I can't remember a Mazda model that hasn't been fun to drive, and the roomy, compact Mazda 2017 CX-5 SUV is no exception.
You thus can have your cake and eat it too with the much-improved CX-5. It looks racy, is fun to drive, has comfortable room for five tall adults and possesses a large cargo area. Rear doors open wide to allow easier placement of child seats.
List prices are competitive, ranging from $24,045 for the base model to $30,695 for the top-line Grand Touring version, which I tested with all-wheel drive (AWD). There are Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models. You can get a CX-5 with front-wheel drive (FWD) or AWD.
Standard are a redesigned exterior and interior, re-engineered body and chassis, "G-Vectoring Control" for vehicle dynamic enhancements, full-speed radar cruise control, reclining rear seat, full-color touch screen display, rearview camera, radar cruise control, Bose 10-speaker sound system, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring with rear across-traffic alert.
Optional for some models are a heated steering wheel, power lift gate, windshield projected Active Driving Display, heated front seats and heated rear seats.
The price sticker on my Grand Touring AWD CX-5 test car listed 19-inch wheels (up from standard 17-inch), dual-zone automatic air conditioning with rear vents, heated power mirrors with turn-signal lights, small rear roof spoiler, tilt/telescopic leather wheel with audio and cruise controls, leather-trimmed upholstery, push-button start, bright-finish exhaust tips, power moonroof, power lift gate and split folding rear seat backs that greatly enlarge the cargo area. That area had a low wide opening and was pretty roomy even with the seat backs in their normal position.
The attractive, driver-oriented interior was quiet, thanks to a stiffer body structure and more sound insulation. There were an average number of cabin storage areas. The comfortable front seats were supportive, but the rotary dial controlled infotainment system took some time to get used to. However, dashboard controls backed up some functions of the dial-controlled system.
More automakers are beginning to use such backup controls because many frustrated car buyers dislike trying to figure out such things as touch-screen controls and consequently give a car low reliability marks.
My test CX-5 also had the $1,830 Premium package that has a driver memory seat, power front passenger seat, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, active driving display and windshield wiper de-icer. The bottom line price thus was $34,085, including a few minor options and a $940 freight charge.
All CX-5 models have a sophisticated high-revving 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower. Torque is 185 pound/feet at 3,250 r.p.m. for the FWD CX-5 and at 4,000 r.p.m. for the AWD model. The transmission is an alert six-speed automatic with an easily used manual shift feature.
My test CX-5's acceleration was quick in town, when entering fast freeway traffic and passing on highways. There's a "sport" driving mode activated by a console switch that raises revs for such things as faster acceleration, but it's really not needed except in infrequent driving circumstances.
Estimated fuel economy with FWD is 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways. With AWD, it's 23 and 29. The 3,527-3,655 CX-5 has a 14.8-gallon fuel tank with FWD and, thoughtfully, a 15.3-gallon tank with AWD.
The nicely weighted electric power steering is quick. And my test car's handling was nimble, thanks to such things as an all-independent suspension, front/rear stabilizer bars, dynamic stability control and traction control. The lower-profile tires on the larger 19-inch wheels also helped.
The ride was generally smooth, but some raised expansion strips on Chicago-area freeways definitely could be felt. The anti-lock brakes, which have a brake-assist feature, had a nice linear pedal action, although they initially felt a little too sensitive.
Many buyers for compact SUVs are family folks who look for safety features. My test CX-5 had plenty. They included hill launch assist, a variety of air bags (including front and rear side-curtain bags), blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, smart city brake support, smart lane departure warning and lane-keep assist systems.
Mazda emphasizes driving fun with its vehicles, and driving the CX-5 Grand Touring AWD was enjoyable, even on short hops.