The latest iteration of the beloved CX-5 adds something new under the hood.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Anyone who has read my reviews or knows me is aware that Mazda’s CX-5 is one of my most recommended vehicles. It does so much so well, that it’s a no-brainer shopping-list contender for a lot of vehicle consumers. There’s a reason there are so many of them on the roads – they’re a great vehicle! Here’s the latest version – a Signature trim (that’s the top of the line) with a new diesel engine.
Pricing: 2019 Mazda CX-5
Base price (Signature Diesel trim): $45,950
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $47,495
Yeah, I thought I’d just get that out of the way. Yes, the diesel engine adds exactly $5,000 to the bottom line. The Signature trim of the CX-5 isn’t cheap, but unfortunately this diesel iteration lands the CX-5 in ridiculous pricing territory – you’re just a hair shy of $50K after GST and that’s before any additional taxes. Yikes. But let’s see what’s good here and then we’ll get back to that pricing.
I love the CX-5’s looks. It’s sporty, aggressive, refined and downright handsome. LED lighting is everywhere – the headlights, the driving lights, the fog lights and the tail lights. The short overhangs look fantastic and so do the 19-inch rims. It’s simply a great-looking ride and will age very well.
Visually, only an eagle-eyed Mazda fan will be able to tell the diesel models apart. It gets a SKYACTIV-D badge and has a single exhaust tip versus the gas models’ dual exhaust. That’s all that sets them apart.
Same goes for the interior. There are no weird frills that you don’t need. Just a nice clean styling exercise, with some really great materials. The two-tone cabin (there’s black and then the seats and armrests are a dark brown) is a looker, with stitched panels and real wood trim. Interior lighting is LED.
The heated and ventilated seats are very comfortable and supportive, and Mazda covers them with top-grade Nappa leather.
The touchscreen interface is definitely starting to age a bit – you can also control it with the rotary HMI knob on the console. I really enjoyed the 10-speaker BOSE audio system, and there is a dual-zone automatic climate control. A standard-sized sunroof is overhead – I’d love to see a bigger panoramic one here.
Driver assistance technology is in full force here – you get blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-view camera, smart city brake support, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist and automatic high beams.
The rear seats recline and provide a good amount of head and leg room to passengers – and they’re really comfortable.
All the goodies are hidden in the armrest that folds down from the middle backrest. There are dual cupholders, a carpeted storage bin with a lid and two USB plugs as well as the seat heater switches for the two outboard seats.
I enjoyed the number of little places around the interior to put my stuff.
The trunk is accessed by power liftgate and is very sizable for a vehicle in this class – 875L of cargo space await you behind the second row. You can grow that to 1687L if you fold the rear seats down.
Under the Hood
Here’s the big news – it’s a long-awaited 2.2L turbo diesel 4-cylinder that puts out a somewhat paltry 168 horsepower at 4,000 RPM. The diesel secret, as always, is the torque – and you’ll get 290 lb.ft of it at 2,000 RPM. Mazda is still sticking with the 6-speed automatic, which is down a few gears compared to some of the competition, and of course the top trim is all-wheel drive.
The diesel CX-5 is rated at 8.9/7.9 L/100 km (city/highway) and we averaged 8.3 L/100 km during our week in it, while trying to drive somewhat economically.
Around town and in typical driving situations, particularly off the line, the diesel powertrain is very torquey and downright fun to drive. However trying to dip into the power at higher speeds (including freeway speeds around 70-80 km/h) is a task. I would say the diesel is downright sluggish at those speeds, and passing on the highway is not a lot of fun. When it kicks the transmission down, it feels like hybrid-like acceleration at higher speeds. It’s noisy and disappointingly slow.
One change from the gas-powered CX-5s is that there is no drive mode selector, which means Mazda has omitted the Sport mode from the diesel model. The transmission is wonderful – it’s fast, smooth and intelligent.
The diesel engine did throw me a bit of a curveball in terms of noise. As in it’s surprisingly noisy. There is a pronounced clatter on the outside and several people pointed out that they knew right away that it was diesel. It also ramps up the noise levels inside during acceleration. There’s no problem during normal driving or on the highway, but when you step on the gas to get going or to pass, it makes a lot of noise.
One of the CX-5’s trump cards has always been its suspension. Somehow it comes up with a delightful balance between comfort and handling, and that remains the same. It’s a nice firm but comfy ride, and it is always happy to play when you start throwing it into curves and corners.
If you do some towing, the diesel can actually lug 3,500 pounds around, which is quite impressive in this vehicle class. And it’s way up on the 2,000 pound capacity of the gasoline-powered CX-5s.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) is always high with the CX-5. She enjoyed this one too, commenting on the ease of driving and the luxurious interior.
Yes, I still love this thing. I really wanted to love the diesel powertrain, and much of it is great. But the relative lack of power once you’re on the go and the $5,000 price tag difference make it a non-starter for me. Sorry Mazda, but I think you priced yourself out of the market with this diesel Signature trim. That makes me really sad because I love diesels and there’s lots to love here – but other than towing, I can’t imagine a good reason for spending an additional $5K over the gas-powered Signature CX-5. Sure, you will get better fuel economy, but diesel costs about 20 cents/litre more than gasoline, and it would take you a very, very long time to make up the $5,000 price difference in fuel savings. Stick with the non-turbo GT trim or the turbo Signature trim and you won’t be disappointed. Those two are simply wonderful and near-perfect versions of the CX-5. Or cross your fingers that Mazda sees the light and drops the diesel option’s pricing by a few thousand dollars.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mazda Canada.
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