When we tested the CX-5 in 2012, much of the praise was heaped on the then new 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine – and rightly so.

The unit, lusty and likeable, was at the forefront of the industry’s wider overhaul of the modestly sized oil-burner and its fitment ensured that the model’s performance and efficiency were among its most lauded features.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Traditional front-drive SUV limitations are confirmed in the first hairpin by an elevated left thigh and a right elbow lodged in the door card

Its carry-over into the new model, virtually unchanged, is consequently a cause for celebration – and mild censure.

The gentle admonishment is necessary not because the four-cylinder unit has suddenly turned bad, but rather because it has not got markedly better.

We posted 9.4sec to 60mph and 53.9mpg on a touring run against a 43.3mpg average – virtually the same scores as five years ago and undeniably commendable even now. But standing still in a congested and closely contested segment is virtually the same as taking a step back, not least because it gives current CX-5 owners less of a reason to upgrade.

Where Mazda has endeavoured to invest in the engine is rather a case in point. Efforts to make the car more refined are naturally welcome, yet the manufacturer has only really succeeded in hauling its previously gruff oil-burner up to a level we’d call satisfactory. It’s quieter, then, but manifestly still present at all times.

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Even the quixotic six-speed manual ’box, a manly nub of short-throw notchiness, and robust clutch pedal risk seeming anachronistic. The oily sensation of heavy moving parts is naturally a tick in our book.

Whether it would be in the hands of someone merely trying to change gear with a minimum amount of fuss is another question.

None of this dismantles the motor’s broad-batted appeal or its effectiveness, yet it’s instructive that the more powerful, more expensive version we previously considered superfluous now feels like it may be the range’s sweet spot.

Blame that on the continuing advancements made beyond Mazda’s door. 

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