Monday 19 March 2018

Mazda trips the light fantastic

The CX-5 SUV is the first model to employ the marque's new lightweight technology, writes Martin Brennan

NEW LOOK: The Mazda CX-5 SUV has a strong grille, sculpted sides and raked rear window
NEW LOOK: The Mazda CX-5 SUV has a strong grille, sculpted sides and raked rear window

Mazda has an ambitious plan to make all its cars 20 per cent more fuel efficient within three years. The strategy involves the development of a design system called SkyActiv, which aims to cut the weight of all next generation models by 100kg, using lightweight material in body parts, engines, chassis and transmissions.

The first model to get the SkyActiv treatment is the all-new CX-5, a compact SUV, which is a first in this segment for Mazda. It is heading into stiff competition from such models as the Hyundai iX35 and the Kia Sportage.

But Mazda engineers are confident that the new engineering technology will make their cars more fun to drive, as well as lowering emissions and boosting fuel economy, which they predict will give their models an edge over rivals.

Mazda tested lightweight design in the Mazda2 some years ago, and the lessons learned will now be taken to a new level and will be introduced into the firm's core models -- the 2, 4 and 6 as well as the CX-7. A big bonus associated with weight-shedding is that drivers get excellent handling and there is sharper performance, which adds that extra bit of fun.

The new model gets a strong grille and a muscular look with slanted A pillars, an edgy rear -- the rear window is sharply raked -- and stylish sculpted sides. The wind-cheating aerodynamic body sits on a 2,700mm wheelbase, the longest in its class, which allows four to sit in comfort with lots of legroom. The driver gets a high quality "cockpit" cabin with high-grade materials and a high driving position.

New, speed-sensitive steering has been designed for the CX-5, which gives good feedback, and, with lightweight stiff suspension, makes for excellent cornering. A safety feature is the use of high-tensile steel in the body structure, which Mazda engineers say disperses crash energy to give extra protection in the event of a collision.

Safety features on board include a Smart City Braking system, which automatically applies brakes to reduce or eliminate bumper-crunching in traffic, automatic light beam, anti-whiplash seats and seat belt load limiter to measure the weight of the occupant, so there is no injury from belt restraint. Lane depart warning and a rear view monitoring system are available.

Under the bonnet is a Mazda-designed 2.2-litre 150bhp diesel engine with just 119 C02 to power the front- wheel drive version, which Mazda says will return an average 4.5L/100km. A 4X4 option gets a 175bhp engine. The petrol option is a 2-litre 165bhp unit for two-wheel and 4X4 drive (5 per cent of sales here). There is a six-speed manual transmission with the option of a new automatic unit which combines the best elements of a torque converter with dual clutch technology to give an ultra-quick seamless change. Works best with diesel engine. Stop-Start is standard.

Both models are 10 per cent lighter with diesel consumption and C02 emissions down 20 per cent on the current engine, while the petrol power plant gives 15 per cent more power boost with 15 per cent less C02 emissions -- making it the best in its segment.

The CX-5 arrives in April. Prices have not been finalised, but will start at about €24,000, with three levels of trim.

Sunday Independent

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