In many ways, the Mazda CX-5 is on par with the rest of the compact crossover market. It has a four-cylinder engine offering a bit under 200 horsepower, it’s about 15 feet in overall length, it offers about 40 cubic feet of headroom in the front, it has some standard safety features and an all-wheel drive option. The same can be said of the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson or Nissan Rogue.
But what you can’t measure with numbers or statistics is where the CX-5 shines. In almost every way, the Mazda simply feels to be on another level.
For instance, the CX-5 is not just a mover of people and things, it is a stunningly attractive crossover that is a joy to drive.
While some compact crossovers have Novocain-inspired steering, the Mazda is precise and responsive whether the CX-5 is traversing a parking lot or a winding road. All models come standard with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus, which works in tandem with the engine to make small power adjustments to shift the CX-5’s weight for an optimal cornering.
The ride quality is also superb. The Mazda soaks up bumps and lumps in asphalt with ease, but the suspension is balanced to keep the CX-5 poised and level when it is pushed through undulations.
Three engine models are available, including a 2.2-liter diesel and either a naturally aspirated or turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The turbocharged engine is reason enough to spring for one of the three higher trims (Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve or Signature), which also adds all-wheel drive as standard or as an option on Grand Touring models.
The turbo four is as peppy as a well-rested and caffeinated toddler, giving drivers immediate responses off the line or at low to midrange RPMs. While the naturally aspirated engine is also peppy, it leaves some power to be desired on slaloming through traffic at highway speed, which is a non-issue with the extra 40 horsepower and 123 torques on the turbocharged model.
The turbo-four offers 227 horsepower on 87 octane with its 310 lb.-ft of torque peaking at 2,000 RPM.
While you have to spring for more expensive trims to get all-wheel drive and the turbocharged engine, the CX-5 still presents somewhat of a bargain. Its styling, materials and amenities would not be out of place in far more expensive, luxury crossovers.
The interior is another area in which the CX-5 outshines its competitors in feel. All materials are top-rate, and the design excels in ease of use. You cannot really quantify it, but the Mazda just feels and looks good.
Higher trims get ventilated and heated leather-trimmed seats with Signature models getting supple Caturra Brown Nappa leather. While the 7-inch screen is a bit outdated, Mazda’s infotainment system is a cinch to use with a straightforward layout. Button placement is intuitive, and the rotating control knob is ideal for quick inputs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard above the base models, and the three highest trims get a 10-speaker Bose audio system.
Safety features include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, lane departure warning and radar cruise control with stop and go, and Signature models come standard with a 360-degree view monitor.
Though prices are slightly higher in some trims for 2020 models, front-wheel drive CX-5’s in Sport trim start at $24,350. Opting for all-wheel drive in lower trims bumps the price by $1,400. Most buyers will probably find their comfort zone, in the Touring ($26,615 with front-wheel drive) or Grand Touring ($30,045 with all-wheel drive). Those wanting a bit more of a luxury feel can spring for the Signature trim ($36,890) I tested.
The top trim adds the aforementioned Nappa leather seats and 360-degree camera system along with layered wood trim, satin chrome interior accents, a black headliner, LED lighting, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and other features.
New 2020 models are set to go on sale soon and will add Mazda’s i-Activsense safety features on all models, a 1-inch larger touchscreen in higher trims and the turbocharged engine has received a slight boost in torque.
While the CX-5 outshines other compact crossovers in most areas, one area where it is lacking is cargo room.
The Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4 and Nissan Rogue offer between 37- and 40-cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats, the CX-5 maxes out at 31-cubic feet.
But if you can live with less space in the rear and go beyond the numbers, the Mazda is simply in another league in compact market.