Overall rating: 4/5
Mazda CX-5 can finally lay claim to being a 'premium' crossover thanks to a classy new interior, advanced tech and better refinement.
In the metal 4/5
Try not to blink while looking at images of the 2015 Mazda CX-5; for if you do you will completely miss the changes, to the exterior anyway. You really do need a 2014 model to hand (or work in Mazda marketing) to spot the fact that slats have now replaced honeycomb in the grille, the foglight bezels have been tweaked to match the grille, LEDs added to lights front and rear and... that's it. Ok there are a couple of new colours (Sonic Silver is all new and Titanium Flash comes over from the Mazda3 palette), but as facelifts go, this one qualifies as 'barely there.'
Actually, Mazda doesn't call this refresh a facelift, more an update and it is inside the cabin where you will notice the biggest change. The interior, a weak point of the CX-5 when it was released three years ago, has been thoroughly overhauled - receiving the 'Europeanised' cabin first seen in the Mazda3. Cheap plastics are kept to a minimum and everything looks and feels more premium. Cohesive too. Beforehand, the CX-5's multimedia system had four methods of control (touchscreen, steering wheel buttons, iDrive-like rotary dial and cheap looking switchgear beside the screen). This has been cut down to two - a centrally located rotary dial and steering wheel controls - a much better implementation.
The console that houses the rotary controls is higher and wider than before thanks, in part, to the swapping out of the old mechanical handbrake in favour of an electronic unit. The lighting around the air conditioning controls has been changed from orange to white and the dials behind the steering wheel swapped for classier items. Enough to make you want a 2015 CX-5? Perhaps not, but the best is yet to come.
Sitting atop the dashboard in its own mounting is the seven-inch screen for Mazda's MZD Connect system. Not only does this unit look classier than before but it also brings more to the CX-5 such as Facebook and Twitter integration, digital radio streaming, the ability to read your text messages out loud and a lot more besides.
Driving it 4/5
The CX-5 has always been one of the 'sportiest' crossovers to drive if a little unrefined, particularly in relation to noise. Mazda says it has listened to stakeholders such as journalists, dealers and of course consumers to address this issue. As a result, the engineers added dash and bonnet insulation, thicker glass in the rear doors, improved mats and vibration damping material on the floor and upgraded the seals around the doors and door latches. Mazda also used better sound insulation in the door trim and ceiling and changed the shape of the door mirrors to reduce wind noise. The result is a 13 per cent improvement on NVH over the pre-facelift model according to Mazda.
Other than that, things are pretty much as they were before. The engine up front is a still a 2.2-litre SkyactivD diesel with 150hp and an unattainable official fuel economy. It is still connected to a six-speed manual transmission that is said to have been modelled on that from the MX-5 and it is still available in either front- or all-wheel drive flavours. And it still drives well.
What you get for your money 3.5/5
Let's cut to the chase; the 2015 CX-5 is more expensive than the 2014 version. On pure cosmetic looks this screams of price grab but there is more going on under the skin of the newer model than before. The fitment of the Mazda3 innards means the crossover finally has the interior it deserves and with it the connectivity of MZD Connect. There is also a host of additional safety kit added including Adaptive LED Headlights (ALH), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Driver Attention Alert (DAA). Smart City Brake now works in reverse as well as forward. Whether it's enough to warrant the €500 price hike on the entry level model (up to €27,995 from €27,495) remains to be seen but Mazda Ireland is promising "improved standard equipment" across the range.
Three grades will be offered on the CX-5 - Executive, Executive SE and Platinum - with all grades getting DAB radio, seven-inch multimedia screen, Multimedia Commander, MZD Connect infotainment and an optional Integrated Navigation system.
The CX-5 is the current king of the Mazda crop. Sure, the Mazda6 is the flagship but its crossover sibling comprehensively outsells it. Over 800,000 CX-5s have found homes since launch in 2012, mainly on the American market, which will receive a 195hp 2.5-litre petrol engine. Likely to push CX-5 sales in Ireland is the Mazda Choices PCP offering. Launched late last year it already accounts for some 25 per cent of Mazda sales and that is likely to grow as PCP gains more traction and Mazda pushes its package.
The 2015 CX-5 feels like the car that Mazda wanted to release three years ago but did not have the technology to do so. The exterior changes are minimal, but it is inside where the CX-5 benefits from Mazda's latest advances that the update really shines through. The cabin is now up there with the best for both design and quality, and the infotainment system brings the type of connectivity that (it appears) we all want in our cars. Add to that a host of new safety kit and the 2015 CX-5 is easily the best CX-5 yet.