THE SUV market is certainly booming all over the world and in South Africa, and customers are faced with many models to choose from with all the manufacturers having one or even two to three models on offer in this competitive market.Mazda last year launched its refreshed mid-size SUV, the CX-5 in South Africa. And with a range of models from R350 500 to R513 700 there is surely a CX-5 to suit many tastes and pockets. Mazda’s trump card is that even the cheapest model in the range boast quite a lot of luxury specs as standard and cannot be regarded as an entry level SUV at all.The model test driven for this week’s Express on Wheels was, however, the highest spec model in the range – the Mazda CX-5 2.2 DE Akera AWD – a diesel model with automatic transmission selling for R513 700. While this may seem pretty steep, it still offers good value for money, compared to some of its competitors. But I would however strongly suggest that prospective buyers do have a look at the entry models in this range with their pretty nifty high specs. Design The new look of the CX-5 is very attractive and will appeal to both female and male buyers – as it doesn’t have too much of a muscular look with its pretty curves in all the right places.On the Individual and Akera models, new-generation adaptive LED headlamps and gunmetal 19-inch alloy wheels are introduced and with its bold grille it exudes a premium look. Interior Inside the CX-5, one of the most noteable upgrades is the high-tech full-colour MZD Connect infotainment system. Satellite navigation is standard on the Individual and Akera models and optional on Active and Dynamic models. The touchscreen had me baffled at first, since it did not seem to work at times and the audio system could only be adjusted with the joystick or steering wheel controls. We soon realised that the touchscreen only works when the car is stationary – probably as a safety precaution. The interior is stylish and leaves one with a feeling of luxury and supreme comfort. For those who need to be connected at all times there are two USBs and an auxiliary jack in an open stowage space underneath the centre console. Another upgrade is an electronic parking brake which replaces the conventional handbrake.Other high spec features that are standard on the top of the range models are, amongst others, keyless entry, full leather and heated seats, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat, climate and cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, a self-dipping rear-view mirror, parking sensors and a reverse-view camera.Mazda has also introduced a new stop/start system as standard across the range, as well as the Smart Idle Stop System (SISS). According to Mazda, the stop/start system saves up to 10% on fuel consumption in heavy traffic and urban areas. Although I was very hesitant at first about using the stop/start system, it was so quick to respond and reliable that I soon got used to it.Driving my first car in my varsity days, a VW Jumbo Golf with a throttle, and many stalls at traffic intersections struggling to get my cold car started, with traffic backing up behind me, has made me rather averse to having the engine switch off when stopping.So, in the beginning I found myself holding my breath to see if the Mazda CX-5 would actually start again as quickly as I needed it to – and it did not disappoint. I also soon learnt that by simply lifting my foot slightly of the brake – just a little bit and just before I knew I would need to get going – the car started again. And you don’t have to worry about the vehicle rolling backwards with your foot not fully on the brake as there is no roll-back thanks to the Hill Launch Assist. A bit of technical info is that Mazda says the CX-5’s stop/start system is unique in that it doesn’t rely on the engine to restart via the same process as when you start the car up.SISS restarts the engine through combustion. Mazda’s system injects fuel directly into the cylinder while the engine is stopped and ignites it to generate downward piston force when you remove your foot from the brake.Its boot capacity of 403 litres is adequate for a family vehicle and there is good rear legroom. The fact that the rear backrest can split and be folded forward in a 40/20/40 configuration offers a lot of versatility as it not only allows for the loading of wide, bulky objects, but will allow two passengers to sit on either side of a long object. Driving I liked the performance of this car and the overall handling and agility. We took it out on the open road to Port Alfred for a day trip and the CX 5 offered a comfortable, surefooted ride, with plenty of power for overtaking. It’s also the perfect vehicle to drive with on Port Alfred’s shockingly bad roads.The steering wheel, apart from offering the convenience of controls for the audio system, also has a nice feel between the fingers.Only disappointment was the rather high fuel consumption of 9.3L per 100km (over a period of a week with both open road and town driving), which is rather thirsty for a diesel vehicle which was not even driven enthusiastically. Mazda, however, claims an average fuel consumption of 5.9 L/100 km. The 2.2-litre 4-cylinder SkyActiv-D engine is quite refined and not as hard on the ears as diesel engines are known to be. It produces 129 kW and 420 Nm (at 2 000 rpm) and is well-matched to the six-speed transmission, which changes very smoothly, even when putting one’s foot down to overtake on the open road.The model line-up features 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol engines, as well as two versions of the 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel engine. It offers both manual and automatic transmissions.A safety measure on the high spec Individual and Akera models includes Lane Keep Assist (LKA) which operates at speeds over 65km/h.It has six built-in SRS airbags, including front, side (front) and curtain (front and rear). Other safety features include Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) incorporating Traction Control System (TCS), ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA).