A paean to the soul of motion
Despite doing his curmudgeonly best, Campbell Spray could not disagree with the acclaim for the Mazda CX-5
LAST Sunday Dacia launched its brand here with a very serious price war in the SUV sector by selling its Duster at pence under €15,000. We are two years behind the initial launch of Dacia Duster in Europe in 2010 which saw such a demand from eager customers that it resulted in a six-month waiting list in Germany and France. The demand has continued to the point where the Renault-controlled Romanian company has only just got around to making right-hand drive cars.
Already the cheap-as-chips Duster is garnishing serious attention in the UK and two weeks ago Mike Rutherford in his Mr Money column in The Daily Telegraph's motoring supplement says the "Duster rewrites the rule book for SUV pricing in the UK". Looking across all sectors, he said "my pick of the bunch for all-round value? It has to be the Dacia Duster. Potentially, it's the car of the year".
Of course, the Duster isn't finessed like many of its rivals but there are a number of specification packages that enhance the vehicle without breaking the bank and the massive mile the car steals on the competition. I'll write more after a test. Of course, the Duster has the massive success of the Nissan Qashqai in its sights, which is still a mammoth seller years after its launch. It holds a very steady second place behind the Ford Focus with nearly 3,000 units sold this year.
I didn't attend the Dacia launch as it would have distracted me, dog and family from a very pleasant trip in another SUV/Crossover type vehicle, the very highly regarded Mazda CX-5. I have been reading colleagues' reviews of this Mazda for some time and prepared to be at my curmudgeonly best by disagreeing with their acclaim. Unfortunately I couldn't and rate the car as one of the best drives of the year with a highly specced interior, good looks and a massively impressive and efficient 2.2 diesel, which will give more than 60mpg and Band A emissions.
Mazda says this efficiency is due to SKYACTIV technology which I thought was actually something completely different rather than a blend of new chassis, transmission and a lightweight body linked to its petrol and diesel engines together with i-Stop, the company stop-start technology. Mazda claims that this gives the car a direct link to its iconic MX-5 roadster.
Anyway, silly name or not, it works and delivers a really confident drive which can be further enhanced by 4WD at a €5,400 premium on the €29,495 for the 2.2 2WD Sport model I was testing. Mazda claims that the CX-5 is the lightest, fastest and most efficient car in its segment.
It certainly stands well: high and powerful with well-sculpted lines and seemingly immense 17" alloys. Apparently it is based on Kodo, a "soul of motion" design. It has masses of carrying capacity and only a heavy cold deterred me from a trip to Ikea to put it all to the test.
Of late, Mazda hasn't made the impression on the market which it should have. The company benefits strongly from its link to Ford and has some of the most driveable cars in the family and compact areas. At one time, the marque was a veritable mainstay of the whole market but this has fallen away so that it probably has only about an 1 1/2 per cent share. I hope with class products like the CX-5, it can begin to recover its rightful place.
However, there are a lot of people out there eating its lunch. The Koreans have already swallowed the first course and the Romanian Duster will eat the cutlery if this country can get beyond its awful brand snobbery.