Reviews First Drive: 2018 Mazda CX-5 Diesel

18:24  08 september  2017
18:24  08 september  2017 Source:   driving.ca

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MUNICH – Of the compact crossovers on the market, the Mazda CX-5 has to rank as one of the more attractive. It has a bolder style and more sportiness in its make-up than many of its peers. This combination has served it well thus far, however, it is about to get even more attractive — the addition of a diesel engine early next year.

As it stands, the CX-5 is offered two ways. The base 2.0L four-cylinder has 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. For those interested in economy more than driving pleasure, it’s right choice. The second option is the 2.5L four-cylinder. It ups the numbers to 187 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque. This is enough to instill some real zeal into the drive. Then there’s the new diesel — it promises the best of both worlds, and so it could end up being the top seller.

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The 2.2-litre, four-cylinder Skyactiv-D turbodiesel engine pumps out 150 horsepower and, more importantly, 280 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,800 rpm. It has plenty of pop off the line and a strong mid-range. It is also suitably muted. Yes, it sounds diesel-like at idle, but once driving it is quiet and smooth — it is such most will not pick up on the fact it consumes diesel and not gasoline.

  First Drive: 2018 Mazda CX-5 Diesel © Provided by Driving.ca

2018 Mazda CX-5 Diesel

When it comes to Canada early next year, it will have a urea-based after-treatment system. The access point to top it up is behind the fuel flap and right beside the fuel neck, so it is easily replenished. Ironically, the fuel cap is the only place the CX-5 is labeled diesel.

  First Drive: 2018 Mazda CX-5 Diesel © Provided by Driving.ca

The reason for the diesel’s popularity is the fact it has the performance of the top-line gas engine yet returns better economy that the base engine. On the drive, which was comprised of delightfully twisty rural roads and a lengthy stint on the Autobahn averaging 160 km/h, the diesel returned an average of 7.1 L/100 kilometres. That is impressive by any standard. However, slowing the autobahn speeds to those of the highways in Canada saw the consumption rate plummet to 5.4 L/100 km. Not one of the current crop of compact crossovers comes close to that sort of fuel economy. Such is the diesel advantage.

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In Europe, the diesel engine arrives with an automatic start/stop system. It proved to be overly keen to shut things down to conserve fuel — on the brief stop-and-go portion of the drive it became annoying because of the frequency. It also defaulted to the on position whenever the ignition was cycled, which means it had to be switched off every time. This feature likely won’t be offered on Canadian models.

The CX-5 tester put its power to the road through a six-speed automatic and all four wheels. The transmission was well-sorted, with fast shifts and a speedy kick-down when needed. In the case of the diesel, the broad torque plateau meant the box shifted less frequently than is required for either gas engine, which is a good thing. Even in sixth and with the tachometer hovering round 1,600 rpm, it resisted the urge to downshift yet picked up speed quickly. The nit to pick, given the overt sportiness found elsewhere, was the lack of paddle shifters. On the twisty rural road portion of the drive, it would have been nice to take advantage of the engine braking that comes with a forced downshift.

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The all-wheel-drive system was distinguished by its ability to put the power down without being intrusive. It simply did its thing in an invisible manner, which on the wet slippery roads encountered on the drive was exactly what was needed.

Where the CX-5’s sporting pedigree surfaces is in the manner in which it rides and handles. The suspension was firm enough to keep body roll at a minimum without sacrificing the quality of the ride. Through the curves on the rural drive, it held the desired line in much the same manner as a honed sports car. Likewise, the steering has above average feel and feedback. The P225/65R17 tires build on the CX-5’s agile basics by adding a sharper feel and an even more direct response to driver input. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control then sharpened things further; when the steering wheel is turned, it backs out of the gas slightly, increasing the downforce on the front tires. This simple action improves the response and helps to tame understeer.

  First Drive: 2018 Mazda CX-5 Diesel © Provided by Driving.ca

2018 Mazda CX-5 Diesel

As is true of the exterior styling, the cabin follows the sporty theme. Supportive seats, a good driving position and a set of controls that all fall readily to hand, including the central controller for the infotainment system. It is easily deciphered and quick to react to input.

The diesel also came loaded with the latest safety technology, including lane departure warning with keep assist. I am not a fan of the latter, as it proved to be too intrusive. Finally, in spite of its sportier pretentions, the CX-5 still has the required versatility. With the seats upright there is 875litres seats up, and 1,687 litres with them folded flat.

There are few SUVs or crossovers with as much sportiness in their makeup as the Mazda CX-5. The addition of diesel power adds a new extension — it maintains the spirit of the drive, but with an average fuel economy that’s currently unmatched in the affordable segment.

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Mazda hopes to sell 150,000 units of the new model each year.With 112,235 units sold, Mazda's best-selling vehicle in the United States last year was, not surprisingly, the CX-5. With that in mind, it seems a safe bet that the new crossover will be a replacement for the discontinued CX-7 to slot above the CX-5 and below the CX-9. Kogai told Automotive News that the vehicle will be designed for America and built exclusively in the States.

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