What's it like to drive?

* Mazda's new compact SUV driven * Priced from 21,000 (est) * On sale spring 2012...

What's it like to drive?

We tried the petrol and the higher-powered diesel, and both impressed, offering smooth and progressive acceleration over a wide rev range. The diesel was particularly good, feeling incredibly punchy almost regardless of the revs it was doing.

Most of Mazda's current models are let down by an overly tight gearshift, but the new manual 'box in the CX-5 is very slick and satisfying. The automatic gearbox in the diesel also impresses, but the one in the petrol auto we drove (a Russian spec car with a slightly detuned engine) tended to hunt around between fifth and sixth at motorway speeds.

If you specify a Tiguan with four-wheel drive, you have to put up with quite a lot of low-speed transmission shunt, whereas the CX-5's optional four-wheel drive system is so smooth that you're barely aware of it.

Whichever model you choose, the suspension strikes a good balance between ride comfort and body control. That said, cars with the optional 19-inch wheels get a bit jittery on patched-up roads (those on 17s cope much better).

All CX-5s feature a new electrically assisted steering system, and it's one of the best of its kind, because the wheel is fingertip-light at parking speeds, before weighting up reassuringly in faster turns.

Our one criticism is that it's a bit light and numb just off-centre, so you end up making too many minor corrections when trying to keep the car in a straight line at speed. This was particularly noticeable on the front-wheel drive petrol car with 17-inch wheels Mazda engineers are aware of the problem and say they will be working to fix it before the CX-5 goes on sale.

The cars we drove were covered in a disguise that made it impossible to judge wind noise. However, the engines are generally smooth and quiet, while road noise is only an issue on rough surfaces.

Every CX-5 is fitted with an engine stop-start system that's fast acting and unobtrusive.