Good looks is a major reason why Mazda's CX-5 medium-sized SUV is selling so very well all over the world.
Yes, it is also selling well because it contains all of the marque's new-age SkyActiv technologies, but its body does have the distinctive Kodo (soul of motion) design cues that are progressively becoming a feature of all new Mazdas to enter international new vehicle markets.
The CX-5, this week named as the Autocar NZ Car of the Year, is selling extremely strongly in all markets, to the extent it has become the second best-selling Mazda behind the Mazda3.
That's a very good result for an SUV, and it underlines the fact that this Mazda is at the forefront of a big surge in demand for SUV-style vehicles.
And all this has obviously given the Mazda designers all the necessary reason to Kodo-ise the marque's other SUV, the larger CX-9.
This vehicle has been around for quite a while now. Launched internationally in 2008, it arrived in New Zealand about 19 months ago and sales are approaching 490 units which is slightly ahead of Mazda NZ projections.
That's been despite the fact that availability was at one stage severely curtailed by the effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. So, for a full-size SUV that has retailed for $60,000 or thereabouts, the sales have been pretty good.
But now the MNZ people reckon it will do even better, not only because supply is now assured, but because the CX-9 has just undergone a facelift which has seen improvements to its exterior looks.
The front grille now has Mazda's latest signature ''wing'', and the headlights now feature daytime running lamps with a halo effect. The rear combination lamps have been redesigned, the tailgate now power operated, and the vehicle's 20-inch alloy wheels now have a high lustre finish.
Interior has been restyled in the interests of a more premium feel, and an upgraded infotainment system features Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a 10-speaker audio system with steering wheel controls, satellite navigation, a colour touchscreen with reverse camera display, and various speech-recognition systems.
On top of all that, the facelifted CX-9 also gets a bunch of new safety technologies including a camera-based Forward Obstruction Warning that alerts the driver of any obstructions such as another vehicle up to 70m ahead, and a Lane Departure Warning that uses a camera to "see" lane markings and warns the driver of unintentional lane departure.
In addition the CX-9 boasts such features as High Beam Control which automatically switches between high beam and dip, and Blind Spot Monitoring which uses radar to monitor the approach of vehicles on either side of the vehicle.
At a recent media function in Auckland, Mazda NZ managing director Andrew Clearwater said all these features followed the Mazda philosophy of making drivers more aware of what was happening around them, rather than letting systems intervene or take control.
"Safety is one of the most important features in any of our cars. The advanced active safety technologies will join an already impressive range of safety features on the CX-9 to create one of the safest SUVs on the market."
No changes have been made the Mazda's dimensions or powertrain.
The vehicle continues to be powered by a 3.7-litre V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic, and it remains four-wheel drive. Overall the CX-9 continues to impress for its very refined and powerful drive, and for its excellent interior room for those seated in all three rows of seats.
However this also means that the CX-9's biggest bugbear - lack of rear cargo room with all three rows of seats in use - remains. Cargo room in that state is a small 267 litres which is about the equivalent of a small hatchback. It does increase to a much better 928 litres when the third row is folded down, however.
Quite obviously a brand-new CX-9 isn't too far away, and you can guarantee that it will feature all of Mazda's SkyActiv technologies that will combine to make the vehicle a beauty. But in the meantime this facelifted version is also appealing, and it should allow Mazda to continue to be strong player in the large SUV segment.
- Taranaki Daily News