IT was a bit of a shock to see the September UK new car sales figures because there at the head of the Top 10 was the Nissan Qashqai.
We have gone SUV mad in Blighty, turning what were once basic tractor substitutes into must-have mainstream models that get car makers rubbing their hands in glee.
Why? Because it’s so much easier to pile profit-earning accessories and cheap-to-make electrical gadgetry into a bigger car with a price tag that matches. To the Del Boys bean counters of this motoring world, it’s a nice little earner.
But if you fancy an SUV yet want to be different and not go too large, what alternative choices might you have? The Mazda CX-5 could be a good one to place on your shopping list of potential buys. It has just been relaunched as an all-new model (yet has the same engines and remarkably similar luggage volumes as the previous one) and, since it was abandoned by Ford, Mazda has teamed up with Toyota, maker of all those super-reliable 4×4 pick-ups and SUVs you see in United Nations white livery as news channels report from the latest trouble spots.
The CX-5 is pretty good at what it does and somehow manages to look decent in doing it. That’s why it accounts for 25 per cent of all Mazda’s global sales and around 32,000 sold in the UK alone during the lifespan of the previous model from 2012 to this summer. By comparison, Ford sold that many Kuga SUVs in 2016 alone and is doing even bigger business this year.
The Mazda will never be as commonplace on our roads as the others in this field and it looks pretty good, one of the prerequisites in this sector that’s more important than realtime 4×4 ability. After all, if serious off-road prowess was the order of the day no-one could seriously entertain a car like the CX-5, and many rivals, which don’t even have a spare wheel. The Mazda is built to take one but that’s as far as it goes.
Still, as most of these cars never do anything more adventurous than squeezing gently through a muddy puddle, it might be enough if you want to take the risk of waiting for a breakdown truck because the puff and paste system doesn’t do the trick. What Mazda and other makers consider more useful is the attention to weight saving.
That, combined with technology announced on the CX-5 tailgate as SKYACTIV, produces a fuel consumption of around 40 mpg in real world conditions if your CX-5 has the 175 PS 2.2 litre diesel engine like that of the test car.
It was also equipped with a six speed automatic gearbox in range-topping Sport Nav form, which gives it a 4×4 set-up, too. When we drove the CX-5 with the same engine back in 2012, it managed 42 mpg with a manual box so things don’t seem to have changed much.
As 4x4s go, the Mazda is comfortable and also more compact than Mazda’s first effort, the now obsolete but still worth seeking CX-7 if you want a bargain motor, yet the CX-5 offers 1,620 litres of load space with the seats down or 506 litres with the seats in place. It will also pull a couple of tonnes, de rigueur for this class of SUV.
Space is not at a premium – there’s plenty of room for five people who will all appreciate the grandstand view. How much better to entertain your children with a countryside outlook instead of the infernal and soporific video screens that are increasingly commonplace? That alone is almost sufficient reason to choose an SUV over an MPV although the all-black interior of the test car was depressingly gloomy… better to take the option of the lighter leather trim if you can.
The highest-spec Mazda is pricey compared with conventional family cars – the Sport Nav test car was £33,195 plus the inevitable extra for metallic paint, although the range does start at £23,695 for the 2.0 petrol model – but it lets you escape from the herd as an excellent left-field choice in a crowded market.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Mazda CX-5 2.2 Sport Nav AWD
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 9.4 secs
Top speed: 126 mph
PS: 175 @ 4500 rpm
Torque: 420 Nm @ 2000 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 51.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 152 g/km
Best bits: different, practical, and economical.