Pros-Sporty. Roomy. Sharp handling. Supple ride. AWD. Advanced safety features.
Cons-Awkward infotainment controls. Narrow rear door openings. Heavy hood.
Bottom Line-Enjoyable and practical compact SUV/crossover.
Mazda's top-selling CX-5 can be called a crossover or a compact SUV, but it can definitely can be called fun to drive.
The four-door CX-5 hatchback comes in various trim levels, starting at $24,350 and can be had with front- or AWD. I tested the higher line $36,890 CX-5 Signature AWD version, which was well equipped. All versions have attractive styling, with an aggressive-looking front end and nicely shaped rear.
My test vehicle had a quiet upscale interior with supportive power front seats, heated front and rear seats, Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery with nice stitching, dual-zone climate control, Bose 10-speaker sound system, push-button starter, tilt-telescopic heated steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and a power sunroof with a shade.
There was good room for four to five tall adults, although a long-legged rear occupant behind a tall driver might want more legroom. The center of the rear seat is soft enough to be comfortable, which generally isn't the case with this type vehicle.
It calls for a little extra effort to get in and out as the 66-inch high CX-5 has a rather tall floor, but visibility is excellent from the cabin. Front doors open wide, but a tall driver might got a blow from the sharp top of the driver door if not careful when opening it. That happened to me on a furious 45-m.p.h. Chicago winter windy day. Rear door openings are rather narrow, but open widely to allow fairly easy child-seat placement.
The cargo area is fairly large, with a low, wide opening for hurried loading or unloading. My test CX-5 had an efficient power hatch that opened and closed via twin struts. The 40/20/40 split rear seat backs easily flip forward to greatly enlarge the cargo area. The cabin has plenty of storage areas, with such things as storage pockets in all doors, pockets in the front seatbacks and a covered center console bin.
The backlit gauges can be quickly read, but there are awkward infotainment controls. At least the dashboard has climate controls that can be used manually.
Power of my test vehicle came from a 2.5-liter engine with 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It worked with an efficient six-speed automatic transmission with easily used manual controls via the console shifter. A "sport" driving mode that can be activated with a driver console switch for "quicker passing or sporty driving" on winding roads. By increasing revs at various speeds, it eats into into fuel economy. The "normal" setting is best for regular driving, when the "sport setting" becomes annoying.
Estimated fuel economy of my test CX-5 was 22 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways.
Mazda's media guide mentions a new, optional turbocharged 250-horsepower engine that can only can be had for top-line models with AWD, but I had no experience with it. Performance was good in town and on highways with the 224-horsepower engine, which only requires 87-octane fuel. The turbo engine calls for 93 octane gasoline.
Mazdas are known for their Euro-style driving characteristics so it wasn't surprising that my test CX-5 had sharp handling with its all-independent suspension, front/rear stabilizer bars, AWD, large 19-inch tires, traction and dynamic stability controls and a G-Vectoring control system that stabilizes the car when entering or exiting turns.
The ride was absorbent but fairly stiff on rough roads. Freeway expansion strips could be felt. The nicely weighted electric power-assisted steering was quick, and anti-lock brakes are controlled by a progressive-action pedal and have a brake-assist feature. There's also advanced smart city brake support.
Safety features include the usual air bags, front/rear side air curtains, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning system, lane-keep assist, front/rear parking sensor and a 360-degree view monitor, radar cruise control, active driving display with traffic sign recognition and heated power mirrors with turn signals that fold against the side glass when the car is parked to prevent damage.
The extremely heavy hood could be used as a muscle-building exercise and is held open with a prop rod.
The Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD model provides driving fun on all sorts of trips in keeping with the automaker's fun-loving tradition.