2017 Mazda CX-5 Review

2017 Mazda CX-5 - Fun-to-drive 2017 Mazda CX-5 compact SUV gets major improvements.


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.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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