The previous-generation CX-5 was one of the most engaging crossovers to drive in recent memory. Despite being practical and geared towards families, Mazda's C-segment crossover never strayed far away from the company's family DNA of making engaging and fun to drive daily drivers.

However, the first CX-5 was never the most commodious, nor the hest, choice in its class but it was forgivable because it was surprisingly fun to drive for a crossover. Now, Mazda aims to rectify the shortcomings of the old model with the all-new one, which they claim is 'more premium' than before. So, can the CX-5 retain the charming characteristics of the old one while inching upmarket? A test drive is in order.

2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

On looks along, the second-generation CX-5 makes a good first impression. Slim headlights, along with a larger, bolder grill makes it look more aggressive and sleeker than the previous iteration. It even has presence because of its wide-looking stance. Even if you cover up the badge, the design is definitively Mazda. A source of amusement for me however are its foglights. They're the smallest I've encountered which was surprising given how much light it could project.

The sides of the CX-5 look more sculpted rather than pressed with a character line that form the well-defined shoulder line and fenders. That theme also continues at the rear quarter panel and, just like in the front, it gives the car the impression of being wider than it really is. Also, the tradition of Mazdas having a kicked up rear window is also present here. As for the rear, it's a safe, evolutionary redesign that will be recognizable to past CX-5 owners. You could argue that they could have done more here but why mess with a proven look? Personally, I like it and while it may be evolutionary overall, it's a handsome looking crossover.

2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

Inside, it's a world apart from the old model. It's no longer a plasticky affair in there. There's now loads of soft-touch materials surrounding the cabin and it wouldn't look out of place in an executive sedan. The dash is a little less driver-oriented than before but it's still not bad. It even looks a bit European with that floating infotainment screen and the scroll wheel to control it. Speaking of which, I appreciated the duality of the screen as it can also be operated via touch. I do still prefer using the scroll wheel though. Other features include power seats for the driver and a sunroof to bring in more light into the cabin.

Improved is the interior space which now boasts more room than before. Sitting at the back, it felt like there was more leg, knee and shoulder room and placing three passengers there is a much more comfortable affair. While it's still not the most spacious, it's about on par with its contemporaries. Much appreciated is the addition of rear air-conditioning vents which helps cooling down the cabin on a hot summer's day. Lastly, it perhaps has one of the smartest parcel shelf designs I've seen. It moves with the tailgate so, when you open it, it's not in your way. While it's been a feature of the CX-5 since 2013, it's a smart piece of design that's still worth mentioning.

2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

This being the all-wheel drive model, power is provided by a 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G engine. Yes, it sounds like a carry-over but there is a slight power bump. Figures are at 190 PS and 251 Nm of torque, a very modest increase of 2 PS and 1 Nm. In an era of putting as much gears in a transmission, Mazda has stuck to six of them, which is still about right in today's standards.

If you've driven the older model, the new one offers slightly softer ride with less noise coming in through the interior. Mind you, it's still a touch on the firm side but it won't jar you off your seat. Speaking of seats, bolsters are spot on and the padding does a decent job of soaking up the bumps. On the daily drive, it's simple, straightforward with no fussy controls or annoying quirks. So it may not have the smoothest ride but the firm suspension does promise an engaging drive and, on that front, it still delivers.

2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

Yes, Mazda's crossover is still entertaining behind the wheel. Not as much as before but it's still a good steer. Handling is precise for a tall vehicle and still offers enough driver feedback when the going gets twisty. Yes, body roll is present but it is a crossover after all and it never did anything that would devoid the driver of their confidence. The G-Vectoring Control does a neat job of pulling you out of bends while the all-wheel drive system keeps things neat and tidy at the back. While it's not quite the warmed-up hatch on stilts that it once was (that title now belongs to the CX-3), it's good to know that Mazda's handling and driver feedback know-how is present in the bigger new car.

With much more ground clearance than the CX-3, you can take the CX-5 to dirt trails with that bit more confidence. There's not as much fear when venturing on the beaten path but do take note that this is still a crossover. A solo trek in Jungle Base isn't advisable. That said, handling on dirt roads was still surefooted.

Performance from the 2.5-liter engine can be best described as above average, brisker than some similarly-engined crossovers. Most of its pull can be found in the higher parts of the rev band but there's decent enough punch off the line. What was impressive is the transmission's eagerness to downshift when you need to overtake. It's quick to react and brings you right in the powerband when you need it the most. With most transmissions geared towards economy, this came as a surprise.

2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

Despite that, fuel economy doesn't take a big hit. In heavy traffic (19 km/h average speed), it showed 7.3 kilometers per liter on the on-board computer and, mind you, that was with the i-Stop (stop-start system) off. In similar levels of congestion, the figure moves up to 8.4 kilometers per liter with i-Stop switched back on. These are especially good figures when you take in to account that this is a 2.5-liter engine. Some 2.0-liter engines would struggle to do that in the same conditions.

At Php 1,950,000, the price tag is pretty steep but do note that it comes with a host of safety features. There's stability control standard, along with blind spot monitoring, a host of airbags and, one of the handiest devices featured on this car, rear cross traffic alert. Plus, navigation is standard, so is a heads-up display, front parking sensors, intelligent headlights that follow the angle of your steering wheel and brake hold function. A high price for a car but loaded to the brim.

Unlike the CX-3, the CX-5 presents a much more all-rounded package. The bigger size means it's more practical and it's also more refined. Not the most comfortable-riding one, yes, but it's better than the old model. The second-generation CX-5 has grown up but its maturity doesn't stop itself from offering some fun behind the wheel.