'This is the best four-cylinder diesel we've ever driven', was how we described the Mazda CX-5's 148bhp 2.0-litre engine when we first tested the car. The CX-5 was Mazda's first car to use Skyactiv technology, which means lightweight construction and efficient engines and gearboxes.
We were keen to get the CX-5 on to our long-term test fleet to see if the car really delivered on its promise of power, space, practicality and impressive economy (61.4mpg). So keen, in fact, we opted to take one of the cars Mazda used when it launched the CX-5 in the UK a year ago.
The entry-level CX-5 SE-L is well-specced, but a range-topping Sport Nav with sat-nav was available straight away, so we took that. Sport trim adds leather trim, xenon headlamps, a reversing camera and an upgraded stereo. It also brings 19-inch alloys, which exacerbate the CX-5's firm ride, so we opted for a 17-inch set that cost an additional 786. So, the total price of our test car was 26,901.
Mazda held the press launch in the far north-west Highlands, so my introduction to our car was on the 650-mile trip from Torridon to our offices in Teddington, Middlesex. It was the perfect journey, with twisty B-roads, fast, open A-roads then a motorway slog. I liked the responsive steering and the seats were comfortable, as was the ride; the smaller wheels did the trick. Fuel economy for the trip was 49mpg. That's 20% lower than the official figure, but 1.8mpg better than our True MPG figure, so I was still impressed.
In fact, over the 12 months we had the car it was the diesel engine that impressed me most. It was quiet at low revs and when cruising, yet always had enough power on tap to make the 168bhp version almost redundant.
On paper, it was fuel- and tax-efficient, and even in real-world driving it consistently delivered near-50mpg fuel economy.
The car had a really slick engine stop-start mechanism, too, which helped the CX-5 achieve its economy figures. From the dashboard display reading we clocked up more than 13 hours of the engine being switched off in stationary traffic just think of the fuel that saved. If I had one criticism of the stop-start system, it's that you had to depress the clutch fully before the engine restarted. In cars such as the VW Golf it's the action of operating the clutch that fires up the engine, which makes the CX-5's system seem slow in comparison.
Another niggle I found was a rattle that was there from the start, but was never fixed. It came from the nearside rear seat and I think it had something to do with the mechanism that locked the seat into place. I had it checked out a couple of times, but within a few days the rattle was back. Not great in a 27,000 car.
The first time the rattle was 'fixed', it coincided with a warning light informing me that the tyres needed rotating. Sure enough, the manual states that the tyres need to be swapped every 6000 miles. A friendly Mazda dealer should do this for free, and it's good that Mazda wants you to make the most of the car's Yokohama tyres, but it's a little inconvenient for this to come round so often.
Other trips to the dealer were to repair a cracked door mirror cover (40) and its 12,500 mile service (199), but overall the car was reliable.
A What Car? long-term car's popularity can often be measured by the number of requests you get to borrow it, and the CX-5 had more than its fair share. Whether for family holidays, moving house or shifting bulky objects, barely a week went by before someone wanted to take the CX-5.
The Mazda's popularity with What Car? staffers was mirrored by the awards it collected while it was on our fleet; it picked up our Green SUV of the Year Award (2013) and Best SUV less than 25,000 at our 2013 Car of the Year Awards.
One CX-5 owner, Norman Stott, wrote to me saying just how happy he is with his car and at the end of his email he said: 'When the time comes for you to relinquish it, it will be one of those cars that you find a little hard to let go.'
Do you know? He was nearly right. I'm missing it like mad.
Mazda CX-5 2.2D Skyactiv-D 150 Sport Nav logbook
Price when new 25,595
Target Price when new 25,039
Price now (new) 25,795
Extras 17-inch wheels 786; metallic paint 520
Total price new 26,901
Current part-ex value 19,662
Overall test fuel economy 46.9mpg
Worst fuel economy 39.2mpg
Best fuel economy 49.0mpg
True MPG 47.2mpg
Official fuel economy 61.4mpg
CO2/tax liability 119g/km/17%
Contract hire 370
Cost per mile 56p
Insurance group/quote 21/612
Servicing and repairs
Servicing 12,500 miles, 199
Repairs Replacement door mirror cover, 40
By Iain Reid