Mazda’s new Akera DE CX-5 is the pick of the bunch

If Mazda gave me the keys to the 2017 Akera DE CX-5 2.2 Auto, the flagship with all-wheel drive (AWD) for a long-distance trip I would grab them with both hands and head for the Garden Route, one of my favourite destinations via Route 62, just to see how it behaved on the sharp bends and curves of Meiringspoort.

Brian Joss – Last year I completed a 3 000km road trip in the Mazda2 diesel 1.5 automatic from Milnerton to Johannesburg and back, through the Klein Karoo, and the little Mazda did everything you asked of it.

The only drawback was the small boot size (The Gremlin, February 29, 2016) and judging by the way the Akera handled itself in Cape Town it would probably do just as well, if not better. Except you would probably need a few more stops at the diesel pump.

The Mazda Akera DE CX-5 2.2 Auto: compact crossover SUV hits all the right notes. Picture; Quickpic

I drove the Akera shortly after it was launched in 2012 and even then I was impressed. Roll in 2017 and the Akera has undergone some changes although Mazda’s well-known SkyActiv technology is much the same, however, it may change next year.

The second generation CX-5 reached the dealers in June this year.

First, the CX-5’s red colour is certainly eye-catching: it is 20% more vivid than the original red and it was developed specifically for the Japanese car giant, who since its split from Ford has come out of from big brother’s shadow, taking its rightful place in the market. Sales are booming, according to Mazda. The outgoing Mazda CX-5 has been South Africa’s best-selling model with an average of 350 units a month, the car-maker said.

Having owned two Mazdas, one a 1200c dubbed the Purple Peril by my friends and neighbours, not because of the way I drove it, but it was a purple colour which faded as the years went by. It also ran on the smell of an oil rag and you could effect minor repairs with a pair of pliers and piece of wire. The other was  a Mazda 1600 automatic, and I had some real adventures in those two tjorries.

But back to the Akera: in the short time I had it I drove it all over the Peninsula in all sorts of conditions. Friends arrived for a holiday and we arranged to collect them at a Sea Point hotel and when we fetched them they asked if we could take them to the Twelve Apostles where they were moving for a few days before flying home. They had a lot of luggage for two people for such a short stay. But it all fitted easily in to the boot which has a capacity of 442 litres.

But before taking them to the Twelve Apostles we took a trip to a wine farm near Suid Agter Paarl. The weather was miserable but the climate control in the Akera took the edge off the cold.

The old cliché, first impressions make good impressions, holds true for the CX-5.

Most of the upgrades are cosmetic. The interior has a much more luxury feel with soft touch material, veneered wood panels and aluminium strips on the switches. The data on the infotainment screen is much easier to read as are the figures on the instrument dials and digital display. The head-up (HUD) display is also a welcome feature, although you have to position the seat just right if you want to see it properly.

There is a lot of space for rear seat passengers to stretch their legs and you can adjust the back rests two ways. Our visitors commented on how comfortable the Akera was. There is hardly any wind noise in the cabin and no-one had to yell to make themselves heard.

The Akera also features the G-Vectoring system. Basically it controls body roll for better handling so you don’t have to work so hard to keep it straight.  The software automatically alters the engine torque, moving the weight to help to reduce body roll, and in case you were wondering, it does work. The CX-5 also sticks to the road like glue and it always feels solidly planted. On poorly surfaced roads, too. And taking corners, even at speed, it felt safe.

The SkyActiv 2.2 litre turbocharged diesel engine, mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, pushes out 129kW and torque of 420 N.m. Mazda claims that the diesel uses 5.8 litres/100km. As always those figures are only achieved in a perfect world. I used slightly more than 7.5 litres/100km and the test route included start-stop driving in heavy peak hour traffic; on the motorways; the open road and some mountain passes. The compact SUV has a sporty feel which is no bad thing. 

Mazda’s SkyActiv all-wheel drive which is available only in the Akera is a predictive on-demand system that anticipates front tyre slip and applies just enough torque to the rear wheels to prevent slipping.

Safety features abound in the Akera.

The Driver Attention Alert (DAA) is designed to reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue. The DAA is activated at speeds above 65km/h and begins to “learn” the driver’s habits, watching inputs and the vehicle’s movements in the early stages before fatigue is a factor. If the system detects changes in vehicle behaviour that suggests the driver may be losing concentration, it will suggest a rest stop by sounding a chime and displaying a warning in the HUD.

The Akera also sports parking sensors front and rear; blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning; lane keeping assist; Smart City Brake Support and adaptive LED headlights.  There is a 10-speaker Bose sound system, satellite navigation, a powered tailgate and sunroof.

The Akera will make an ideal family car.  At the same time it is a driver’s car,  so if you use your transport for more than the daily commute or the trip to the mall, the Akera covers all bases. It’s practical and is good value for your hard-earned buck.

Mazda SA’s range has three engine options:  2 litre and 2.5 litre  petrol, the SkyActiv 2.2 litre diesel engines. My pick is the diesel option.

The flagship Akera DE CX-5 2.2 Auto has a price tag of R558 000 but check with your dealer. Included are a 3-year unlimited kilometre service plan;  a 3-year factory warranty, a 3-year roadside assistance and a 5-year corrosion warranty.

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