Johannesburg - Mazda's popular CX-5 has undergone more than just a cosmetic change and the enhancements and improvements to this second-generation model make it look not just better but sleeker and sportier too.

First introduced to South Africa in 2012 it has over the years become their best-selling model and with the changes I’m sure will continue to do so.

The striking new exterior has been tweaked for an updated modern look, with the grille more angular making it look a lot more stand-out and aggressive, and the rear lights round off a crossover SUV that is one of the more attractive ones in this heavily contested segment.

They have also put in LED head and front fog lamps, auto headlamp levelling, rear ventilation, a rear USB port in the centre armrest, the driver seat in our top Akera model is eight-way power adjustable, auto fold mirrors, head-up display and a powerlift tail gate.

Inside it’s refined as well, with soft touch materials, aluminium, and veneered panels placed strategically. The infotainment screen has a high resolution but somehow it would always default to the select-a-mode screen every time the car was started again. Perhaps there is a way to change that, but I couldn’t find it.

It comes with three engine options; the 2.0 litre and 2.5 litre normally-aspirated petrols and the skyactiv-D 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine fitted into the Akera AWD automatic that we tested.

They have done a brilliant sound dampening job because once inside the cabin there is barely any engine and wind noise and only a slight rumble on roughly tarred bits of road and highway.

There’s not too much turbo lag with a very smooth pull off. Acceleration isn’t going to pull the skin off your face but it’s certainly one of the better diesel engines out there and 129kW and 420Nm of torque is more than enough to keep you going comfortably fully loaded with family and holiday gear.

Being a diesel, I expected slightly better fuel consumption than the 8.5 litres per 100km over mixed driving though.

I found the steering very responsive as was the suspension over some of the worst roads in my trip to North West.

I’d only heard about the G-vectoring control system and having tested it first hand found it an interesting concept that actually works. Basically it detects steering inputs and slightly restricts torque output to shift the car’s weight forward, adding more load to the front to give sharper cornering precision. The CX-5 is only a 2.2 diesel though, but you get the concept.

The CX-5 Akera is all-wheel drive which doesn’t mean you get to breeze over hectic 4x4 tracks but it does allow you to get to places that would otherwise be impossible to see.

Rear seating space is ample and comfortable enough over long distances and in what seems to be the norm in this segment, a lot of technology is thrown in as standard.

The list is long and covers almost every possible aid that keeps you safe and on the road and also in case you go off it; front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, smart city brake support, adaptive LED headlights, driver attention alert, satellite navigation, a brilliant 10-speaker BOSE sound system, a powerlift tail gate and much more are all included in the price at R557 500.

The Mazda CX-5 has a three-year/unlimited kilometre service plan, a three-year factory/unlimited kilometre warranty, three-year roadside assistance and a five year corrosion warranty.

FACTS: Mazda CX-5 2.2DE AWD Akera

Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cyl turbodiesel
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Power: 129kW @ 4500rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 2000rpm
0-100km/h (claimed):9.5 seconds
Top speed (claimed):206km/h
Price: R557 500
Warranty: 3-year/unlimited km
Service plan: 3-year/unlimited km

ALTERNATIVES

Toyota Rav4 2.2 D-4D AWD VX110kW/340NmR552 400
Mazda CX-5 2.2 DE AWD Akera129kW/420NmR557 500
VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI 4Motion Highline130kW/380NmR558 300
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD SX 130kW/400NmR567 995
Audi Q3 2.0 TDI Quattro135kW/380NmR597 000

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