IT'S quite a big engine for a small car and it packs a fair bit of oomph, but the 2.2-litre diesel fitted to the updated CX-5 middle-of-the-table SUV from Mazda also scores well on thriftiness.

Mazda's now well-established Skyactiv principles, which combine a whole lot of elements in a design philosophy which allows it to retain its well-proven engines and yet also attain sets of economy figures which its competition jealously eye up when downsizing their power plants to less effect, is the key to that.

A recent test of the CX-5 with that engine, rated at 173bhp, and the up-market SportNav spec', gives the impression that there could be a lot more to come out of that power plant without it actually screaming its head off or rattling the insides out. It'll do the 0-62 run in nine seconds and yet the quoted figure of mid-50s mpg is definitely achievable, as my few days with it confirmed.

Even when put under a bit of sustained pressure, the gauge never really dipped below the mid-40s mpg, which is entirely acceptable in a vehicle like this fitted with all-time-four-wheel-drive. And, it's a very nice vehicle to drive, coping with being pushed quite hard, even on the uneven road surfaces that leap up at you.

That was especially so on a regular wee jaunt of mine on the back road between Lockerbie and Carrutherstown. Anyone who travels that road will know how choppy that can be and yet the large 19-inch alloys, with proper tyres, on the CX-5 handled that with aplomb.

It is a constant annoyance to me to see SUVs increasingly being fitted with low profile tyres … in the words of a well-known Scottish comedy show: "Gonnae no' dae that!"

Mazda's build quality is pretty special and on this size of SUV, it's pretty difficult to name anyone that is better. It's also pretty practical, too, with quite a decent, fishing-gear-consuming 503-litre of luggage space, even with the rear load cover intact. Put the rear seats down and there's a hooruvva space to get stuff in ­and more than 1600-litres can be packed to the gunwales.

With a hefty price tag, the CX-5 as tested (£29,795) needs to be packed with goodies and, thankfully, it was. There's LED lighting; eight-way power adjustable heated seats, an upmarket nine-speaker Bose sound system and a pretty nifty touchscreen which, as the spec' name suggested, has a comprehensive and easy-to-use sat-nav system as standard.

An £800 option, what Mazda calls its 'Safety Pack' consists of some useful driving assists, such as adaptive lighting (ie, it sees around corners and automatically dips headlights for oncoming vehicles or hoosing schemes); the wee jangly bit on the steering that's called 'Lane Assist'; Smart City Brake Support and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, so that you don't hit pedestrians and also has the wee winking orange lights on the wing mirrors for 'blind spot' monitoring.

It's targeted at quite a competitive sector of the market, being up against the top-selling Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson/Kia Sportage, but it is well up to being competitive, if a little pricey, when set against them. However, if you are towing anything, then the superior back up from the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel makes this just about the most sensible from that pack.

The stats: Mazda CX-5 2.2-litre diesel SportNav

Cost: £29,795

Top speed: 129mph

0-62mph: 8.8 seconds

Thrift: 54.3mpg combined cycle

Emissions: 136g/km CO2

Towing capacity: 2000kg (braked)