Mazda is among the smaller Japanese brands, yet it has deftly configured its product lineup to take advantage of America's affinity for SUVs. As compact SUVs have become the sales leaders in the US, the CX-5 has become Mazda's most popular vehicle.
Since the second-generation CX-5 was introduced in 2017, Mazda has expanded the model lineup. At the bottom of the range is the Sport ($24,350), followed by the Touring ($26,615), Grand Touring ($30,045), and the new Signature ($36,890). A new CX-5 Signature Diesel ($41,000) model was added in 2019. The CX-5 Grand Touring Reserve and Signature have Mazda's i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (optional on other models).
We tested a CX-5 Signature painted in Soul Red Crystal ($595). Other options include roof rack side rails ($400), retractable cargo cover ($250), rear bumper guard ($125), and carpeted cargo mat ($70). The total including the $1,045 destination fee added up to $39,375. Significant standard equipment on the CX-5 Signature are 19-in. dia. alloy wheels, LED headlights & taillights, wood veneer trim, power folding exterior mirrors, 8-way power driver's seat, power front passenger seat, 7-in. display with navigation, 10-speaker Bose(R) audio system, head-up display, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, heated front/rear Nappa leather seats (ventilated in front), heated steering wheel, and 360 deg. view monitor. Standard and available active safety technologies consist of blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, smart city brake, adaptive front lights, high beam control, hill launch assist, G-Vectoring Control Plus (enhanced stability control), and radar cruise control.
Mazda added two engines in the CX-5 range beyond the existing 187-hp 2.5L inline-4: a new 2.5L turbo and a 2.2L twin-turbo diesel. The 2.5L turbo is exclusive to the Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models. Adding a turbocharger to the 2.5L boosts power to 250-hp @ 5,000 RPM and 310 lb.-ft. @ 2,000 RPM using 93-octane fuel. Stepping down to 87-octane gasoline drops peak power to 227-hp. Redline is a conservative 6,300 RPM. The 6-speed automatic has overdrive fifth (0.707:1) and sixth (0.600:1) gears and drives all four wheels. The EPA fuel consumption rating is 22/27 MPG (city/hwy.). We averaged 25 MPG in mixed city and highway driving. Despite the extra power from the turbo four, according to Mazda top speed only increases by 3 MPH to 129 MPH.
As with most other compact SUVs, the front suspension consists of MacPherson struts, coil springs, and a stabilizer bar. A rear multi-link layout has coil springs, dampers and a stabilizer bar. The electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is geared for 2.7 revolutions lock-to-lock. Brakes are discs all around with ABS and Dynamic Stability Control. The new G-Vectoring Control Plus system applies the brakes to enhance stability and handling. Standard 19-inch diameter alloy wheels are shod with P225/55R19 Toyo A36 all-season tires. Curb weight for the CX-5 Signature is 3,825 lbs.
Many affordable SUVs suffer from indifferent materials and interior design, but the CX-5 is a notable exception. Premium matte aluminum trim and double-stitched dash and door panels set this Mazda apart from its competition. The front seats, covered in perforated brown Nappa leather provide decent thigh and torso support. Both front seats are power adjustable: 8-way with lumbar support for the driver and 6-way for the passenger. Front headroom is ample for 6 ft. tall occupants, even with the standard sunroof. The rear seat also accommodates 6 ft. tall occupants with above average legroom. A center seat occupant will likely complain about the uncomfortably rigid rear seatback.
Mazda replaced the previous analog gauge cluster with an LCD screen. The electronic display simulates an analog speedometer and tachometer, plus smaller coolant temperature and fuel level gauges. The speedometer needle is also an electronic simulation, but the other gauges have real indicators. A head-up display projects vehicle speed, speed limit, and lane departure warning status on the windshield just below eye level. The 7-in. infotainment display is mounted on the dash like a mini-tablet. Frequently used functions are accessed via knobs and button on the center console between the seats, next to the electronic parking brake. Rotary knobs for the dual climate controls are conveniently located within easy reach. USB ports, analog audio input, and 12V power outlet on the center console are available for mobile devices. An additional 12V power outlet is located within the center console storage compartment.
Mazda's new Skyactiv inline-4 turbo is tuned for low-RPM torque, with all 310 lb.-ft. available at 2,000 RPM, so the CX-5 now accelerates rapidly from stoplights. The extra horsepower from the turbo is most apparent above 70 MPH, where the CX-5 gains midrange throttle response missing from the normally-aspirated 2.5L inline-4. As with most other large displacement fours, the engine buzzes as revs approach the redline. At highway speeds, some engine vibrations are audible, but are not especially significant. Wind and tire noise are also hushed, making the CX-5 suited for long road trips. The 6-speed automatic progresses through the gears seamlessly. Shifts in either Manual or Sport mode are quick and smooth. Sport mode will not shift into sixth gear automatically, but can be selected manually. We usually preferred using Sport mode, but Normal mode is acceptable for most typical driving conditions.
The CX-5's precise steering accurately transmits road surface textures to the driver. Compared to the 2018 CX-5 we reviewed, Mazda appears to have retuned spring and damper rates for greater ride comfort. Moderate understeer, combined with average steering turn-in response have taken the edge of the sporty handling we experienced previously. The all-disc brakes provide impressive stopping power, aided by firm, progressive brake pedal actuation. At night, the Mazda's bright headlights cast an even and extended beam pattern. The foglights complement the headlights with wide coverage at ground level.
Mazda's second-generation CX-5 is an impressive compact SUV. Priced comparably with other vehicles in its segment, the CX-5 stands out with its impressive build quality and premium interior materials. Adding the new 2.5L turbo keeps this Mazda competitive with other compact SUVs. The top CX-5 Signature gets expensive when loaded with options, but the more affordable Touring and Grand Touring models deliver excellent value.