THERE'S a reason why you see quite a few of Mazda's CX-5 compact SUVs about – they are pretty damned good.

So a chance to try out the 2017 version was grabbed with sweaty mitts and I have to say that most of the good points are still there. It's practical, comfy and in certain configurations can fairly lift its new skirts up.

But, while it is being flagged up as all new, it's more evolution, rather than revolution. And that's no bad thing – you do not mess about with something that delivers almost a quarter of your annual sales worldwide as it does for Mazda. And, since its launch in 2012, it has sold more than 32,000 in the UK alone.

Some of the changes you can see, like a subtle changes to the profile, to a sharper look and the trademark Mazda 'shark's mouth' front grill. But mostly, the things that make the most difference are the things that you cannot see.

One area where the designers have worked hard on is reducing cabin noise and this works. It immediately gives you the sense that you are in a much more expensive car. Designers 1: Critics 0.

But there's also a much better interior and what you would expect to find in the premium models of the outgoing model, is now pretty well standard in the revised cabin thorughout the range. Things like reclining rear seats make things comfy in the back, a great thing for long journeys.

For those opting for the SportNav spec', there's handy little extras like a powered tailgate – an increasingly handy feature these days. This spec' also gets many extra toys for the driver's assistance, like a head-up display and added cruise control features.

It does, though, cost £3000 more than the next one down the food chain, the SE-L Nav.

Engine choice is either a 2-litre petrol of 163bhp or two versions of the excellent 2.2-litre diesel – one of 148bhp or the pick of the crop, one at 173bhp.

In fact, I'd say that the de-tuned diesel actually performs better than the petrol, even though it is down on power on paper at least. It's the torque that makes the difference and in the relatively big engine, it is effortless.

The lower powered diesel can come with either front or four-wheel-drive while the petrol is front-wheel-drive only.

The 'big' diesels are all 4 × 4s and they are pretty well matched up to the auto gearbox choice, though, of course, a manual is also available.

A chance of driving various models across some of the challenging roads that join Speyside to Aberdeenshire, fairly put the CX-5s through their paces and I have to say, the older I get the more I lean towards auto boxes, but Mazda's manuals are pretty sweet things.

The 'big' diesel, in particular, was great for some fun driving on the Old Military Road. As Bill McLaren would say: "It's no slouch across the paddock", with a 0-62mph time of in nine seconds dead.

But, if it is fuel economy rather than performance that you want, then the obvious choice is the 148bhp diesel manual which is rated at 56.5mpg.

Price rang from £23,695 to £33,195 and it has just gone on sale.


* All models have LED headlights, auto power-folding door mirrors, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio and a 7-inch colour touch-screen display, with integrated navigation.

* Sport Nav models get a reversing camera, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and keyless entry, plus heated front seats and steering wheel. A power lift tailgate and new head-up display are also included.

* New colours – the really nice soul red crystal metallic and machine grey metallic are two striking liveries.