For many years, the Mazda brand was the ugly, red-headed step child of Ford but back in 2013 Mazda split away from Ford and decided to build their cars all on their own.

That was a great move because the cars that Mazda are producing now are bang on the money.

In their new range of vehicles, you can expect high quality for good money.

At the top of their SUV range is the Mazda CX-5 and it does not disappoint at all with enough space for all your labradoodles and features that would make some of the premium brands whimper in the corner.

On my test, I drove the range topping CX-5 2.2D Akera AWD which is driven by a 129kW SkyActiv diesel engine developing around 420Nm of torque providing power to all four wheels via Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD on-demand system.

The AWD system detects front tyre slip and then distributes power to the rear wheels to prevent slipping from happening keeping you safely and firmly planted on the ground in dangerous conditions.

There is more than enough power to enjoy the impeccable handling of the CX-5 and enough to tow around 1500kg, more than enough for your average family beach holiday, and a small caravan.

The 6-speed automatic gearbox is pretty good with more than acceptable shift speeds, but the CX-5 is missing that great little Sport button that you find in other Mazda models which increases the responsiveness of the gearing and throttle.

I managed to achieve 8-9l/100km around town and as low as 6l/100km on the open road, leaving little time wasted at the fuel pump.

In terms of safety features, the Mazda CX-5 is littered with them including lane departure warning and assistance, collision detection and warning , blind spot warning all complimented by obligatory ABS, EBD, traction control and stability control.

Something that you find on the Individual and Akera models is the full color Heads Up Display (HUD) which is a little clear perspex window that pops up from the top of the dashboard just above the instrument cluster, right in front of you which shows you your speed, a speed warning based on the speed limits on the road and basic navigation guides.  This is very helpful and really helps to distract you less by keeping your eyes on the road.

Convenience features include front and rear park sensors mated to a clear and accurate rear view camera.

The interior is sublime, although having a very “plastic chemical” type smell, which isn’t great, it does offer a wealth of quality and comfort.

Electrically adjustable seats have a memory programme allowing you to save your seating position, which is great when you are constantly fighting with your wife’s seating position.

The entertainment system is one of the best in the business and is fitted with a superb BOSE™ sound system.

The 7″ touchscreen system is super simple to use and offers two methods of control: the touchscreen as well as the center dial just below the gear stick.  A unique safety feature is that the touchscreen is disable while the vehicle is moving forcing you to use the safer center dial option.

It’s quick and easy to navigate with the dial and actually makes total sense, while the Bluetooth connectivity is very simple to connect to.

There are so many features available and we can add to the list cruise control dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and fog lights, auto headlights leveling, automatic headlights and wipers, adaptive headlights, hill launch assist, keyless start and entry, electric windows and steering controls.

The Mazda CX-5 2.2D Akera AWD really has just about every conceivable bell and whistle you could ask for and the asking price is R561,700 which really brings the competition to the segment.

You’d be very silly not to give Mazda a try. They’re well-specced, high quality and well-priced vehicles that have a very bright future.  If there is only one thing I could mark the CX-5 negatively on, that would be the engine noise which is a little unrefined from the cabin but I’m sure will improve in upcoming models, but hardly a reason not to buy this SUV.

It offers great value for money and a welcome alternative in the high priced medium SUV segment.

Pics are copyright Mazda South Africa

Disclaimer: This vehicle was provided for test review purposes by Mazda South Africa with no expectations.  The views are purely that of the writer and are unbiased.