The new Mazda CX-5 comes with fresh design details, some of which are subtle while others are not. Michael Nash takes the car out on the road

The last time CDN got on the road in a Mazda was back in October 2021, enjoying the Portuguese countryside from the comfort of the electric MX-30. This was an altogether very different launch – testing a range of petrol and diesel CX-5s in the stunningly wet Scottish Highlands.

The CX-5 is an important model for Mazda. It accounts for around 21% of the company’s annual sales in Europe and 25% of sales in the UK. The model also makes up a whopping proportion of Mazda’s US sales, with 12,604 units sold in January 2022 out of a total of 21,079 units across the portfolio. So, any changes or updates must be spot on.

Looking at it from the outside, with the beautiful backdrop of Loch Lomond, it quickly becomes clear that the new CX-5 has been subject to some subtle but significant alterations. A new grille design brings the front end to life, its 3D pattern adding texture and character. Connecting to the grille at either side are the headlights, which include a new cluster design featuring two C-shaped LED strips wrapping around the bulbs. The same motif is used at the back on the taillights. These are split in two by the boot line. The bumpers are new too, and simpler in their shape to help tidy up both the front and rear. 

So, already there are plenty of new exterior design details, all of which make the new model just that bit sharper and easy on the eye without drawing too much attention. That is until we begin looking at the different trim levels; customers in the UK can choose from five options, with some unique styling for each.

The Newground trim (one up from the entry-level SE-L) includes silver underguard panels at the front and rear, narrow silver strips on the side skirts, black door mirrors, and 19-inch black alloys. It all makes perfect sense, until spotting the four small lime-green accents on the right upper side of the grille – an unusual feature that may lead you to think there were extra sensors hidden in the front. You would be mistaken.

The Sport Black trim (two up from the Newground, and one up from the Sport) is arguably the best-looking. It has a gloss black grille surround, bumpers, wheel arches, alloys, side skirts, and door mirrors. Accents are again included in the grille, but this time in a far more subtle shade of deep red. 

At the top of the CX-5 range is the GT Sport trim, and Mazda has gone for the idea that less is more – the bumpers, skirts and wheel arches are all the same colour as the body. The exterior is certainly cleaner, and perhaps there is attractiveness in the simplicity, but the details on the Sport Black make it a more compelling car to look at.

On the inside, the entry-level CX-5 remains the same as the old model, but again the other trims have new features. The seemingly random coloured accents on the grille of the Newground and Sport Black trims make more sense when stepping inside, with lime-green air vent inserts and seat patterns found in the former. These stand out a little too much in an otherwise refined and restrained cabin. In contrast, the air vents in the Sport Black trim are kept simple and finished in chrome and black plastic, while red stitching on the seats, centre console and doors provide the colour. It is a far more convincing and cohesive interior finish, just like the exterior. 

Levelling up to the GT Sport trim, wooden veneer cladding is used on the shallow shelf section of the IP and small sections of the doors, while stitching on the Nappa leather seats is a dark shade of grey. Again, it is more concise in the details than the Newground trim, and the natural feel that comes with the wood is a winner.

However, that said, one area of weakness in the new CX-5 is materials. The wood inserts, chrome and leather are all fancy and make for a plush and luxurious interior, but there has been no mention of sustainability. And Mazda has shown it is more than capable of being a champion in the field – the electric MX-30, which we drove around northern Portugal late last year, makes use of eco-friendly cork and fabrics. We hope to see more of these solutions used across Mazda’s portfolio.

Work has been done both inside the cabin and on the suspension to reduce noise and vibrations from the engine and the road. The goal, according to Mazda spokespersons, was to make the model ultra-comfortable and reduce driver fatigue over longer journeys. It is difficult to say how much of a difference has been made without having tested the new model against its predecessor, but spending hours behind the wheel on windy roads in the Highlands was pleasant. The cabin is quiet and roomy, with music clearly audible even at higher speeds. The drive is smooth too, and the refined suspension system does its job over sections of patchy tarmac.

We tried three different engine options on the launch, the pick of the bunch being the 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol. It provides plenty of power for standard day-to-day driving and is more economical than the 2.5-litre, although the latter does include an Off-Road Mode option when choosing the GT Sport trim.

A new safety called Cruise & Traffic Support (CTS) has been added to the 2022 CX-5, joining a suite of other driver assistance systems. It is essentially adaptive cruise control for slow-moving traffic situations, with the system controlling acceleration and braking while also keeping the car in the lane. It operated smoothly when road works caused a backlog of traffic on the single-lane road just outside the small village of Crianlarich.

Mazda says that the new CX-5 embodies an “evolution of its award-winning Kodo Design”, and hopes that it offers enough to “lure customers from premium-badged rivals.” It is certainly a strong contender in the SUV segment, boasting good looks and a seriously high level of quality.