The Mazda CX-5 burst on to the scene in 2012, breathing fresh life into the Japanese brand’s range. It also debuted a new design language called ‘Kodo’, which has gone on to spawn a plethora of new models including the 3MX-5 and the CX-5’s baby brother – the new CX-3.

With its new metal grabbing the headlines, Mazda is keen for its trailblazer to still appear fresh, so it’s given the CX-5 a mid-life makeover, with a new look inside and out, and more standard equipment. This is our first chance to get behind the wheel of the refreshed SUV on UK roads.

Leading the changes is a revised front end, with Mazda’s trademark ‘shield’ grille getting a new five-bar design. It also features adaptive LED headlamps with distinctive half moon-shaped daytime running lights, as seen on the Mazda 2, plus LED foglamps and a set of 19-inch alloys. Curiously, apart from the grille, the other changes are reserved for range-topping Sport Nav models, which start at £25,395 for the two-wheel-drive 163bhp 2.0-litre petrol.

We drove the mid-spec SE-L, which, despite missing out on the bulk of the revisions, is still a good-looking car that shows the Kodo design language has aged well. And while only Sport Nav buyers will enjoy those snazzy LED headlights, all customers will get a revised cabin that benefits from better plastics and more equipment.

Undoubtedly, the most pleasing addition is Mazda’s Multimedia Commander, which boasts an Audi-like rotary dial between the front seats. It links up to a new infotainment system that features a seven-inch colour display which makes light work of switching between functions – it’s also a touchscreen – and comes with Bluetooth connectivity as standard.

It adds a much-needed bit of sparkle to the CX-5’s cabin as its functional but slightly dull design remains unchanged over the previous model.

While Mazda has only fiddled with the design, it has at least upgraded the materials. There is a smart set of dials, the orange-lit climate controls are replaced with a white hue and there’s a greater use of soft-touch plastics.

It’s good news, as while the CX-5’s cabin was always robust, it now has a higher-quality feel. The facelift has also brought in a whole host of new safety tech – Smart City Brake Support comes as standard, as do Emergency Stop Signalling and Hill Hold Assist.

The range-topping Sport Nav models can be specified with the Safety Pack, which for an additional £800 adds blind spot monitoring and high beam control.

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual. Under the bonnet of our test car was Mazda’s 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel, with a six-speed manual gearbox and two-wheel drive. This is expected to take the lion’s share of sales and buyers won’t be disappointed – it offers good performance while still returning 61.4mpg, and emits 119g/km of CO2, so road tax will cost £30 per year.

On the move, the CX-5’s balanced and taut handling remains. SE-L Nav’s standard 19-inch wheels result in a slightly unsettled ride, but noise insulation is good. Accurate steering and a slick six-speed manual box will delight drivers – and rear passengers won’t be complaining, either, as there’s loads of head and kneeroom. A 503-litre boot – around 100 litres more than in the Ford Kuga with the seats up – swells to 1,620 litres with the seats down, so the CX-5 remains a practical choice.

Prices across the board have risen by around £400, but with its extra kit the CX-5 is a very credible offering in the crowded small SUV market. It’s just a shame the wider cosmetic changes haven’t made it on to all models.

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