.

Acceleration on this 2.0-litre petrol variant is swift and smooth, helped by a slick six-speed manual gearbox. It comes exclusively with front-wheel drive, and offers an official fuel return of 47.1mpg.

The ride quality is a little on the firm side when compared to some rivals, while never quite falling into the category of being crashy.

Anyone who has driven Mazdas in recent years will by now be familiar with the rotary controller that operates the infotainment system.

It’s a simple but easy-to-use set up that allows you to select the function you require by swivelling and then pressing the round dial located near the gearstick.

All models are very well specced up and include LED headlights, auto power-folding door mirrors, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio and seven-inch colour touchscreen display with sat-nav.

The Sport Nav trim level adds a reversing camera, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and Smart keyless entry, a power lift tailgate and head-up display with Traffic Sign Recognition.

Make no mistake – this is a vital vehicle for Mazda. Global sales of over 1.5 million mean it now accounts for about25 per cent of the company’s global sales volume, with more than 32,000 previous-generation CX-5s sold in the UK since 2012. With that background in mind, and with growing competition in this sector, the new CX-5 needs to be good to stand out from the crowd – and it is!


Mazda CX-5 2WD Sport Nav

PRICE: £26,695 on the road

ENGINE: 2.0-litre, 165ps four-cylinder petrol

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds and max speed of 122mph

EMISSIONS: 149g/km

ECONOMY: 47.1mpg combined