The Mazda CX-5 is arguably the best of the Japanese crossovers.
The Mazda CX-5 is arguably the best of the Japanese crossovers .
Mazda has seriously upped its game in recent years, with a very prominent example of this being the Mazda CX-5. Not only is it one of the best cars that Mazda currently makes, but we’d also argue the CX-5 is one of the better crossovers you can buy right now. A lot of that is because the Mazda CX-5 offers a really compelling overall package. Though we’ll let you make your mind up about the striking looks, there’s no denying the Mazda CX-5 is well built, is very reasonably priced, is available with lots of interesting features and is very spacious by segment standards. Overall, we reckon the Mazda CX-5 is certainly something worth taking a closer look at, and especially if you’re after a new mid-sized crossover that’s a little bit off-field to the more sensible offerings that are available in this class.
The CX-5 is a properly competitive car in this hotly contested segment.
The interior of the Mazda CX-5 is probably where you’ll notice most of the aforementioned improvements that Mazda has made as of late. Compared to previous Mazda SUVs, the CX-5 is a properly competitive car in this hotly contested segment, thanks in part to the use of higher-quality materials on the main contact patches and most of the higher-up trim pieces, along with the excellent and easy-to-use control layout – with the responsive seven-inch infotainment display that’s available on all models apart from those with the 2.0-liter engine being one of the better systems in this class. Practicality levels are also pretty good, with the trunk space being particularly noteworthy huge. Though the 14 cubic feet that’s available with the rear seats in place isn’t amazing by class standards, stowing away the split-folding seat backs increases the load bay to a far more usable and competitive capacity of 57.8 cubic feet. Better still, the trunk opening is quite broad and there’s not too much of a load lip to contend with, so loading larger and more cumbersome items shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Tthe front seats are nicely supportive, have lots of height adjustment .
The Mazda CX-5 fares well when it comes to seating capacity and comfort, too – albeit not quite as impressively as the trunk capacity. For instance, whilst the front seats are nicely supportive, have lots of height adjustment and are very comfortable to sit in over longer journeys, the protruding seat bolsters that hug your body tight can make ingress and egress a bit awkward. Likewise, though the two outer rear seats are spacious enough to accommodate adults in relative comfort, the middle seat is surprisingly narrow for a car of this size, meaning shoulder room for three passengers in the back isn’t particularly impressive.
The Mazda CX-5 is a vehicle that you can place with relative confidence on the road.
On top of those interior upgrades, Mazda has also been working hard to ensure its cars are enjoyable to drive, and the Mazda CX-5 is no exception to that trend. In fact, if you’re particularly fussed about having fun behind the wheel of your mid-sized SUV, the Mazda CX-5 should be right at the top of your shopping list. Thanks to light, responsive steering, the good overall visibility and the raised driving position that crossovers typically feature, the Mazda CX-5 is a vehicle that you can place with relative confidence on the road, with the slightly restricted rear window size being alleviated somewhat by the reversing camera that comes as standard on all variants bar those with the 2.0-liter engine Factor in those attributes with the good grip levels and controlled body lean when cornering, and the Mazda CX-5 ends up being a vehicle that’s rather enjoyable to drive, and is surprisingly able to hold onto a line when cornering when you consider the height of the vehicle.
The Mazda CX-5 is available in either front-wheel drive or an optional all-wheel drive system.
What impresses us the most about the Mazda CX-5, though, is how pleasant it is to drive on more open stretches of road. The ride, whilst perhaps a little on the firm side for this class (rivals like the Chevrolet Equinox will be more to your liking if you’re after the most comfortable car in this class), does still do a good job at isolating the driver and passengers from more serious jolts and imperfections in the road surface. Better still, the sound deadening and noise insulation levels are especially impressive, with overall wind noise and tire roar being particularly well suppressed for a car at this price point. The Mazda CX-5 is available in either front-wheel drive or an optional all-wheel drive system, and there isn’t really much difference between the ways in which the car drives with each setup. As a result, since the front-wheel drive versions are more affordable to buy and marginally more efficient than all-wheel drive models, we’d advise you to stick with the front-wheel drive setup unless you really need the extra traction benefits that come with specifying all-wheel drive.
Perhaps the 2.0-liter’s biggest ace up its sleeve, though, is the fuel economy.
Though Mazda offers two engines in the CX-5 range, it’s incredibly likely that a majority of buyers will end up with the larger of the two units on offer. Not necessarily because the smaller engine is bad, per se, but rather due to the fact it’s only available in the most basic Mazda CX-5 variant you can buy. If you can stomach the sparse-in-comparison-with-other-trims specification levels, though, then this particular 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is one with appeal. Whilst not particularly potent at 155-hp (meaning overtaking moves at highway speeds can take a brief moment to pull off), it is fairly smooth and refined, and the modestly good torque output of 150 lb-ft means pulling away from a standstill shouldn’t be an issue. Perhaps the 2.0-liter’s biggest ace up its sleeve, though, is the fuel economy. With claims of 26mpg in the city and 35mpg on the highway, the Mazda CX-5 with this engine is amongst the most efficient cars in this class. If you’re fine with having a front-wheel-drive-only Mazda CX-5 that can only be fitted with one transmission (an admittedly very good six-speed manual), then the 2.0-liter engine will certainly have appeal.
The six-speed automatic transmission that’s exclusive to the 2.5-liter is a very fine partner to the engine.
Those after an automatic transmission, more power, the option to upgrade to all-wheel drive or access to higher trim levels, though, will find themselves with a larger 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine under the hood of their Mazda CX-5. Whilst we wouldn’t say the power increases are game changing (the 184-hp and 185 lb-ft are actually quite a bit down on what comparable engines in rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan can generate), they do endow the Mazda CX-5 with a noticeable increase in pace – even though the delivery of the power and torque higher up in the rev band means you do need to work the engine a bit when building up speed. Plus, with claims of 24/26mpg city and 30/33mpg highway for front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions respectively, the Mazda CX-5 with this engine is still fairly frugal. At least the six-speed automatic transmission that’s exclusive to the 2.5-liter is a very fine partner to the engine. For instance, the smooth and quick gear changes ensure progress when accelerating isn’t stunted, and the transmission does an impressive job of selecting the right gear for the situation at hand. It’s also a particularly advanced piece of kit, with a particular highlight being a rev matching system that’s used to smooth out downshifts.
Even base ‘Sport’ Mazda CX-5s come with cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, keyless entry.
The crossover market offers many choices for potential buyers, and most play in a similar price bracket, but spec for spec and option for option, the Mazda CX-5 looks to be a bargain in comparison. The base model CX-5 in ‘Sport’ spec starts off with at $23,595, the Touring and Grand Touring models being sold from $25,215 and $28,750 respectively (adding all-wheel drive increases those prices by another $1,000). That bargain status is further enhanced by the standard equipment levels. Even base ‘Sport’ Mazda CX-5s come with cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, keyless entry. However, be warned that there aren’t any options on ‘Sport’ spec cars with the 2.0-liter engine – so those looking for standard-fit items like a reversing camera, HD radio and a more advanced infotainment system will need to consider Mazda CX-5s with the 2.5-liter engine. It’s the ‘Touring’ spec, though, that we feel represents the sweet spot in the Mazda CX-5 range. On top of features in the entry-level trim, Mazda CX-5’s in this specification come with built-in navigation, heated front seats, a more versatile 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat arrangement that replaces the 60:40 setup on ‘Sport’ cars and safety gear like a blind spot monitoring system.
So it makes sense for potential buyers to take a very close look at the Mazda CX-5 range.
Unless you really need the dual-zone climate control and leather seats that are found in the ‘Grand Touring’ trim, we feel you should stick with ‘Touring’, as it has all the gear you’ll need on a day-to-day basis. If you’d like more items, though, then there are two packages to choose from: a $1,275 Touring Technology bundle (rain-sensing windshields wipers, emergency autonomous braking at speeds under 31mph, front and rear LED lights) and a self-explanatory $1,130 Moonroof/Bose Package. Premium competitors can include the likes of BMW’s X3, the Audi Q5 and Cadillac XT5, but you can also add the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 to the competitor list for a real world comparison. The German offerings are market leaders and do offer some tech and driver aids that Mazda doesn’t, but even at the lowest spec with most of the things missing you’ll be spending a heck of a lot more money for not a heck of a lot more car. Also, though some mainstream rivals do match the Mazda CX-5 price-wise at face value (for instance, Toyota RAV4 with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 176 horsepower is available from $24,910 to $34,750.), they don’t all have the same amount of features, so it makes sense for potential buyers to take a very close look at the Mazda CX-5 range.
Besides the obvious financial bargains to be had with the Mazda CX-5 range, the features and the drive are great, much better than what the price tag lets on. The Mazda may not have the same street cred as the current leaders in the mid-sized SUV market, but the CX-5 certainly regains some of that lost ground by being fairly practical, impressively refined, well built, fairly efficient and offering more bang for your buck that quite a few of its competitors. Put simply, if you’re after a crossover of this size, the Mazda CX-5 should be a car that’s very high up on your shopping list.