The CX-5 is quite a significant model for Mazda. When launched in 2012, this crossover was the first Mazda since the 1967 Cosmo Sport 110S that was built from a completely clean-slate blueprint. The design, engines, transmissions, chassis, and suspension were all new. Not a single component was carried over from a previous model or taken from the brand’s parts bin. It was also the first production model to feature the ‘Kodo — Soul of Motion’ styling language, first previewed by the 2010 Shinari concept and later the 2011 Minagi, as well as the first to get the brand’s Skyactiv technology. The reception it got from most markets was extraordinary, and clearly unexpected, as Mazda had to ramp up production from 160,000 a year to 300,000. It went on to become the brand’s second-fastest vehicle to reach the million unit mark, and today accounts for 25 per cent of all models sold by the carmaker.

It’s only fitting then, that the second-generation crossover is tasked with the responsibility to take the brand’s design and technology ethos forward. Launched in the Middle East at this week’s Dubai International Motor Show, the new CX-5 features the next iteration of ‘Kodo’ seen in the 2015 RX-Vision. Styling is evolutionary, but the changes have definitely contributed to making what was already a good looking crossover even better. The reworked fascia with a bolder grille that extends all the way to the headlights, along with wider tracks, lower ride height and a restyled rear  lend more character to the CX-5’s appearance.

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The cabin has also received a design upgrade. The ergonomics have been tweaked in way that makes it more ‘human-centred’. The floor console has been raised and the automatic shift knob has been positioned higher for better reach, and the angles of the A-pillars have been modified, which, along with the smaller new door mirrors and a lower beltline, improve overall visibility. While Mazda says the seats have been reworked for better support and comfort, I find myself shifting quite a bit trying to settle down into a comfortable position, especially on longer drives. When the seat is at the perfect height, I’ll have to lean to my right for my elbow to be at ease on the armrest. I also tried the rear seats, and legroom is at a premium for those with above average height. But things could be very different for someone of a different height and size. AC vents have been provided for rear passengers, who also get their own USB ports to charge devices. But what’s most striking is the cabin noise, or rather the lack of it. We found the CX-5’s interior to be noticeably quieter than most other models in this class. This substantiates Mazda’s claims that it has put in a lot of effort into improving cabin insulation and that it’s considerably easier for occupants to have conversations while the car is on the move.

Under the bonnet is a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, which makes 188bhp and 251Nm of torque. The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and sharp in its shifts, and is impressively responsive, downshifting at the lightest prod of the pedal. This is a positively massive difference to the buzzing CVTs in many of its comparably priced rivals. Driving dynamics have also been upgraded, with the new Skyactiv boasting 15 per cent more torsional rigidity than before, and the steering, suspension and brake systems also being given a once-over. Overall it feels more alive and eager to please than before, and handling is livelier and much better than the segment’s norm.

It’s only fitting then, that the second-generation crossover is tasked with the responsibility to take the brand’s design and technology ethos forward.

What’s always set Mazda apart from other non-premium Japanese carmakers is the amount of tech features that are packed into its models for a surprisingly affordable price. The new CX-5 isn’t any different, coming equipped with a host of features including a head-up display, a remote controlled power liftgate with user-defined height adjustment, Smart Brake Support, Driver Attention Alert, Smart City Brake Support, Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go function, Traffic Sign Recognition System, Blind Spot Monitoring, lane Keeping Assist and Lane Departure warning among others. It also promises to be one of the safest options in the family car market with a 5-star rating by Euro NCAP that gives it a 95 per cent rating for adult occupants, and 80 per cent for child occupants. However, speccing it up with all these features can bump the price up by a good Dh40,000 over the starting price of Dh84,900.

In a segment that is already crowded and growing faster than most other, the CX-5 has always stood out as a model that offers a great mix of driving pleasure, practicality, good looks and the latest technology. The latest model takes all this to the next level.