The Mazda CX-5 is one of the most significant and impressive launches at this year's comparatively busy LA show. Although it doesn't stand out as such in a sea of new SUVs and crossovers (CR-V, I-Pace, Countryman, Atlas, et al), it quietly impresses with its neat resolution and consistent design.
And wandering around the Mazda stand, you begin to wonder whether Mazda is joining a small group of what we could term ‘near premium’ brands — elevating itself beyond a mainstream morass perhaps embodied by the likes of Chevrolet across the hall, but not yet at the level of BMW, Audi and soforth.
How Mazda is doing this is worth dwelling on for a moment. It has a range of well-positioned products — particularly in the crossover domain — which people actually want. These hit the sweet spots of their sector, in most cases. Mazda also has a distinct, refined design language (Kodo), smartly evolving with CX-5 into a second generation.
The quiet, elegant displays at the back of the stand, talking about acceleration of light and a moment in time, with sculptures to embody each philosophy, shows a level of thought and attention to design typical of premium brands, too. You’ll note how Mazda is committed to a clay process, which shows with the surfacing of its cars — significantly better than on many here in LA.
The brand has a level of sporty, lithe, efficiency (embodied by the MX-5) and the design language carries through the range. The global ‘Zoom-zoom’ tagline also works in this regard, all of this applied consistently throughout the range. And while Mazda's infotainment interface and suite of tech is different to most mainstream brands', and quite distinct in approach, it is easy for the consumer to understand.
So what does Mazda need to do to ascend further? Better interiors with a higher level of perceived quality: the CX-5 is a step in the right direction here, but doesn’t get to German levels. More choice, and more distinct CMF would help, too — although Mazda is cleverly beginning to 'own' red as a colour with its signature Soul Red, taken to a new level with the crystal soul red used here on CX-5. And it would benefit from a signature brand halo car, as well.
Oh, and last point: the CX-5 should ride on something larger than the wheels used on the LA show stand car. When competitors are now fitting 20s in this sector, a CX-5 looking like it’s running on castors doesn’t help the premium cause...