Compact SUVs are more popular than the latest smartphone or blockbuster movie. They sell by the millions year after year. Why? Because they’re practical, high riding, and efficient. Mazda has their own called the CX-5 but they’re trying to stand out from the rest by being more sporty. In 2017 the Mazda CX-5 received a major update to the exterior and interior but not so much the powertrain. For 2019, the biggest change is the powertrain.
Engine – In the past the only engine available was the 2.5L naturally aspirated inline-4 developing 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. While it’s still available for 2019 on the GX, GS, and GT trims, the 2.5L T that was once exclusively in the Mazda CX-9, has now found its way into the CX-5. Available on the GT (as an option) and Signature trims, it develops 227 hp on 87 octane and 250 hp on 91 octane fuel. Regardless though of which fuel you decide to use, 310 lb-ft of torque will be produced with either. This more powerful engine makes the CX-5 feel more alive and as though it has a sense of urgency. The base engine doesn’t have the punch that one would expect from a sporty SUV but this turbocharged 2.5L gives you a good kick. So much so that in certain conditions when accelerating hard out of a corner, you can feel a bit of torque steer; as in torque from the engine pulling on the steering wheel a bit.
But even with all this added power, fuel economy is reasonable. During my week test with the Mazda CX-5, I averaged 11.2 L/100km (21 mpg) with a mostly city drive cycle. Not too bad for a turbocharged, AWD SUV.
Transmission – While most other auto manufacturers have equipped their compact SUVs with 8 or 9 speed transmissions, Mazda has stuck with the Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission. Yes on a highway the engine rpms are a little bit higher than they would be with more gears, but as mentioned earlier, fuel economy is still reasonable. Whatsmore, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this transmission is a dual-clutch rather than a traditional automatic. Upshifts are very quick and downshifts, while not as quick, are still fast and sharp.
Braking – The brakes on the CX-5 are very good. Brake modulation is easy and a firm pedal provides good feedback. Smart City Brake Support (emergency automatic braking) is standard on the Mazda CX-5 across all trim levels.
Handling – The way the Mazda CX-5 goes around corners is what gives it its sporty credentials. Sharp and communicative steering provides feedback that you’d find a proper sports car let alone a midsize SUV. Because of this, the SUV gives you the confidence to drive it around corners at higher speeds than other SUVs. However the heavier steering does not go light enough at parking lot speeds which may make it a bit tiring maneuvering the CX-5 in a tight spot. It’s not awful but more steering assist could be useful.
Ride Comfort – Although it is aimed at being a sporty SUV, the ride comfort is not sacrificed too much. It does have a firmer ride than other SUVs like the Honda CR-V but it is comfortable enough to live with on a day to day basis.
Interior Space – Although the Mazda CX-5 is considered a midsize SUV, it is smaller than the competition. Front occupants have plenty of room but rear occupants could do with more leg room. The trunk is equally small when compared to something like the Honda CR-V or Toyota Rav4 and the trunk floor is a bit higher than the two as well. The Mazda does have 40/20/40 flat folding rear seats so the cargo volume can increase to almost 1,700L.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Mazda’s engineers have done a fabulous job of insulating the cabin from outside noises and vibrations. It feels like an upscale interior that one would expect from a luxury German manufacturer rather than a mainstream Japanese manufacturer. Also if you push the throttle pedal hard enough, you can even hear a faint turbo whistle. That type of noise always brings out the inner 9 year olds in anyone.
Interior Design – As mentioned earlier, the cabin has a luxury feel thanks in part to the quietness but also the quality materials used. Leather and soft touch plastics (with a leatherette design and stitching) are the primary materials used. I personally though am not a fan of the Cocoa Nappa leather colour of this SIgnature trim but there’s always black leather in the GT trim with the same engine. Unfortunately though the tradeoff is that it’s not this soft Nappa leather.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Like most new crossovers the Mazda is available with a wide range of interior and safety features. The list is fairly long with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and keep assist, and so on. But there are some features that are missing but are found on the competition such as a heated steering wheel with full 360 heating instead of just at the 9 and 3 positions and a panoramic sunroof to name a few. Happily though, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available on the CX-5.
Exterior Design – By far the biggest change to the current generation of the CX-5 is the polarizing exterior design. The front fascia follows Mazda’s aggressive design look found on the CX-9 but it’s also designed to be safer in pedestrian collisions. It’s not for everyone but it stands out in a very crowded compact SUV market. The rear is reminiscent of the MX-5 but the overall shape has not changed since the 2013 introduction of the Mazda CX-5.
The Mazda CX-5 is not for everyone. The Honda CR-V is a better all-rounder for the family with more interior space and a supple ride. The CX-5 is for those that want to upgrade from the Mazda3 or other sporty hatchbacks to have a bit more room but without having to sacrifice the fun driving experience of a sporty car.
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca