September 08, 2019 By Johnny Revilla Photos by the author

A spirited drive with the Mazda CX-5

For those of you who are regular readers of C! Magazine, you might be aware that I am a true Mazda fan.  Yes, I do think Mazda is (across the board) the  best Japanese automobile brand right now.  Of course, this is my opinion and I will never debate your personal preference(s).  Still, one cannot argue the brand’s models and their respective  reviews.  I’ve had a few Mazda’s in the past; a 1983 Ford Laser (which was basically a rebadged BD Mazda 323), a 1998(?) BH 323 Familia, and a 2014 Mazda6.  I am presently a proud owner of a CX-9. I love the car (check my previous write-ups).  I have really nothing but praises for the car.  It’s one of the very best SUVs out there with its only drawback being its girth.  I find the CX-9, as a daily driver, too large for many roads, driveways, parking slots, etc.  So when Mazda offered me an opportunity to test their hugely popular and well-rated CX-5 Diesel, I jumped at the chance — another no-brainer.

So, I scheduled with Mazda Greenhills to service my CX-9.  There was nothing wrong with my car, mind you. I just accumulated numerous nicks, here and there and (aghast) curb scratches on my wheels.  So, I was able to work out the CX-5 delivery so I could test the car while my CX-9 was being serviced.

They delivered a silver CX-5. Qow, it’s almost the twin brother of a CX-9, but smaller.  Initially, the one thing I noticed about the new CX-5 Diesel is its grille and more recessed lights.  I love the new black “egg-crate” grille.  It gives this car a more aggressive, sporty look rather than the more sedate horizontal (albeit formal) grille design of the CX-9.  I am not a big fan of the wheels, though … looks too OEMish.  I personally prefer the spoke design of the CX-9.

Upon entering the CX-5, I immediately felt comfortable and familiar with the interior.  It is almost exactly like my CX-9, but in a smaller package.  True, the CX-9 looks and feels more luxurious, allotting to more leather in the dashboard, or maybe just because of its larger girth.  Still, all controls, knobs, switches are in the same basic locations, except for the Start/Stop button.  It is lower in the CX-5 than in the CX-9.  But, the one thing I noticed almost instantly: a slot for CD/DVDs!  This is the one thing I miss in the CX-9!  (OK, OK, CD’s/DVDs may be passé, but I still think that the quality of sound is better than a USB.)

After doing my usual “personalizing” of the car (adjusting the driver’s seat to No. 1 setting, tilting the steering wheel, adjusting side mirrors, coupling my phone to the car, etc.), I depressed the bakes and started the car.  With the doors open, I realized this is definitely an oil-burning diesel.  Clatter, clatter.  However, once you close the doors, you barely hear the loud noise of the engine.

The rear seats are rather spacious even with the front driver’s seat stretched all the way back.  Alas, this is only a 5-seater, not a 7-seater like the CX-9.  No extra third row of seats.

The CX-5 has a reported 170 bhp turbo 2.2 SkyActiv diesel engine with “i-Stop”.  Straightaway, this car feels a little firmer than its larger brother.  Maybe, it’s the shorter wheelbase, stiffer springs, but it is noticeable.  Mind you, it is not as rough, as let’s say, a Fortuner or a Montero, but (due to its firmer suspensions), more SUVish, nonetheless.  This is a heavy car for its size.  But, Mazda’s engineering makes this car a lot lighter in feel and drive.  Steering is very responsive.  However, it is when you put the pedal-to-the-metal that this car shows its forte and class.  This car pulls like a regular gasoline performance car, all 410 lb-ft of them.

Driving this car in and out of traffic is a joy.  It doesn’t have the restricting size of my CX-9, it does go immediately when you pump it, and is rather quiet inside.  Hmm, I am starting to really like this car.

Baguio, Benguet and Dingalan, Aurora

The one thing I looked forward to was see how the CX-5 will handle a long commute with possible twisties along the way.  When I knew I was getting this car, I immediately booked my wife and I for a stay at the Travel Lodge in Camp John Hay for a couple of nights of R&R.  We left for Baguio on a Thursday and before 2:00 PM we were on NLEX.

The drive through NLEX/SCTEX/TPLEX was a joy.  Traveling at a constant Cruise Controlled speed (never mind how fast) was quite comfortable and drama free.  I averaged 19 km/L throughout the stretch of the Mindanao Avenue Exit and Pozzorubio, Pangasinan Exit.  Not bad at all.

After exiting TPLEX, the fun really started.  It was here where driving the CX-5 was most enjoyable: winding roads.  But my excitement was dampened a little because, sadly, Kenon Road was closed to traffic so I had to take Marcos Highway going up to Baguio, which added another 20 or so minutes to our trip.  Still, this didn’t deter the car’s ability to be able to pass slower cars, trucks, buses without any hesitation or hiccup.  Whenever they gave me an opening, I put the pedal to the metal and, zoom, I passed them with plenty of room to spare.  OK, many of you may say that this CX-5 is not that blinding quick.  I mean, a Honda Civic SI or a Mazda3 will outsprint this Crossover, but, guys, remember, this is an oil-burning, clankety-clank, diesel powered car!  The torque is terrifically strong!  (Reminds me somewhat of the 2007 edition Ford Focus TDCI.)  Its twin-turbo gives such a linear climb through the gears and there is no feel of any upshifts (or downshifts).  OK, I did piss off a few drivers who didn’t think I’d be able to pass them but, who cares?  With all my spirited driving through the zigzag, I actually averaged a respectable 12.5 km/L diesel consumption going up to Baguio.  Not too shabby.

We arrived at the Travel Lodge at 5:30 PM, checked-in, then drove to a reasonably priced Greek restaurant for dinner.  I rolled down the windows, opened the sunroof, cranked up the music … Ahh … Baguio, the pine trees, cool air, good music, good wine, Mediterranean food, my wife and this lovely CX-5 with its sunroof opened.  What could be better?  [OK, OK, the Swiss Alps, snow-capped pine trees, cool, crisp air, great ‘70s music, 1990 Chateau Haut Brion, a kobe beef kaiseki dinner (for the wine), still with my wife (who probably will be reading this article), and, maybe in a Porsche Cayenne Turbo or a Bentley Bentayga].

Dingalan, Aurora was a different trip all together.  My wife didn’t come with me because this was more of a business trip for the Movies and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), which I am proud to say that I am a Board Member.  So I prepared a little differently for this trip.  I chose to upload into my USB more hardcore rock n’ roll, R&B and higher beats-per-minute songs that I could sing along and belt each song to the top of my voice with no one saying “stop singing!!!!”  However, I need to thank you, Sir Elton John, for biopic, “Rocketman” and re-introducing me about how great a songwriter you are.  There’s something totally ethereal about speeding down the long straights of  Dingalan-Gabaldon Road with the gorgeous mountains of Aurora sandwiching the highway while Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright” and “Funeral for a Friend” or the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” cleanly blasting through the CX-5’s wonderful Bose system.  (Millennials, do yourselves a favor … Google these songs.)

Quezon and Aurora provinces got quite a bit of rainfall and my drive saw some stretches with heavy downpours.  This gave me an excellent chance to test this CX-5’s wet weather capabilities.  This permanent all-wheel drive is quite poised in the wet.  It never exhibited any slipping and drama.  Acceleration and brakes were done with all the confidence of driving on dry roads.

The zigzags of Junction Tablang/Gabaldon Road were less demanding than the more popular Tanay Marikina/Infanta Marilaque Highways and Baguio Kenon, Nagilian or Marcos Highways.  The roads (as a whole) are quite good, actually.  There were a few portions of road repair but the overall condition of the stretch from Palayan City, Nueve Ecija to Dingalan was very good with, get this, very little cars, trucks or buses impeding a planned spirited drive.  Through the zigzags, because of non-existent traffic, I was able to maneuver this Crossover through proper apex points with very little understeer.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, the CX-5 drives like a sedan and not an SUV!  There were a couple of straight stretches where for maybe two kilometers, you can see nothing on the road and one can just step-on-it.

All I can say is … I want this car!  It is the perfect SUV/Crossover for Manila/Philippine traffic.  Comfortable, luxurious, 4X4, sporty (when need be), utile, economical, and it comes in a diesel! This is an enthusiast’s car.  It’s in a class of its own.  It is for this reason why the CX-5 is no longer compared with the regulars of this class: Honda CR-V, Nissan Terra, Toyota RAV4, etc.  It’s more like in the class of a BMW X1 or an Audi Q3.  ‘Nuff said.


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