Every time I step into the Mazda CX-5, I’m reminded why I always proclaim it as being the best compact crossover SUV available. Small and agile, but practical and fun, it seems to check all the right boxes for anyone that enjoys spirited driving but has to keep those responsibilities in check. The current CX-5 has been out since 2017, and on the surface, there doesn’t seem like much has changed for 2019. But dig down, as there are some big changes to be discovered.
Coming in above the pint-size CX-3 yet below the larger CX-9, the CX-5 continues to be a little sport-utility-vehicle with most of its emphasis on sport and less on utility. Mazda even claims that the targeted audience for the CX-5 are young families who would rather have a sports sedan over an SUV but realize that they need some form of utility. Well if that’s the case, the CX-5 is just what they are after.
For 2019, Mazda has added two new trim levels, the Grand Touring Reserve and the Signature. Both come in above the three trim levels that carry on from before (Sport, Touring, Grand Touring).
Up until this year, the sole engine available in the CX-5 has been the 2.5-liter Skyactive four-cylinder, rated at 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. This engine continues to power the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim models, but go with the newer Grand Touring Reserve or the Signature and Mazda will treat the CX-5 to a more powerful version of the same engine – a turbocharged 2.5-liter Skyactive that makes 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. If this powerplant sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same one used in the larger CX-9. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission available for the CX-5, regardless of engine. EPA rates the turbo CX-5 at 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The base engine is rated at 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
The Sport may be the base model, but it’s nicely decked out with 17-inch wheels, push-button ignition, 7-inch touchscreen display as well as blind-spot monitoring. Moving up to the Touring adds in keyless entry, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual zone climate control, and rear vents. The Grand Touring makes the scene with the addition of 19-inch wheels, LED foglights, leather interior and a power passenger seat. Options on the Grand Touring include a heads-up display, navigation system and heated rear seats
Going with one of the new trim levels not only gets you the more powerful engine, but in the case of the Grand Touring Reserve it adds in all-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line Signature, which is how the test vehicle arrived adds all the above as well as ambient cabin lighting, Nappa leather interior, wood trim accents, a surround-view camera, and front and rear parking sensors. It also has all the options offered on the Grand Touring.
I always felt the 187 hp Skyactive four-cylinder was adequate for the CX-5. But who doesn’t want more power? Now with 250 hp, and more importantly, 310 lb-ft of torque, this little SUV really scoots. It can hit 60 mph in just a tick over 6 seconds – which, when compared to the base engine equipped CX-5, is about 2 seconds quicker.
Even as I welcomed the extra power, the highlight of the CX-5 continues to be in the handling department. Most crossover SUV makers don’t focus much on handling, but Mazda does, and it shows. Equipping the CX-5 with G-Vectoring Control Technology, this system enhances steering response through subtle engine-torque manipulation. Basically, as you steer into a corner, the system automatically reduces torque ever so slightly to induce a small load transfer to the front axle, thus eliminating any compliance in the suspension and allowing very precise driver inputs. Sounds complicated? It is – but it works – the CX-5 stays flat in corners yet still delivers a smooth, convenient ride. Find a long winding road, get up to speed and you’ll discover that the CX-5 is downright fun and confidence-inspiring to drive.
Inside, the cabin of the CX-5 continues to impress. Controls and displays are all easy to see and have a solid feel to them. Nothing cheap in here, in fact it’s quite elegant. Regardless of trim level, the CX-5 has a look and feel that belongs in a more expensive product.
When it comes to utility, the CX-5 fairs well, but doesn’t shine. Behind the rear seats, there is room for 30.9 cubic feet of cargo, which is a little on the small side. The rear seats, which is a 40/20/40 split, fold nearly flat if more room is needed.
Pricing for the CX-5 continues to remain an attractive point. With a base price starting just at $24,350, my fully loaded all-wheel drive Signature model carried with it a $38,360 price tag. While not chump change, you do get a lot with the CX-5, like its good looks, great handling abilities and its decent fuel economy. Throw in the smiles per miles you’ll get as you drive it, and you’ll quickly see why the CX-5 is the zoom-zoom of compact SUVs.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD
Base Price: $30,890.00
Price as Tested: $38,360.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5 liter Skyactiv turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 250 hp
Torque: 310 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 city / 27 highway mpg
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