One of the best compact crossovers just keeps getting better.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
I’ve been a fan of the CX-5 from the moment I laid my eyes on one, and even more so from the time I first drove one. They get almost everything right, and in a category as competitive as this one, that’s very important. It’s hard to buy a crappy compact crossover these days, so it’s gotta be very good to be competitive. And the CX-5 has always been very good, and keeps getting better.
Here I review the new top-line trim, which Mazda calls the Signature. It not only bumps up the spec level throughout the vehicle, but has something new lurking under the hood too.
The styling of the CX-5 has become pretty commonplace on our roads these days, but it’s just as pleasing to the eye today as when we first met it. I love the aggressive new front end with the gaping grille, flanked by LED headlights and driving lights and by LED foglights below. The tail lights are LEDs as well, and I love their distinctive signature in the dark.
The tidy proportions remain in place, with no weird frills and no useless openings or louvres. It’s a handsome ride, and the Signature’s 19-inch rims really complete the package.
The plentiful soft-touch materials are very nice. Combine that with the stitching on the dash and the beautiful real Abachi wood trim on the doors and dash, and you’ve got a cabin that’s a step above what you might expect in this class.
I loved the heated steering wheel – it feels great in hand – and the heated and ventilated front seats are upholstered in a gorgeous dark brown Nappa leather. They are very comfortable and supportive.
Mazda’s aging ICE system is featured on the 7-inch touchscreen jutting out of the dash, managing the great 10-speaker BOSE sound system, phone functions, vehicle settings and the integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system can also be controlled with the rotary HMI joystick on the console.
All the interior lighting in the Signature trim is LED. There’s a standard sunroof and a stylish frameless rearview mirror overhead and plenty of driver assistance technology. You get a back-up camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, pedestrian detection and smart city brake support, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, a heads-up display and lane-departure warning/lane-keep assist. There’s also a great 7″ digital gauge that you can manipulate to show different information.
Mazda got it right here. Rear passengers in the CX-5 are treated to comfortable, reclining seats with good head and legroom and the two outboard seats are heated. They also get adjustable air vents and a middle seatback that folds down to become an armrest – it has cupholders, a nice carpeted storage bin, two USB plugs and the seat heater switches.
If you’re transporting little ones, there are two sets of LATCH anchors for child seats.
The CX-5 offers enough little nooks and crannies around the cabin to put your stuff between bins at the front and back of the console, the glove compartment and the door bins.
Open the power liftgate and you’ll be greeted by a large, highly-usable 875L trunk. You can use the remote handles in the trunk to fold down the rear seats – they split 60/40 and fold totally flat – do that, and you get a large 1687L space.
Under the Hood
Here’s the big news. The top-trim Signature gets Mazda’s turbocharged 2.5L 4-cylinder, which bumps horsepower up to 250 (227 with lower octane fuel) and torque goes up to a stump-pulling 310 lb.ft. The 6-speed automatic transmission carries over and of course there’s the iACTIV all-wheel drive system.
All this additional power comes with a bump down in efficiency. Mazda rates this combination at 10.8/8.7 L/100 km (city/highway). We averaged 10.8 L/100 km which is on par with the ratings and an acceptable fuel economy to be sure. But it is notably lower than what we usually see in the non-turbo CX-5s we’ve reviewed.
We immediately took to the high driving position. It feels like you’re in a tall vehicle with an outstanding view of the road ahead.
If there was any part of the CX-5 that perhaps disappointed, and that’s not really the right word, it’s with the new engine. The numbers for this engine made me expect neck-snapping take-offs, yet it’s a bit soft off the line. I also felt this in the awesome Mazda6 equipped with the same engine. Somehow it doesn’t feel like I was accessing all that power off the line, even with the high-test fuel. That said, it has plenty of power and once you’re moving, there’s ample jam for highway passing, etc. and it sounds great when you rev it up. It just doesn’t pull like 310 lb. ft of torque should pull.
The transmission is still excellent for being in the right gear almost all the time, and Sport mode definitely makes the vehicle noticeably more responsive. If you’re into manual shifting, you can use the gear selector to do that. It would be nice to see another couple of gears added to the transmission – it feels a bit behind the times in that way.
The CX-5 ride is firm and sporty but still very comfortable and compliant and the payoff is the excellent handling. The CX-5 doesn’t just handle well, it’s genuinely fun to drive and mimics a car much more than most any other crossover does. It loves to play and that dual-character (combined with its highly comfortable ride and cockpit) makes it a winner in the driving experience department.
The all-wheel drive system is terrific, particularly combined with winter tires and the torque vectoring – the combination made for a very competent, confidence inspiring vehicle, even on the worst winter roads Edmonton had to offer.
We did occasionally feel a touch of coarseness through the drivetrain, but otherwise the CX-5 is an extremely smooth and quiet operator right up to and including highway speeds.
You can even tow up to 2,000 pounds if that’s your thing.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was high. She has always liked the styling and how easy it is to drive. She particularly enjoyed this high-end interior too.
The CX-5 is one of my most recommended vehicles. As a matter of fact, my parents have bought two of them on my recommendation. It remains an outstanding vehicle in every area. It looks fantastic. It drives beautifully. It’s efficient enough, and more so if you don’t opt for the top-trim turbo engine. It’s got a great space for rear passengers and plenty of space, flexibility and utility when it comes to the trunk.
I find the CX-5 hard to beat, and it will continue being one of my top recommendations.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mazda Canada.
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