Mazda has a saying; ‘Jinba-Ittai: Horse and rider as one’.
Now, I’ve never actually ridden a horse but I jumped at the chance to try out the latest Mazda CX-5.
There was no tutting of tongues or soothing words needed to break the ice with this pretty horse. I’ve been given the GSX to take for a ride. There is a turbo option in the CX-5 Takami but the 2.5l petrol engine has an impressive pedigree and will be more than enough to get me over any hurdles.
The first special bonding moment between man and car happened before we even started moving. I was told by the test car handler to look into the windscreen and, after a moment of confusion, I totally got it. Appearing like a mirage over the bonnet, is the heads up display – speed and a few other key bits of information - seemingly hovering over the bonnet, just below the driver’s sight line.
Once you see it, it is there every time.
After that special moment, I do feel more at one with my steed. I tether the iPhone to the Apple CarPlay on the Bose infotainment system (it has android too) and with a gentle nudge of the accelerator, we amble out of the car yard.
On Hewletts Rd, the traffic is its usual boisterous self, but there are no jitters from the CX-5. All is calmness and simplicity inside the cab and it’s quiet. There is good visibility and the blind spot alert gets a workout in this part of town. There is even an alert for traffic passing across the rear – handy for pulling out of supermarket car parks.
You could watch a blockbuster movie on some of the displays that come with vehicles these days. The LED screen in the CX-5 is wide but not too tall, fitting snugly into the console. The touch screen is simple enough. The environmental controls are standard buttons in standard places, so no surprises there either.
Not quite so obvious is the big knob which sits just in front of the storage compartment and armrest, between the front seats. Once you learn how to work this dual dial/button, it is quite handy for controlling many features of the vehicle. It is designed to be used without taking your eyes off the road.
Space-wise, this is not the biggest SUV of its type, but the back seats fold flat to maximise storage and there is enough leg room in the back for all but the lankiest of goal defenders and prop forwards amongst us.
That is a minor issue when you compare what this vehicle has to offer in almost every other department, compared with similar vehicles.
Where this vehicle really excels is in its handling and performance. Even the non-turbo version provides plenty of grunt and the i-Activ AWD brings everything together nicely.
Once we hit the motorway, the acceleration is excellent from the 186 horsepower petrol engine. The sports mode holds the rev’s a little longer, if that’s what you want. For me, this is more about enjoying the drive and knowing that the car has got your back, like one of those horses in a western movie.
It is a testament to this vehicle that there really is very little to worry about, and you are free to try the new gadgets at your leisure.
I turn off at Baypark and head out through Matapihi and it’s time to test the cruise control. This is the radar variety. You can set your desired speed and following distance to the vehicle in front and the car does the rest.
Combined with the lane keep assist function, it makes for pretty cruisy motoring on the motorway and the wider state highways. Personally, I only use the active part of lane departure features on the really well-built highways. If you generally don’t trust robots you do have the option of just switching the warning on without the active assist part.
As we head off up the highway to Mclaren Falls some of the features in the CX-5 start to provide their obvious benefits, like the dynamic stability control and traction control.
Other features are more subtle and are designed with the horse and rider principal in mind, like the G-vectoring control plus feature.
Mazda has found people often overcompensate when cornering, because the vehicle does not immediately react the way they expect it to. With G-vectoring, a small amount of brake is applied upon cornering, which pitches the car forward a tiny amount. This means the vehicle holds better into the corners and satisfies the driver, avoiding the tendency to overcompensate.
I arrive safe and sound at the falls, park the steed next to a babbling brook and wander over to a picnic table to eat a sandwich.
It looks fantastic in its Soul Red Metallic paintwork. It has simple, sporty lines, typical wide Mazda grille and long, narrow LED headlights (these come with high beam control, automatically adjusting to oncoming traffic).
Without even realising it, I had parked right next to another CX-5, and they look pretty good together. Who knows what the next generation will bring but if they keep improving on these genes, they will keep the riders happy.
This really is great value for money so make sure you give it a try before committing to something similar.
To test drive the CX-5 head down to the Mazda dealership at Ultimate Motor Group on the corner of Hewletts Rd and Totara St.
Model: CX-5 GSX
Engine: 2.5l petrol
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 140kw (188hp)
Torque: 252nm at 4000rpm
Price: $46,745 plus ORC