IMG_0086 Comparatively, between the CKD Mazda CX-5 and the fully-imported or CBU CX-5; only these items are not included: a sunroof and 11-speaker Bose sound system (the locally-assembled CX-5 gets 6 speakers which is not too shabby). In addition to the omissions, Mazda Malaysia has decided to offer a no-frills version of the CX-5 for the budget-conscious; this version is more reasonable but misses out on Bi-Xenon headlights, Daytime Running Lights (DRL), Headlamp washers, GPS, Power seats, Smart Keyless Entry, Front & Rear Parking sensors and leather seats.

When it comes to Mazda, a few superlatives come immediately to mind; gorgeous design, superb handling prowess, high quality ride and motoring refinement. Being not amongst the ‘Big’ three Japanese manufacturers has taught Mazda engineers to work that bit harder and go the extra mile when it comes to developing a new product. The Zoom-zoom revolution started with the first Mazda 6 (or Atenza in some regions) back in 2002. In 2010, the design language changed to KODO: Soul of Motion, with the first Concept car – the Mazda Shinari. From 2012, the design philosophy is applied to the production variants, most evidently in the first two KODO-themed variants: the CX-5 compact SUV and new Mazda 6. Both variants have been introduced in the country by Bermaz Motor, domestic distributors of Mazda vehicles.

Mazda CX-5, CKD, Penang Drive & Inokom plant tour_7

Although neither the CX-5 nor Mazda6 is able to take the design crown from the Shinari Concept, the underlying overtones are intact, giving hope to wannabe supercar owners wanting more than your standard run-of-the-mill family car. Enter the CX-5, Mazda’s first production vehicle that bears the KODO: Soul of Motion design element. Positioned as a compact/crossover SUV, the CX-5 is tasked to take on firm favorites in the domestic market, namely the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Nissan X-Trail, among others. In terms of design, quality and ride dynamics, the writer feels that the CX-5 should rightly also contest against more accomplished rivals like the Nissan Murano and Toyota Harrier, to name a few. Alas, in Malaysia at least, vehicles are more often than not pitted against each other within the same price bracket, which isn’t a bad thing if you look at it from another perspective.

Mazda CX-5, CKD, dashboard overview

The objective of this review however, is not targeted at comparing makes, but rather provide an overall impression on the locally-assembled or CKD (Completely-Knock Down) Mazda CX-5. Comparatively, between the CKD Mazda CX-5 and the fully-imported or CBU CX-5; only these items are not included: a sunroof and 11-speaker Bose sound system (the locally-assembled CX-5 gets 6 speakers which is not too shabby). In addition to the omissions, Mazda Malaysia has decided to offer a no-frills version of the CX-5 for the budget-conscious; this version is more reasonable but misses out on Bi-Xenon headlights, Daytime Running Lights (DRL), Headlamp washers, GPS, Power seats, Smart Keyless Entry, Front & Rear Parking sensors and leather seats. For a lot of older folks and for those who do not acknowledge nor need the advantages of a factory-fitted Bi-Xenon system, the very attractive base price of the no-frills Mid-Spec CX-5 makes the decision a no-brainer. In total, there are three variants of locally-assembled CX-5; Mid-spec 2WD, High-spec 2WD and High-spec 4WD.

Mazda CX-5, CKD, engine bay

All three variants of the CX-5 is instilled the similar SKYACTIV-G 2.0 powerplant, that’s mated to a SKYACTIV-Drive 6AT (6-speed automatic transmission with torque converter). Bermaz Motor’s Managing Director Dato’ Ben Yeoh has said that the company is considering a locally-assembled 2.5-liter CX-5 sometime in the future. If it materializes, it’d be a good thing. Our writer believes the SKYACTIV-G 2.0 engine could leave some petrolheads a little wanting in the power department, especially with a full load on board. Then again, this SUV was never intended for true petrolheads anyway. However, the CX-5 with the 2.0l powerplant has a published combined fuel economy figure of 7.3l/100km, which is uncommon in the 2.0l SUV without hybrid technology, so you can say that SKYACTIV manages to combine the best of both worlds without incurring the high cost of battery replacement.

Mazda CX-5, CKD, Penang Drive & Inokom plant tour_2

On the road, journos had the opportunity to drive the CX-5 as well as being in the front and rear passenger seats throughout the 6-hr long journey up north to the Hard Rock Hotel, Penang. Our writer’s first gig on a media test drive trip entailed plenty of pleasant personal memories, having previously tested cars at showrooms only. The writer was generally impressed by the levels of refinement and comfort inside the CX-5. The writer also had the opportunity to visit the Inokom plant in Kulim, where the CX-5 is built. He believes that refinements in the assembly process and the way components are designed play a big role in ensuring a tight fit.

Mazda CX-5, CKD, Penang drive & Inokom plant tour_3

Inokom’s current operations have made use of 90 acres, with much more room for future expansion. At the plant, the invited media were given a tour of the assembly operations for the CX-5, from the unpacking of the CKD packs right up to final assembly and inspection. At the moment, the entire portion allocated to Mazda has been jigged to assemble the CX-5 in full force to meet the production target of 3,000 cars per annum. A new line is being built within the Inokom compound which will enable further streamlining of Mazda’s CKD efforts. Bermaz and Mazda Japan will fork out RM100m to build and equip the new 11,700 sqm Mazda A6 Assembly Line which is expected to be fully operational by October 2013, a mere 5 months since work started in early June 2013. Further, Mazda Japan had initially stationed many of their top engineers in the plant to oversee the setup of the entire process from start to finish before giving the green light for the assembly to begin. Periodic audits will be conducted by Japan to ensure continued adherence to strict quality controls. All of these efforts have surely paid off, as evident from the high build quality in the CKD test units. Mazda is a beacon in the automotive industry, proving that if you design and build cars with passion and detail, it will show in your end product, regardless of where it is assembled. In addition to Mazda, the Inokom plant assembles renowned auto brands, ranging from BMWs to Hyundais.

The writer had a mixed impression about the car’s engine noise, as it does tend to get a little loud as we tried to keep up with the leaders of the convoy. He reckoned: SKYACTIV-G engines have this Jekyll and Hyde persona about them; lazy, soft and refined like a V-configured engine at low speeds, but an absolute loudmouth when asked to unleash all of its 155hp @ 6,000 rpm. The 6-speed automatic transmission is no help either; being tuned almost exclusively for fuel economy, it will seek out the highest gear possible in any situation, dropping two cogs when even half-throttled. This results in more than a thousand revolutions increase in engine speed, and the rest is history. However, all this powertrain opinions managed to keep consumption to a very respectable 12l/100km, considering the amount of hard driving and redlining it received. The very well insulated cabin manages to keep wind noise and tyre rumble to a minimum, which also adds to us being able to hear the engine better.

Mazda CX-5, CKD, Penang Drive & Inokom plant tour_6

At speed, the CX-5 displayed the kind of dignity and surefootedness commonplace among high end SUVs, and the writer daresay even better than a very popular Japanese SUV that bears the name of a predatory bird. On straights, thanks to a well-screwed chassis and higher ride height, the CX-5 will put selected sedans and SUVs to shame. It seriously feels planted to the ground, but it doesn’t exhibit the kind of jarring ride evident on most Continental makes. On long bends and tight corners, the capabilities of the SKYACTIV-BODY and SKYACTIV-CHASSIS were allowed to shine through. Usually, a tall ride height seems more stable on straights but iffy around corners, but not so with the CX-5. In a bid to catch up with the convoy after having been bogged down by a few commercial vehicles, The writer let her rip through a few windy B-roads, taking sweeping bends at up to 140km/h. He felt that the chassis could take more, but he didn’t want  to overdo due a slightly underpowered engine and a 3-pax load.

Mazda CX-5, CKD, Penang Drive & Inokom plant tour_3

The CKD Mazda CX-5 has been VERY competitively priced, starting from as low as RM140,219.20 for the 2WD Mid-spec to RM145,219.20 for the 2WD High-spec, while the top of the line 4WD High-spec model can be had for RM155,219.20. These are only estimated prices without insurance, the official prices will be revealed very soon. Take your pick from 4 colors; Sky Blue Mica, Meteor Grey Mica, Crystal White Pearl Mica and Aluminium Metallic.

By Greg Yang, Edited Motorsportchannel.com

Assorted Mazda CX-5 CKD images

Mazda CX-5, CKD, Penang Drive & Inokom plant tour_4

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