I have long been a severe critic of Mazda. Some would say too severe. Maybe that is because I used to be something of a fan. There was a time they were brilliantly different. Then they had a bad time and produced boring cars -- something totally contrary to what I understood them to stand for.
Then they copped on a bit. Now they have copped on a good bit more. I hope it is not too late.
This CX-5 crossover is easily the best thing they have done in years. The current '6' family saloon is good too (they say the next one is exceptional). The only problem is -- will buyers respond in sufficient numbers? It takes time for people to tune in to change of this stature.
The CX-5 is a quintessential modern 'crossover'. It looks like an SUV but really it's a two-wheel drive family car that has all the shapes and curves you want, and expect, of a motor aimed at this particular corner of the market.
Looks aren't everything, I know, but the CX-5 works on the motto that if you've got them, flaunt them. It certainly does that.
Less ostensible, but far more important for your pocket, is the intense concentration of technology in the diesel engine and, generally speaking, anywhere they can save a slither of energy.
Rather strangely, I feel, it is called SkyActive as it in no way conveys the ingenuity and hard work applied to shaving myriad mini-bites of fuel consumption. For a 2.2-litre diesel engine to steer into the lowest road-tax category is an achievement in a motor of this size.
And there was plenty of real power on tap. It just swept up the kilometres and had lots of punch for acceleration.
The obvious comparisons, of course, come with the neo-classic Nissan Qashqai, the beloved choice of so many families.
Well, I have news for you. I think the CX-5 is as good if not better. It is better in some respects -- it is certainly bigger and more composed on the road. And it is newer, but that is a double-edged sword, because the Nissan Qashqai as well as the likes of the Ford Kuga and Skoda Yeti have had a head start.
Still, I haven't driven a Mazda that felt this sure of itself for a long time. It mightn't impinge on the conscious immediately but you do know when something feels right from the start. This did. There was a sense of quality about the feel of the steering, how the chassis never let the road bumps and horrors sneak in.
Even with five on board and loads of other stuff. Even with slippery, mucky conditions, it was well up to the task. And later, with just two on board there was room, with the rear seats folded, for five big bags of turf to be brought back as a warming present from cousins.
Oh we raised a few eyebrows alright, though I doubt the CX-5 will be used too much for ferrying turf.
It can happen, you know, that a late entrant such as the CX-5 makes a great impression (as it has) because it had the benefit of seeing and ironing out the creases experienced by the front-runners.
The downside is that the others -- all worthy individuals in their own right -- have made their name and mopped up the market, leaving the latecomer to ponder the potential of an earlier debut.
That is the huge drawback for this motor, with its fuel-saving technology, big cabin, good looks, turf-carrying boot, and excellent handling and ride.
Two years ago it would have been a star of the show. Now?
Well I suggest you take it for a test drive because I think you'll be impressed. I don't do glowing tributes. It has its bits and pieces of frailty too but in the main it is a fine piece of work.