2022 Mazda CX-5 Review

2022 Mazda CX-5 - Spirited driving built into CX-5

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The CX-5 arrived as an all-new crossover in 2013, replacing the aging Mazda Tribute, an automotive twin at the time of Ford’s smallish Escape crossover.  Free from outside influence, CX-5 was fully engineered in house with Mazda-designated engines, chassis, suspensions and transmissions creating a ‘Zoom Zoom’ experience the nimble automaker does so well.

The Japanese automaker must be nimble to compete with larger rivals from its home country and around the globe.  No pickup trucks or truck-based sport utility vehicles dot dealerships, allowing a laser focus on sedans, coupes, crossovers and its iconic MX-5 two-seat Miata. 

A second-generation, two-row CX-5 debuted in the 2017 model year joining a growing stable of crossovers including the smaller CX-3 and three-row CX-9.  Gen Two shared a visual family resemblance closer to that of the larger, patriarchal CX-9. Mazda classifies CX-5 as a compact, but it’s a goodly-sized compact with a mid-size mindset.

Our 2022 tester builds upon this second-generation effort.  Major updates in 2022 include all-wheel drive now standard across all trim levels.  Front wheel drive no longer gets offered with the base four-cylinder engine.  Suspensions get tweaked to an already respected and gutsy design and the upfront nose and backend receive visual updates. Trim level naming gets restructured as well. 

It’s a vital piece of Mazda’s portfolio as CX-5 rates as the company’s most popular U.S. seller by a country mile.  In the 2021 model year 146,421 units sold, a 16 percent increase over 2020’s results in a Pandemic-filled time, more than doubling its closed family competitor.  In fact, Mazda as a brand saw a 20 percent jump in sales year to date in 2021.

Mazda offers two additional five-door crossovers in the every-popular crossover segment, the CX-30 and soon-to-arrive 2023 CX-50 to be built in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Both G-Vectoring Control and G-Vectoring Control Plus come standard within CX-5, improving cornering and handling with no driver input and zero buttons to push.  It’s all automatic.  

The G-Vectoring Control reduces engine torque during curves and turns when the right foot remains on the accelerator pedal, helping tires grip better to stabilize the ride.

The ‘Plus’ perk also keeps passengers planted comfortably during spirited turns. As driver’s steer out of a corner, GVC Plus automatically applies a light brake force by reduced engine torque to the outer wheels and encouraging the vehicle back to straight line motion.  This Plus aspect also limits slippage during inclement weather while smoothing out lane changes during dryer conditions.

Two engine choices return unchanged from last year, a naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) 2.5-liter four cylinder engine providing 187 horsepower utilizing 87-octane fuel.  For those adventurous types, a 2.5-turbo engine delivers an increased 256 horses on recommended premium, 93-octane fuel. Choose regular 87-octane fuel and horsepower numbers drop to 227.  Both mate to a rather old-school but still effective six-speed automatic transmission.  The naturally-aspirated four cylinder touches the 30 mile-per-gallon mark during highway jaunts, good for this segment.  The turbo choice tops out at 27 mpg highway.

Turbochargers run off of recycled exhaust gases spinning a pinwheel-inspired turbine to pump concentrated air into the engine, increasing horsepower output.  In the past decade turbo-charged four cylinders have grown in popularity, unseating V-6 engines in part because of better fuel economy.

When stacked against other compact five-door crossovers, CX-5 delivers above average handling and cornering agilities, ranking as one of the most fun-to-drive in the segment. 

The turbo engine arrives again in two trims: Turbo (replacing the Grand Touring Reserve trim from 2021) and top-shelf, fully-loaded Signature.  The naturally-aspirated four now offers five varieties marketed as: Select, Preferred, Carbon Edition, Premium and Premium Plus. Trim level updates bring CX-5 in concert with other Mazda offerings. 

Each trim builds upon the choice below with additional content offerings.  A-la-carte and packaged options don’t figure into the equation so once selecting a trim level, the only decision remaining is the exterior color choice.

Our Signature trim with recommended 2.5-turbo engine included a $38,650 starting price.  The Signature trim remains the pick to click for those desiring every available piece of content CX-5 offers. With no options to calculate, the bottom line of $39,875 included a $1,225 destination charge.  At the other end of the spectrum, a base Select trim with naturally-aspirated four cylinder engine starts at $26,250.

All trims come nicely loaded with the latest passive and active safety nuances with our top trim Signature turbo adding as exclusive content front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree view monitor within the backup camera display function.

In front, the large grille includes a five-sided frame centered by Mazda’s M logo resembling a bat in flight as it extends its wings. Flanking the grille are narrow banded headlight housing redesigned in 2022 with a pair of horizontally spaced, rectangular LED lights. The rear features a new bumper and tailgate design along with dual tail pipes increasing in size.  Also new for ’22, both turbo models include larger 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

The Mazda Connect Infotainment system interacts seamlessly with both Android Auto and Apple Car Play, two popular Smartphone systems allowing Apps and text messages to interact with the 10.25-inch flat screen that jests up from the center dash. Be forewarned, as this screen is of the non-touch/swipe variety.  The screen works in tandem with two circular chrome twist knobs located between the front buckets; a smaller, cylinder-shaped one controlling volume/on/off while the larger, multi-function dial monitors all else through a variety of twists/push-downs through numerous screen tutorials.   Five push buttons nearby also serve as quick click short cuts.

Practice makes perfect as this Connect Infotainment Design takes time to master.  Secondary audio, phone and station select steering wheel buttons are also available for assistance once presets get input. Here’s hoping when Generation Three arrives in the near future, CX-5 employees a less wonky design. Wireless Smartphone charging comes standard exclusively with turbo engines.

The Instrument panel includes three orbs with the center circle fully digital and defaulting to a speedometer feed mimicking an analog-type layout.  Side orbs go old school featuring analog dials with the fuel gauge calling the right-side home along with a temperature gauge.  The tachometer resides far left. 

Three drive modes select from a tab to the rear of the mechanical automatic transmission shifter between the front buckets:  Sport, Normal and Off-Road.  The Off-Road selection is exclusive to the turbo trims and premium/premium plus trims with the naturally aspirated four cylinder.  When making a drive mode switch, the three choices briefly appear in the center instrument panels center orb, before animation returns the traditional speedometer. 

The HVAC functions monitor from the lower dash with a series of push buttons monitoring fan direction and speed flanked by dials controlling dual front-zone temperatures.  Two adults are best served riding in row two, three in a pinch with gobs of available headroom front or back. Backrests fold down in a 40/20/40 fashion allowing extra storage options.

2022 Mazda CX-5
Price as tested: $39,875
Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo
Horsepower: 256
Wheelbase: 106.2 inches
Overall Length: 180.1 inches
Overall Width: 72.6  inches
Overall Height: 66.3 inches
Curb Weight:  3,856 pounds
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city/27mpg highway
Powertrain Warranty: Five year/60,000 mile
Assembly: Hiroshima, Japan




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.