Every time I step into the Mazda CX-5, I’m reminded why I always proclaim it as being one of the best compact crossover SUVs available. Small and agile, but practical and fun, it seems to check all the right boxes for anyone that enjoys spirited driving but must keep those responsibilities in check. And others also agree, as the CX-5 is the brand’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
Coming in above the pint-size CX-30 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. In fact, this year, Mazda debuted the CX-50, which is about the same size as the CX-5 but is styled and packaged for a more outdoorsy type of buyer. Mazda 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.
Mazda offers two powerplants for the CX-5. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder the rated at 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. This engine powers the entry-level S, S Select, S Preferred, S Carbon Edition, S Premium and S Premium Plus. Optional is a more powerful version of the same engine – a turbocharged 2.5-liter Skyactive that makes 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The engine comes in the Turbo and Turbo Signature trim levels and is the same powerplant 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 slightly better at 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
The S may be the base model, but it’s nicely decked out with 17-inch wheels, push-button ignition, 10.25-inch touchscreen display as well as blind-spot monitoring. Moving up to the S Select adds in keyless entry, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual zone climate control, and rear vents. The S Preferred makes the scene with a power liftgate, sunroof and power passenger seat. The S Carbon Edition is an S Preferred but with special paint and 19-inch wheels and either a red or black leather interior. The S Premium also gets 19-inch wheels, as well as adaptive headlights, different driving modes and a Bose audio system. The S Premium Plus gets fancy with a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a heads-up display and power folding mirrors.
On to the Turbo, along with the more powerful engine the CX-5 gets black wheels and a wireless charging pad. The Turbo Signature is the top-of-the-line CX-5 and gets LED ambient interior lighting, wood trim, 360-degree camera and parking sensors.
For 2023, the CX-5 becomes available with an all-new Rhodium White exterior premium paint color. The tester arrived as a Turbo Signature model.
For the average driver, the 187 hp Skyactive four-cylinder is adequate for the CX-5. But who doesn’t want more power? With the turbo and its 227 hp, and more importantly, the 319 lb-ft of torque it creates, it really makes this little SUV scoot. 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.
While the power is nice, 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 and comfortable 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 is nice, simple yet impressive. Done in typical Mazda fashion, the controls and displays are all easy to see and have a solid feel to them. Nothing cheap in here. Small, but useful things like a power rear lift gate, rear seats that fold flat (and can recline as well) are a nice welcome.
Pricing for the CX-5 continues to remain an attractive point. With a base price starting just at $27,975, my fully loaded all-wheel drive Turbo Signature model carries with it an MSRP of $41,655. 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:
2023 Mazda CX-5 Turbo Signature AWD
Base Price: $39,650.00
Price as Tested: $41,655.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5 liter turbocharged Skyactiv inline 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 227 hp
Torque: 310 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 city / 27 highway mpg
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