Its grey color may not do it visual justice but despite the handicap, the CX-5 is still an absolute looker and that’s not even its best feature. Sure, the wide black grille with the thick lower lip and the floating 3-D-type logo in the middle flanked by slim adaptive headlamps is a major turn-on. Then there’s the nice aluminum alloy two-tone 19s, but contrary to the shape of the 3 and 6 sedans, Mazda came with a less-is-more approach to the body — refraining from over-designing — leaving it just a little over bare; minimalistic in a way, which kind of adds to the appeal. From the rear, it appears almost like a plain shell of a compact SUV body with just the modern necessities, slim LED rear combination lamps and sensors along the rear bumper. You can’t even tell it has a sunroof unless you’re above it or in it. The only way you know this is special is by the badge it sports, Skyactiv-D Technology.
Under its hood is a 2.2L diesel engine with automaker’s proprietary Skyactiv Technology, which gives it a couple of advantages. The first is very low compression at 14:1 (world’s lowest for a diesel engine according to Mazda). This allows it to have a better air-fuel mixture, which greatly reduces the formation of soot and nitrogen oxides (pollutants), and increases fuel efficiency by 20 percent. Lower compression means less pressure, which lets Mazda use aluminum cylinder blocks instead of cast iron. This shaves off some 25 kilograms in total engine weight.
Second is its two-stage turbocharger that gives it more direct and smooth response no matter the engine speed. For fans of the diesel’s torque-y pull, as mentioned, there’s none of that here despite its 420 Nm. Acceleration is controlled and behaved, even if you have a lead foot. That may be because it weighs close to 1.7 tons by itself.
It takes a while to get up to speed under normal throttle pressure and then I felt its mass being gently picked up by all of its 175 PS. That number may seem small for a Php 2.230 million unit, but it won’t fall short of your needs in the city and even on the highway.
Steering is calibrated just right to give off the proper feel of driving a compact SUV. There’s some weight to it, especially if you’re doing two- to three-point turns, but it gets lighter as you go faster.
The interior — from the door panels to the dashboard and even parts of the center stack — are coated with soft-touch materials and/or leather, which gives it a very premium feel. Leather on the seats have developed a good-looking ‘patina’ to it despite the fact that the vehicle only has close to 7,000 kilometers. Like those Italian bags your wife has, it actually makes it look more expensive than it is. It also comes with a 10-speaker Bose sound system controlled via a 7-inch touchscreen but again, this isn’t the feature I love the most.
More vivid at night than during the day, its head-up display (HUD) is what makes the CX-5 stand out. I know you’re thinking “huh?”, but hear me out. Primarily displaying the speedometer’s digital readout, a speed limit sign appears on the top right corner as soon as you pick up the pace. Working in conjunction with navigation system, it detects where you are and shows you the speed limit. It’s accurate everywhere — on SLEX and other highways (100 km/h) and even shows 40 km/h on EDSA, which is correct as per R.A. 4136. That has to be updated though because the MMDA has raised it, even for buses.
As the model’s top-of-the-line trim, it also comes with Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist (the last two are trim-exclusive).
Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Departure Warning have icons that appear on the HUD. A Wifi-looking one shows up on either side depending on where the vehicle coming up is, and then two lanes show up when you change lanes without signaling (the one you’re crossing flashes and blinks). This is accompanied by a gentle nudge on the steering wheel as Lane Keep Assist kicks in to say you’re drifting.
These three safety features packaged inside the HUD, for me, trump all the others. The HUD keeps your eyes up and forward, looking ahead, and it displays just the very basic yet relevant safety info you need while on the road. Driving doesn’t get any easier, or safer, than this. The diesel engine is good, great even, with an average of some 8.9 kilometers per liter, but it will come in a distant second on the list.
Of all the CX-5 Sport Diesel’s great features, its best quality is hidden, seen and appreciated only by the driver. And that’s the one that gives it an edge over the rest.
Text and photos by Eric Tipan