READIED for competition, the Mazda CX-5 is poised for battle.
With the recently released Toyota RAV4, new Subaru Forester, along with an updated Ford Kuga to come in April and the Nissan Juke later this year, the sports utility vehicle market is a thriving business.
SUVs are the fastest growing passenger vehicle segment in Australia, and manufacturers are desperate to get in on the action.
The Mazda CX-5 has been a runaway success since it went on sale one year ago, and the Japanese carmaker has bolstered the ranks with a 2.5-litre petrol, that sits alongside the existing 2.0-litre variant (which is now only available with front-wheel drive models) and the 2.2-litre diesel.
It's the same 2.5-litre petrol powerplant that is available in the Mazda6 sedan, and it's a cracker.
We sampled the new model through the Sunshine Coast hinterland where its punchy performance shone - even though the weather didn't.
Through deep puddles and water cascading over the road the CX-5 never put a foot wrong nor was there any loss of traction.
Without doubt, this new petrol derivative fills the void in the range.
Acceleration is smooth and responsive when promoted, working well with the six-speed automatic transmission. For those who love to drive there are no steering wheel paddle shifters, but you can knock the shifter across for manual style control.
Seldom do you feel the need to take care of things yourself, but sometimes it needs prodding up steep inclines.
The steering too is direct and sharp which generates plenty of confidence for the driver.
At metropolitan speeds the CX-5 is ultra-quiet. When cruising at under 80kmh the 2.5-litre is barely raising a sweat.
Mazda has also added a new range-topping variant, called the Akera. This was due to customer and dealer feedback, which is essentially has all the goodies as the previous Grand Touring, along with the tech pack.
Three new colours have been added across the range - grey, soul red and black.
Model: Mazda CX-5.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive compact sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 138kW @ 5700rpm and peak torque of 250Nm at 4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.4 litres/100km.
Towing capacity: 1800kg (braked).
Bottom line: Maxx $32,880, Maxx Sport $36,620, Grand Touring $43,780, Akera $45,770.
Mazda CX-5 range
Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6MT $27,880
Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT $29,880
Maxx 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT $32,880
Maxx Sport 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT $33,620
Maxx Sport 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT $36,620
Maxx Sport 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT $39,470
Grand Touring 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT $43,780
Grand Touring 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT $46,630
Akera 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT $45,770
Akera 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT $48,620