2017 Mazda CX-5 Review

2017 Mazda CX-5 - Redesigned CX-5 showcases 2017 refinements


 It's all-new for 2017; and Mazda's popular five-door CX-5 hits the ground running.

The sporty-looking and performing CX-5 competes in the compact crossover category, a now-trendy segment recently surpassing mid-size four-door sedans in annual sales. Combining respectable fuel economy and cargo-carrying versatility, just about every automaker (mainstream and luxury) now flaunts one. Lovingly dubbed 'cute utes,' these five-door hatchbacks primarily handle on-road duties with uni-body, car-like underpinnings rather than bulkier, heavier body-on-frame architecture.

Fortuitous timing benefits the newly revamped CX-5 as notable five-door competitors including Chevrolet's 2018 Equinox and segment sales leader 2017 Honda CR-V have undergone major redesigns of their own. Toyota provided its RAV-4 a mid-cycle refresh in the 2016 model year.

The CX-5 arrived as an all-new crossover in 2013, replacing the aging Mazda Tribute, an automotive twin to Ford's Escape. With CX-5 fully engineered in house, it served as a clean-slate template for a growing family of car-based crossovers with Mazda-designated engines, chassis, suspensions and transmissions.

No pickups or truck-based Sport Utility Vehicles dot the lineup. Instead, Mazda delivers fuel-friendly, compact and midsize sedans, crossovers and the iconic MX-5 Miata two-door convertible.

Mazda incorporated 250 updates to the second-generation CX-5 including a 15 percent stiffer chassis. Wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) and outer dimensions remain closely matched to that of Generation One. Audibly speaking, this second-generation's interior is quieter with notable higher-quality, soft-touch materials.

In the 2016 calendar year CX-5 registered 112,235 units of sale, its best showing ever, and up 5 percent from the previous year. With the redesign in full swing, 2017 results should be sweeter.

Performance wise, this second-generation continues pushing the envelope with Mazda's all-new G-vectoring control utilizing spilt-second electronics, enhancing handling by subtly transferring extra pounds of force to the front tires. It's the first application of G-vectoring available in a vehicle sold in North America, elevating CX-5's already well-regarded crisp handling characteristics.

Visual updates bring family resemblance closer to that of the larger, three-row CX-9 crossover (the largest vehicle in Mazda's portfolio) redesigned last year and based on stretched CX-5 underpinnings.

When stacked against larger Asian-Pacific auto rivals, Mazda's financial resources are comparably limited. No all-electric plug-in vehicles, gas-electric hybrids or other alternative-powered combinations adorn Mazda's U.S. lineup. Instead, Mazda focuses upon fine-tuning its gasoline engines with high compression ratios for improved performance.

Also, a long-awaited turbodiesel four-cylinder finally makes its way to the U.S. by year's end. Diesel has been a go-to choice in Europe for years delivering enhanced low-end torque for quicker standing starts while delivering better fuel economy.

Three trim levels return for 2017: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All come with front-wheel drive standard and Midwest-friendly all-wheel drive optional.

The sole powertrain for now in all three trims: a naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) 2.5-liter four-cylinder' SKYACTIV-G' engine cranking out 187 horsepower. This engine, optional last year, outlasted an entry 2.0-liter four cylinder available since CX-5's inception. The 2.5-liter four gets teamed with a standard six-speed automatic transmission. A low-take manual transmission is now history.

For those still yearning for the thrill of a manual, CX-5's six-speed automatic includes 'man-u-shift,' allowing drivers to manually shift forward gears up or down without a foot clutch by tapping the floor-mounted shifter forward or back.

Rear doors swing open noticeably wider, easing egress and ingress and child seat loading. Both front and rear riders enjoy decent headroom and supportive, comfortable seats. While three adults remain chummy in back, two ride in optimal comfort. Newly added rear heat/air conditioning vents keep back residents comfy.

The all-wheel-drive Grand Touring tester started at $30,695. All three trims come very well equipped with just a sprinkling of stand-alone and option packages, making the purchasing process that much simpler.

Our short list of options included: $595 for Soul Red Crystal exterior paint; $250 cargo cover; $70 cargo mat and $1,830 exclusive-to-Grand Touring Premium Package (heated rear seats and steering wheel and heads-up windshield projection with traffic sign recognition) bringing the bottom line to $34,380 with $940 destination charge. A front-drive Sport starts at $24,045. Despite loads of updates, pricing closely aligns to that of outgoing 2016s.

Touring and Grand Touring models include blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert standard. The top-notch Grand Touring is the sole trim with radar cruise control, lane departure warning and smart brake support.

A visually-appealing, seven-inch multi-function color screen returns, once again channeling 'flat-screen' ambiance with greater contrast and resolution than last year. Instead of embossed inside the dashboard, Mazda's screen protrudes above the dash with a flat back (and positioned higher in 2017). Screen interaction takes place primarily with knobs and push buttons between front bucket seats.

A large, chrome, tactile 'Commander Control' dial includes a push-down function, serving as a screen select mode once scrolling is complete. A narrow stalk, right of the scroll dial, raises and lowers volume, (also with a twist). Secondary audio controls are found at 9 o'clock on the steering wheel. Mazda incorporates 'Commander Control' dials in several other of its vehicles.

Hardware does not support Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which allows advanced interaction between Smartphones and the in-vehicle screen. However, CX-5 adds row two portable electronic plug-in ports inside the fold-down arm rest. Front seat occupants find these ports and a 12-volt outlet inside the center arm rest.

Also between supportive front buckets: side-by-side beverage holders and an electronic push-button parking brake. The ventilation system includes an array of push buttons and a couple dials to monitor inside ambiance.

All-new for 2017: a 4.6-inch instrument cluster with three circular, stand-alone displays mixing analog and digital together. The left orb includes an outer rim tachometer and middle-mounted digital gear shift indicator. Flanking the center speedometer's right; a fuel gauge and instant-feedback fuel economy readout.

A slightly elevated seating position provides drivers with good visibility. Front 'A' pillars retract 35 millimeters compared to generation one, also opening visibility.

Most Mazda's feature a front grille, latently or blatantly, akin to an Alice in Wonderland Cheshire Cat smile. The smile returns, along with Mazda's front-and-center 'M' logo resembling a flying nocturnal bat. Headlight housing is narrower in 2017 with LED (light emoting diode) headlights standard in all trims.

Lift up the flat cargo floor to find a temporary spare tire in all trims; a nice bonus. To save weight, some automakers forego the extra rubber. Cargo volume is average, not class leading, but fuel economy, generated from regular, 87-octane fuel, checks in slightly above average.

A rear spoiler, housing the center-high mount brake light, comes standard in all trims as do dual exhausts. Grand Touring includes a power-operated rear lift-back standard, which is optional in Touring.

2017 Mazda CX-5
Price as Tested: $34,380
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 187
Wheelbase: 106.2 inches
Length: 179.1 inches
Height: 65.3 inches
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg city 29 mpg highway
Curb weight: 3,667 pounds
Built: Japan
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.