I’ll admit this review has been incredibly difficult to write, mostly because when I read a car review that sings all the praises I personally feel very suspicious, it’s got to be too good to be true, right? Well in this case, no, it isn’t too good to be true. The Mazda CX-5 for me was beyond phenomenal, I honestly could not find a fault. If I had to be nit-picky I would say I wasn’t exactly wild about the grey wood veneer inserts on the dash, other than that though I am hard pressed to find any “negatives” to try to balance this review out.
So if you, like me, find yourself skeptical of perfection read on and maybe I can change your mind, if not, do me a favour (no, do yourself a favour) and go take a Mazda CX-5 for a test drive and then let me know if you agree. Please do tell me if I’ve lost the plot, I won’t take offence. I suspect though that I am right, even if I may be high on that new car smell.
Anyway before I embarrass myself let’s get down to some of the nitty gritty that almost had me driving this car across a border to try keep it after the 7 days of testing.
The model I had the pleasure of testing is the range topping 2.2L DE Akera AWD, a beast of a diesel engine with plenty of power matted with an automatic transmission. The CX-5 also has a paddle-shift manual mode that makes you feel like you are in a Formula 1 car. It is a lot of fun running through the revs with all 140kw of it’s available power while changing gears with your hands still on the steering wheel. We live in an amazing era in diesel engines, gone are the days of lazy tractor engines that have a turbo lag as long as it takes to make your morning pre-ride espresso. Today's diesel engines have a serious amount of power while still giving you incredible fuel economy. I’ll admit I drove the car with quite a heavy foot during the test and I still only averaged 7.8lt / 100km. With the aircon off the engine also has an automatic start / stop function called i-stop which saves you fuel while you are stopped at the traffic lights.
The other aspect of this car that blew me away was how many features Mazda jammed into the CX-5. Parking is a breeze with a front and rear camera (depending on which way the vehicle is facing while parking) but best of all is the top view camera which gives a 360 degree birds eye of the car showing you if you are on the lines or perfectly in the centre of the parking space. It has a motorized boot which opens and closes at the push of a button, keyless entry and keyless start. You never have to take the key out of your bag or pocket. Just push the engine start button on the dash and you are good to go. Want to head off the beaten track, no problem just tap the AWD button and the car distributes the power between all four wheels instead of just the front.
The safety feature list is incredibly long but some noteworthy ones are Lane Keep Assist which autocorrects the car if you drift out of your lane, Emergency Brake Assist which automatically applies the brakes and sends out a warning sound to alert the driver if the radar sees that a collision is imminent, Smart City Brake System which works similarly to the Emergency Brake Assist which is adapted to city driving at low speeds.
Other meaningful features which are now pretty much standard in most modern cars are full Apple or Android CarPlay connectivity, cruise control, and phone controls on the steering wheel. The Infotainment screen in the dashboard is an 8” touchscreen but you can also scroll through menus with a multifunction control system in the middle console. From here you can select a desired screen on the Infotainment system, change audio input, or go to the fully integrated Navigation system. The Centre Armrest also has various USB and SD card ports for charging or connecting devices to blast your favourite tunes out of the 10 speaker BOSE® sound system, yes you read that correctly, 10 speakers!
A head-up display on the windscreen tells you the current speed as well as the speed limit of the road you are on. I was surprised to see how fast and accurate the speed limit icon was. Going from an 80km/h section the icon changed to 60km/h literally as I drove past the 60km/h sign. This was a welcome feature when we drove out to Stellenbosch for some riding on the infamous Jonkershoek trails.
We hit the gnarly Armageddon trail, one of the longest trails in the Reserve. A nice longish climb took us up the various contour levels to get to the top with an amazing view of the Jonkershoek valley below. The top sections of the trail are super technical and require a lot of concentration, the further you get down though it starts to smooth out to a really fast singletrack with some big tabletops and gap jumps to test your skill on. The route also features one of South Africa's most photographed rocks (after Table Mountain of course) which helps you get nice and sideways depending on the line you take and how big your pistachios are.
The amount of work done in Jonkershoek is truly mesmerizing, with seemingly endless trails for various levels of riders it could be considered the Holy Grail of mountain biking in the Western Cape.
There is a small permit fee to pay but considering how well maintained the trails are, it seems like a worthy cost to pay to enjoy some of South Africa's best trails. There is a safe and secure parking lot at the entrance gate where you can leave your car and there is also usually a mobile coffee truck with small snacks, coffee and some other drinks.
If you are looking for some tough climbing then head up towards the Fire Watchers Hut on the right of the valley, once you have enjoyed the views from the top there are various singletracks heading back down towards the dam. With a little over 60 trails and a total distance of more than 100km Jonkershoek is a one of a kind Mountain Bikers paradise!
Bonus Tip: At the far north end of the valley are some incredible waterfalls which are great for cooling off on a hot summer's day!