Try one and you might just think it to be the best.
The cabin isn't as obviously 'styled' as some of its main rivals but the piano black inserts and chrome splashes look good in a low key kind of way. The materials quality is especially impressive on the upper dashboard, though not quite so eye-catching lower down with slightly lower grade panels that Mazda will doubtless justify as part of this car’s weight loss plan. There are certainly plenty of switches – 55 in all, not counting the chunky column stalks - but it’s pretty easy to adjust to the way everything works. Ergonomically, it’s all pretty sound.
As the driver, you’re faced by a hooded binnacle which houses three circular dials, ahead of a lovely chunky three-spoke multi-function leather-trimmed wheel. The 5. 8-inch infotainment touch screen is fairly easy to figure out, with the menus able to be accessed by the BMW iDrive-style Mazda Multimedia Commander control located between the front seats. Once you're familiar with the system, this is quicker and safer than jabbing at the touch screen when the vehicle's on the move.
And in the back? Well, like most models in this segment, this one doesn’t offer a seven seat option, but the rear bench is one of the most accommodating in the class, offering more space in fact than Mazda’s supposedly larger CX-7 model. Head and legroom is relatively generous, with space to stretch out aided by the fact that back seat occupants can get their feet under the front seats. As in all vehicles of this type, the middle perch is the short straw, but even here, you’ll be better off than you would be in most of this car’s rivals thanks to a comfy seat back and a low-set transmission tunnel.
Out back, once you’ve raised the rear hatch and admired a tonneau cover that neatly opens and closes together with the tailgate, you’ll find a luggage bay that’s the largest in the class, measuring 503-litres, a figure that extends to 1,620-litres when you drop the Karakuri rear seats. This is a three-piece independent 40:20:40 remote controlled fold-down system. The seats fold virtually flat and although there is a little intrusion from the rear suspension, it's still a hefty load bay.
But what about equipment? Well, whichever variant you choose – 2. 0-litre petrol or either of the 2. 2-litre diesel variants – you should find your CX-5 to be very well equipped. Even the entry-level models include 17-inch alloy wheels, dusk-sensing headlamps & rain-sensing wipers, daytime running lights, front foglamps, front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, power-folding mirrors, a rear roof spoiler, tyre pressure monitoring, dual zone climate controlled air conditioning, Bluetooth compatibility for your mobile ‘phone, cruise control, a trip computer, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, an iPod connection, USB and AUX-in points for the decent quality 6-speaker stereo, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, a 5. 8-inch colour touch screen for the infotainment system and Hill Hold Assist to stop you from drifting backwards on uphill junctions.
There's a decent amount of safety equipment too. As you’d expect, there are Isofix child seat fastenings and twin front, side and curtain airbags, along with the usual electronic aids for traction, stability and braking to hopefully ensure that you’ll never have to use them. There’s also one very slick feature you may not expect fitted across the range. Smart City Brake Support helps a driver to avoid a low speed frontal collision at up to 19mph by activating the brakes and reducing the engine output if the system detects than such an impact is likely. Top models also get the option of a Safety Kit including a Rear Vehicle Monitoring system to warn of vehicles in your blind spot, a Lane Departure Warning System to stop dozy drivers from veering out of their lanes on the highway and a High Beam Control which automatically dips your headlights for you at night.
The CX-5 isn’t one of those cars that jumps out at you on first acquaintance. But as with many Mazdas, its modesty hides a product packed with innovation. The result is excellent packaging, class-leading economy and emissions and driving dynamics that set a new benchmark in this sector. Add in a high specification and competitive pricing and you’ve a compelling proposition.