By Shari Prymak
As a member of the lucrative compact crossover segment, the CX-5 is an incredibly important model for Mazda. Its popularity in the market has steadily been growing thanks its attractive blend of design, performance, top-notch quality, and premium feel. Mazda has been on a mission to move its model lineup in a more upscale direction, and the CX-5 is no different. The current generation that made its debut for 2017 already looks and feels a class above most of its rivals. Mazda is looking to further those traits with the addition of an optional turbocharged engine as well as a snazzy Signature trim at the top of the model lineup.
Though hardly a dramatic leap in luxury from the already well-appointed GT, the Signature does add a few upscale touches including decorative Abachi wood trim, Nappa leather upholstery, chrome trim, and a black headliner which give the CX-5 a bit of a BMW or Lexus vibe. Elsewhere, the infotainment system has been improved with the inclusion of Apple Carplay and Android Auto capability, a welcome change which now applies to all CX-5 models. The interface itself could be more intuitive, but the command knob used to control it does work fairly well. Space-wise, the CX-5 is not the most spacious crossover in its class, which may be it biggest deterrent, but it is still quite practical with a fair-sized cargo area and a three-piece split folding back seat which can collapse with the pull of a handle.
Most CX-5 models come equipped with a naturally-aspirated 2.5L 4-cylinder engine matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission and optional all-wheel drive. The GT trim gets standard all-wheel drive plus an optional turbocharged 2.5L engine producing a healthy 250 horsepower (227 on regular fuel) and 310 lb-ft of torque. The Signature trim gets this setup as standard. The turbo engine feels almost diesel-like with its low-end power delivery and deep reserve of torque. If you want a crossover that can seriously hustle, this is the ticket. Fuel economy takes a small hit when compared to the naturally-aspirated engine, but it is a still reasonable given the level of performance. I averaged about 12.5L/100km for city driving and 9.0L/100km on longer highway runs.
The additional power of the turbocharged engine suits the athletic character of the CX-5 quite well, which remains the most dynamically talented crossover in its segment. It’s no sports car, but it does move with a certain level of crispness and sophistication that stumps most of its rivals. The steering is tight and well-weighted and body motions are kept to a minimum. The ride quality is a tad on the firm side, but this is still a very refined crossover with a hushed cabin and an overall feeling of solidity. There are far more expensive crossovers on the market that struggle to pull off a driving experience as well-rounded as this.
The CX-5 starts at $27,850 in GX front-wheel drive form and climbs all the way up to $40,950 for the Signature model. All-wheel drive is an extra $2,000 on the GX and GS trims. Although low-speed automatic emergency braking comes standard, a $900 i-Activsense Package is required on the GX all-wheel drive to include active safety features such as lane departure warning, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control. For those who do not wish to shell out for the lavishly-equipped Signature model, the GS front-wheel drive hits a nice sweet spot with features such as leatherette and suede upholstery, power adjustable driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, and a programmable power liftgate all for $30,750.
Although the CX-5 continues to impress with its attractive design, fine driving dynamics, strong performance, and excellent build quality, its greatest accomplishment is managing to deliver a premium crossover experience at a modest price point. One could cross shop a CX-5 Signature with a few luxury crossovers and be left wondering what you’re getting for the extra money with the luxury brand other than the badge. The overall level of spaciousness may be a concern for some and the infotainment system could use an update, but aside from those nitpicks, this remains one of the most appealing affordable crossovers on the market.