We’ve loved the Mazda CX-5 ever since it first went on sale back in 2012. The original was practical, great to drive and cheap to run – giving established crossovers like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V more than a run for their money.

Just over three years later, Mazda has been back to the drawing board and added a load more technology – plus a series of cosmetic tweaks – in an attempt to maintain strong sales and stay ahead of the competition.

Most noticeable are the new LED headlights and foglamps, latest five-bar grille and fresh 19-inch alloy wheels. However, for reasons unknown, Mazda is only offering these on top-spec Sport Nav models, with lesser SE-L models making do with the existing Kodo-inspired design. Mazda bosses confirmed there is no intention to offer these changes on entry-level models – even as optional extras.

Inside it’s a different story. All cars now come with passenger seat height adjustment, a space-saving electronic handbrake and Mazda’s new multimedia scroll wheel on the centre console – which allows easy navigation of the revised seven-inch touchscreen. You’ll also find two USB ports, a DAB radio and smartphone connectivity.

The changes inside make the CX-5 an even nicer place to be, with higher quality materials and classier dials behind the steering wheel. The new central screen fits more snugly into the dashboard, doing away with the crude switchgear and unsightly volume controls. The digital climate control display is now finished in white rather than orange, too, for a more upmarket feel.

Along with the range-wide updates, buyers of the Sport Nav can now spec a Safety Pack, which includes a variety of accident mitigation technologies and a pair of Mazda firsts. The smart city braking and adaptive cruise control have never featured on any Mazda before, while adaptive headlights, lane keep assist, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are all included as part of the pack.

On the move it drives much like the old car, though that’s no bad thing. It still leads the way for driving dynamics, with sharp steering, a direct gearshift and very little body roll. Our range-topping four-wheel drive model offered impressive grip on the twisty roads above Barcelona, while the sculpted seats offered decent support. Mazda has lightly revised the rear dampers for a more compliant ride, and it’s fair to say the improvements make it a comfortable long-distance cruiser.

Fuel economy and performance figures are good across the range thanks to the brand’s SkyActiv technology. This 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel will do 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds, yet can crack 54.3mpg with a light right foot. Realistically though, the lower-powered, front-wheel-drive 148bhp version will suit most buyers – still managing 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, yet returning 61.4mpg in mixed motoring. It’s around £2,200 less like-for-like, making it considerably cheaper to buy.

Elsewhere, the door mirrors have been redesigned for less wind noise, though visually you’d be hard pushed to notice. This – along with the new sound deadening fitted to the bonnet, doors, boot and floor and slightly thicker glass – accounts for a marked 1.2dB (13 per cent) improvement at higher speeds.

Prices have increased by between £400 and £700 across the board, with the priciest four-wheel-drive Sport Nav diesel auto now costing more than £30,000. As before, the Sport Nav trim is available with front-wheel drive on the 163bhp petrol and 148bhp diesel, or in top-spec 173bhp diesel 4x4 as driven here.

The price hikes shouldn’t put you off though. It still undercuts the equivalent Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX by more than £3,000 – and will return similar economy despite the larger and more flexible engine. It’s much better to drive, too, and should hold on to more of its value after three years.

It’s just a shame the cosmetic tweaks aren’t available on lesser CX-5s. While remarkably subtle, they do give the SUV a fresh face and added appeal in an increasingly competitive market. That said, it’s been one of our favourite crossovers since launch, and this midlife facelift has done nothing but reinforce that.

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