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IF YOU WANT a mid-sized SUV you’re spoilt for choice at the moment. The Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque have been launched in the last few months, and BMW has just revised the X1. Now you can add the Mazda CX-5 to the list.


I’ve spent today driving the CX-5 up in Scotland, and with a couple of reservations I’m very impressed.


Buyers can choose between a 163bhp petrol and 148bhp and 173bhp diesels, available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive. I started out from Inverness this morning in the 148bhp 2WD diesel.


Despite being the less powerful version, there’s no shortage of performance. Mazda’s marketing department is using the line ‘The family SUV that drives like a sports car’, and that’s only a slight exaggeration. With 280lb.ft of torque the CX-5 overtakes swiftly and confidently.


This afternoon I took a turn in the 163bhp petrol. Mazda doesn’t expect many buyers to go for petrol power, and the shortfall in mid-range punch is immediately obvious. And of course, you’ll get through a tank of fuel at a faster rate if you fill up at the green pump. That said, once the engine wakes up it moves the CX-5 along quickly enough.


Whatever engine is under the bonnet, the handling largely lives up to the marketing hype. The steering is well weighted and responsive, there’s plenty of grip, and the suspension keeps body movements firmly under control. Today’s test route was full of dips and crests and the CX-5 has been unfazed.


However, that firm control means the ride is a tad too stiff around town. Wind and road noise are also letdowns. The CX-5 is noisier at speed than an Audi Q3 or Volkswagen Tiguan.


Don’t get the impression that the CX-5 is great to drive on a favourite road but otherwise disappointing. There’s lots more to praise. The cabin is roomy, the boot is bigger than many rivals’, and official economy and emissions figures are excellent. The 148bhp 2WD manual achieves 61.4mpg on the combined cycle and emits just 119g/km of CO2.


Low weight helps delivers such strong economy. The petrol has a modest 1425kg kerbweight, giving a lowly 85% match figure of 1211kg. That rises to 1620kg for the high-powered diesel 4×4 auto, with an 85% match figure of 1377kg.


I’ll be driving the 173bhp AWD car tomorrow, although I’ve already tested this version for the Towcar Awards 2012. If it’s as good as I remember it should be the pick of the range for caravanners.


CX-5 prices start from a competitive £21,395.