IF EVER proof were required that our driving needs are rapidly changing, then look no further than Mazda.
Its best selling car will soon be a bulky SUV. What’s going on? Our habits have changed; we have been well and truly seduced by the high-driving sports utility.
Ten years ago an SUV would have been the last car on the ‘what to buy’ list, their sales restricted to those with enough money to run the huge gas guzzlers.
How things have changed, with showrooms awash with SUVs of all shapes, sizes and prices. These are now the cars for the masses, not the privileged few.
Mazda hit the ground running with CX-5 in 2012. Its first SUV showcased the Kodo design theme, and with the arrival of the smaller CX-3, accounts for two thirds of the brand’s UK sales.
In mainland Europe it is a staggering 50 per cent, but even more telling is that CX-5 is expected to topple the Mazda3 family hatchback as its best seller.
Is Mazda right to place so much confidence in car that will cost most buyers 28 grand? We will have to wait to find out but the signs are good. Sales of the current model are still strong and the new car is better on a number of fronts.
The car has been pitched just under the premium marques from Jaguar, Audi and BMW by using the age-old formula of improving quality and refinement.
Those already familiar with CX-5 will immediately notice the more upmarket cabin trim and little premium extras like a heated steering wheel and powered tailgate.
Great for impressing current CX-5 owners looking to change, but new buyers need something to pull them into the showroom and that is where the Mazda can play its strongest card: looks.
Everyone has an opinion but if there is a better looking SUV out there I am yet to spot it.
The Kodo design is based on a powerful front and it works brilliantly on the big face of CX-5, turning heads and pulling people into the showroom.
That’s all very well but does it drive well? The best SUV I have driven is the Seat Ateca and the Mazda is up there with the Spaniard.
A lot of work has been to the suspension which has improved both handling and comfort, and then there is the G-vectoring system.
Don’t expect a technical explanation because I don’t understand it enough to give one, but I can safely say the CX-5 is a humdinger to drive on testing, twisting roads.
It always feels firmly planted going into and coming out of a bend and has exceptional steering feel for an SUV.
When I asked the reason for such a difference the answer was G-vectoring. There followed an explanation but the PR guy took the hint when I stifled a yawn and nodded in the direction of the bar.
The car is pretty much the same size as before so there is reasonable room for five adults in some very comfortable seats.
The driving position is spot on and there is no complicated dashboard to be mastered.
A seven-inch touch-screen sprouts from the middle of the dash and is best dealt with by using the rotary switch between the front seats.
It is one of the simplest systems I have come across, although a useful improvement would be to mute the radio for navigation instructions.
Diesel power is now a dirty word, but 90 per cent of CX-5 sales will be just that, the majority opting for the 147bhp 2.2 litre, with a 172bhp version powering the four-wheel drive. A 162bhp two-litre petrol will pick up the slack.
Entry point for diesel is £25,695, but the big sales will go to the Sport Nav which, amongst many other things, has an excellent head-up display for speed and navigation that projects on to the windscreen. All that is missing is a panoramic glass roof.
Whatever Mazda does these days is on the money and with CX-5 it has built a beautifully crafted car inside and out.