If in Western cultures aesthetics are a philosophy, in Shinto-based Japanese culture aesthetics are said to constitute a way of life. Zen following Japanese refer to “WABI-SABI” (Not to be confused with Wasabi horseradish).

 

To that end Japanese carmaker Mazda forges driver rewarding heritage with such aesthetics as SHIZEN (natural without pretense) and SHIBUI (simple unobtrusive beauty).

Mazda’s latest design language jettisoned NAGARE (“wind & water waveforms”), to adopt guiding principles of KODO (“upwards towards the sky”), and JINBA ITTAI (unison between rider and steed”).

Back in 2012, sister site ChicagoNow “Drive…He Said” summed up the then new Mazda CX-5 (KE) compact family sports activity vehicle as efficient and dynamically accomplished enough to distinguish it from less focused competition.

However, as a member of Mazda’s KODO/ SkyActiv freshman class, CX-5 Mk. 1 was plagued by material scrimping, squeaky steering & cabin din. Call it a lack of YUGEN (subtly profound grace) and SEIJAKU (tranquility).

For the newest update of the brand’s popular compact SAV, Mazda strove for KAIZEN, or”Continual Improvement.”

 

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WHAT: 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD 2- Row compact crossover sports activity vehicle.

Power: transverse 2.5L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 187 hp/ 184 lb-ft + 6-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle + PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable all-wheel drive.

Got the boot from the U.S. market: 2.0L gas I-4 (found in MX-5 roadster) and 6-speed manual gearbox.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: 2nd Gen. Mazda CX-5 (KF) is built on thorough revision of Mk. 1 KE CX-5 platform; Fractionally shorter (on overhangs), the big story is a 1″ < height, 1″ < clearance and greater width between tires: Lower stance lends boldness to what was previously merely cute.

– Hood dips lower, supplemented by overhanging ledge; Grille remains pentagonal widens as former 4 chrome bars are replaced by full dark lattice treatment; Lower grille chrome border unfolds into wider wings carrying more tweezed HID +LED DRL light assemblies;  +1 Streamlined lower front fascia nixes former corner simulated air inlets;

– Lower door panel halves coke-bottle creased, Beltline adopts chrome character bar partly rising at D-pillar kink;

– Rear backlight shorter, +1 raked, Tailgate punched out; Two-tone roof spoiler buttresses directly meet tailgate side channels;  Mid tailgate section adopts split character line; Tweezed rear wrap-around light housings adopt amber center flasher housing; Lower liftgate mimicks grille with pentagonal crease extending to rear quarters; Larger rear quarters flowing to deeper painted bumper cover diminishes lower clad fascia; Split dual chrome exhaust tips;

WHY: With no luxury division in the offing, Mazda’s volume X-Over got gussied up.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2017

WHERE: Mazda new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Hiroshima, Japan

WHERE TO: Optional transaxle to PTU to rear viscous multi-clutch differential all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 100/ 10% to 50/50%; Loss of 1″-inch clearance (to more accessible 7.6″-inches) & lack of differential lock = Bad weather & gravel road uninhibited;

HOW ROADWORTHY: Barest horsepower uptick + torque engine speed availability reduction mostly atones for 232 lb. gain; 6-speed planetary automatic gearbox is alert, delivering energetic throttle blips in sport mode;

Suspension travel < Mk. 1 CX-5 = +1 lean & pitch control; Slight jitter, yet stiffer body doesn’t quiver; Sharp steering with reduced dive & lift control in turns yields low understeer dancing; Brakes clamp tenaciously when sufficiently warmed; Susceptible to freeway cross-winds; Cabin far more immune to exterior and drivetrain noise than before;

HOW FAR: 27 combined miles per gallon = 12% fuel economy > Mk. 1 CX-5 GT AWD, competitive with most efficient of segment.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: Generously tilting 2nd Row seat backs, yet still among tightest compact CUVs to seat 5; -1 2nd Row headroom and legroom suffer by much needed fractions of inches to create the rakish profile; -1 Ditto for an 8% cargo space shaving, making CX-5 distant choice for furniture resale shop trips;

HOW USEFUL: Near flat folding 40/20/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks w/ twin cargo bay release handles; Mini-spare load floor cover hooked tether;  –1 Blind spots resulting from shorter backlight + tall beltline; -1 Compromised front door pockets from Bose speakers; -1 No concealed lower center stack wireless device space; Tow Rating: 2000 lbs.

HOW SAFE: 7 airbags; IIHS Safety Pick +; Rear camera w/ park grid; Blind Spot warning;  Rear cross traffic alert;  i-Activesense Level 1 driver autonomy: Full Adaptive cruise control, Full, Forward collision warning, Lane departure warning, Smart City brake; Auto high beam headlamps;  Rain sensing windshield wipers; -1 LDW over-sensitive & Lane departure intervention = lane marker locating challenged;

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated front seats; 8-way driver / 6-way power seats w/ 2 driver memory settings; Leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls;  1″-inch reduced clearance = Lower step in;  -1 Fixed front center armrest + limited telescoping helm; -1 Narrow & shallow seat cushions; -1 2nd Row outboard seat heat switches buried inside center armrest   -1 Only prop rod for heavy bonnet;

Cool Gizmo(s) Color Heads-Up Display includes lane array, traffic signage; Precision-machined center console infotaiment dial-joystick w/ dedicated function switches; Mesh cargo shade attached to liftgate, with tonneau to 2nd Row seat backs.

Details Done Right: Seat color matching simulated leather, aluminum & grey simulated wood grain span door panels, dash & center console; Center console tunnel padded in seat color matching synthetic hides;  Contrast stitched, grained soft-material dash top;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Coarse weave carpeting;

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Dash top 7″ flat-panel capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen w/ remote rotary toggle dial; Voice command hands-free communications;  SMS with stored contacts photos; 265 W, 8-speaker Bose Centerpoint audio punchy without boom; USB x 3, 12V x 2; -1 2nd Row USB ports inside center armrest (inaccessible when middle position occupied);  -1 Non-zooming real time traffic app = non-usable;

HOW MUCH: $33, 465 = 2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD as tested

WHAT’S MISSING: > Passing ZOOM ZOOM; 2nd row & cargo area 12V ports, 115V AC outlet; Engine coolant temperature gauge; Faster responding infotainment, Waiting on Android Auto, Apple Car Play smart phone apps;

ANY COMPETITION: Chevrolet Equinox: +1  9-speed automatic transaxle, 4G LTE; Ford Escape: +1 Engine options, front sport seats; Honda CR-V: +1 Smoothness, intuitive control layout; Jeep Cherokee: +1 available off-road 4×4; Kia Sportage: +1 Turbo powertrain acceleration, value; Nissan Rogue: +1 Available 3rd Row, semi-autonomous; Subaru Forester: +1 Engine options, off-road credentials; Toyota RAV4: +1 Available hybrid model cargo capacity; Volkswagen Tiguan LWB: +1 Supersized w/ available 3rd Row