In search of some peace, serenity and serious rest and relaxation, LLM motoring editor Lisa Curtiss planned a weekend escape the country in Mazda’s classy CX-5 SUV.
Thankfully finally free of UK Covid travel lockdown limitations, the quest was on for a family getaway, one not too far from home, but a welcome scenic change to enjoy the outdoors, connect with nature and relax. Fancying a change from hotels, and wanting a little more luxury than camping affords, we discovered a place called Luna Domes which looked ideal, so we booked dates, packed and readied the CX-5.
Nestled deep in the picturesque scenery of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Luna Domes offers short breaks for reflection, relaxation, creativity, connection or recreation. There are three domes available, each tucked away in stunning natural surroundings. Totally private, they allow for peaceful breaks for those of us wanting to get away from normal life and escape to nature any time of the year.
Visually – think a kind of miniature Eden Experience (or a kind of see-through igloo!) The domes’ interiors are gorgeous and have natural wood-burning fires, panoramic views and sumptuously soft furnishings. They manage to combine the best of luxury hotel accommodation with the nature-connection of camping, all with the home comforts you expect. We visited early Autumn but they are perfect for pretty much any time of year. Two of the domes even come with outdoor hot tubs you can enjoy whatever the weather.
The domes have a mini kitchen area, and large spacious decks with a gas barbecue and outdoor seating. You don’t need to bring loads of food as the excellent Falconhurst Farm Shop in Markbeech is just a few minutes away, offering special barbecue packs and all sorts of fruit, vegetables and other delicious items.
Once settled in at the Domes, if you can tear yourself away from the hot tub, a host of family friendly activities are close by. We thoroughly enjoyed paddleboard lessons, and a ‘Go Ape’ tree top adventure. Beautiful Hever Castle is just a short drive away, and one of the best examples of a moated castle in the UK – which also happens to be the childhood home of Henry VIII’s famous second wife, Anne Boleyn. Chiddingstone Castle is close by also and easy to cycle to.
If you’d rather just relax, this is the perfect place for sunrise yoga or forest bathing. An immersive form of Japanese meditation, it’s believed absorbing the forest through our five senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch provides the perfect antidote to the stresses of everyday life.
If you fancy dining out during your stay, there are several pubs and restaurants in close proximity, including The Little Brown Jug, the Rock Pub, and Fine Wheatsheaf all worth a visit. For finer dining, head to pretty Royal Tunbridge Wells where you’ll find the likes of The Ivy, Coco Retro, Thackeries and The Twenty Six.
Mazda’s CX-5 proved the perfect car for the trip. A spacious, stylish SUV that’s equally great to drive on winding country roads or motorways. It’s an engaging drive and super-comfortable for passengers too – plus the sizable boot can easily accommodate a family’s worth of cases, bags and fitness kit. It also happens to be one of the most attractive SUVs around – is very well built and hugely reliable.
Our model on test for the trip was the refined and spritely CX-5 2.5 194ps AWD GT Sport Auto – Mazda’s new flagship engine for the range. Having made its UK debut in the Mazda6 last year, this 194ps 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G engine joins the CX-5 range exclusively in GT Sport trim paired to an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive. The 0-62 sprint can be achieved in 9.2 secs, and the top speed is 121mph. We found the CX-5 to be super-refined – better than models twice the price. And there’s barely any road or wind noise.
As well as being more engaging to drive than most of its class rivals, the CX-5 is sure-footed too. The model benefits from Mazda’s acclaimed I-ACTIV AWD and G-Vectoring Control Plus, which provides increased traction and a reassuring sense of control. The system helps to maintain grip and steering accuracy by shifting vehicle weight upon turn entry and exit to achieve a smoother drive.
For its size, it’s pretty economical too. We averaged at 42mpg on this road trip to Kent. Fuel saving is possible through Mazda’s clever cylinder deactivation technology, which allows the engine cylinders to deactivate when they are not needed, while still ensuring a smooth ride.
All trims are very well equipped. A highlight is the excellent 10.25″ colour display and multimedia commander. This lets you tune into DAB radio, connect to mobile apps, or access text messages thanks to the latest generation Mazda Connect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latest MyMazda App enables remote door locking, a vehicle finder, the remote pre-programming of multiple navigation destinations, service booking request and security alert.
Another feature we particularly appreciated was the GT Sport spec’s front, side and rear cameras which made manoeuvring in and out of tight spaces a doddle.
In summary, The CX-5 is a super family SUV. It’s versatile, attractive, spacious and economical, plus you have the reassurance of Mazda’s legendary mechanical robustness and reliability, making it a smart choice and sound long term investment.