It’s tough being Mazda.
After all, in the automotive world, you’re a small company, up against giants like Toyota, Ford, and Nissan.
And even though you’re a famous sports car maker, you need to compete in the big-money segments like small crossovers to survive.
But Mazda did more than just compete. With the original CX-5, Mazda made one of the best, most fun to drive small crossovers on the market. But time moves on, and Mazda has to as well.
Will Mazda’s new CX-5 be another winner, or will it suffer from sophomore slump?
Well, first of all, it’s not truly an all-new CX-5. But there are so many changes; it feels like a new vehicle.
Let’s start with the looks. If you’re not a Mazda fan, you might not notice the changes, especially the new schnoz. Getting more in line with Mazda’s Kodo “Soul of Motion” design language, the grille is larger, and the headlights have gotten squintier. The front bumpers give it a wide-shouldered look.
It’s an evolutionary design that we like, but it does seem that Mazda aimed more for a lux appearance, rather than a sporty one. Part of that would be due to our tester’s restrained Machine Gray Metallic color. Handsome, but not head-snapping.
The interior is a different story.
The old CX-5 – any many of its Mazda siblings– had nicely designed cabins, but the materials seemed so-so. But the new interior is gorgeous. The materials are best in class, and would feel at home in an Audi.
Our tester had the Parchment interior that is a joy to the eye, but if we were buying we’d probably go with something that doesn’t show dirt/wear/bicycle tire treads as easily.
There are a lot of subtle changes here making the big difference. The greenhouse is slightly larger for improved visibility, while the center console is raised (ala CX-9) to give a cozier cockpit feel for the driver. Aluminum trim on the vents add a quality touch, while a new 4.6-inch full-color TFT instrument cluster display makes for an easier read.
The 7.0-inch center touch screen and rotary infotainment control on the console will be familiar to any Mazda fan – the screen has been modified for better resolution, and placed higher in the dash for easier viewing.
Our tester had the Active Driving Display – a windshield heads-up unit with traffic sign recognition, that’s pretty cool. Also impressive was the Bose 10-speaker surround sound system not only does it sound great, the pillar-mounted tweeters have a classy look.
In back, the rear seats have been designed to be more comfortable, with more recline, and also available seat heaters and USB ports. Comfy.
More important to crossover buyers, Mazda redesigned the rear seats to lie fully flat when folded – a noticeable improvement over last year’s model, which didn’t. Access to the cargo is mo’ better with a new power rear liftgate. Like we said, subtle changes, but it all works together to make the CX-5 feel a notch above the competition.
All this luxury….. did we lose our favorite driver’s CUV in the process?
Nope. It’s still in there. In fact, it’s better than ever.
It starts with Mazda’s familiar Skyactiv 2.5-liter, four cylinder, pumping out 187 hp (a 3hp gain) and 185 lb-ft of torque. While those numbers are strong, with the current rash of small turbocharged 4-cylinders offered in the class, it’s not as impressive as it used to be.
Still the CX-5 makes good use of the power with a responsive 6-speed automatic (no CVT here!) that’s especially good fun in Sport Mode. We also like the sport switch location – right next to the shifter – your hand finds it easily without having to look away.
Mazda would like you to notice the bottom-hinged accelerator pedal – a little thing, but it does feel noticeably better than typical pedals that hang from above and flop about on application. Little detail, nice result.
And while the CX-5 feels punchy, it’s immediately noticeable how much quieter it is. Added sound deadening and improved aerodynamics make the Mazda seem whisper quiet, with only the slightly throaty sound of the exhaust coming in to remind you this is a sporty crossover.
That Mazda sports-car goodness comes through the wheel. The steering has a great. precise feel, and the suspension is still the benchmark for the class – providing a great ride, but urging you to take on the twisties.
Part of that enthusiasm for the curve comes from Mazda’s new G-Vectoring Control that can slightly reduce engine power in the corner to help you trace a more precise cornering line. It’s one of those technologies you can’t point a finger at and go “ahah!” It just works behind the scenes to improve your driving experience.
If you need a sensible crossover, but love to drive, the CX-5 is your vehicle.
Mazda also makes sure you feel safe and secure.
Along with the neat traffic sign recognition, the Radar Cruise Control now not only keeps your preset distance from traffic ahead, it can also come to a complete stop, and moves at stop-and-go speeds without hesitation.
You can also get a complete suite of safety gear, including: auto high beam control, adaptive front lighting that swivels headlights to optimize your view, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist, Forward Emergency Braking – it even flashes your hazard lights in the event of aggressive stopping to alert drivers behind the vehicle.
It’s a strong performer for your hard-earned dollar, too.
Mazda offers an attractive range of CX-5’s to meet the needs of your pocketbook. It starts with Sport model at $24,045 – well equipped with niceties like the 6-speed automatic, keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, power everything, 7-inch center monitor, 17-inch alloys and dual exhaust outlets.
The Touring comes in at $25,915 and is a no-brainer, adding lots of value with power driver’s seat, leatherette with Lux Suede inserts, Blind Spot Monitoring Rear Cross Traffic Alert, heated front seats, privacy glass, leather wrapped wheel and shifter, dual zone climate control, reclining rear seats with USB ports and armrest.
At the top of the line are Grand Select and Grand Touring Trims, $28,895 and $29,935 respectively, with all the goodies including leather, the advanced safety equipment, moonroof, Bose Sound system etc.
Our Grand Touring added the Premium Package ($1,830), which includes driver’s memory seat, front passenger power seat, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and the trick heads-up display with traffic sign recognition. Add in a cargo mat ($70), retractable cargo cover ($250) and a $300 pop for the Machine Gray metallic paint, and our tester rang the bell with delivery at $32,785.
Not bad, considering a comparable front wheel drive RAV4 Platinum comes in at $34,800, and a loaded front-drive CR-V, $35,700.
So Mazda really impresses with the 2017 CX-5. It’s kept all the fun to drive character, but stepped up in refinement, design, quality of materials and features.
No slump here – the CX-5 remains our favorite small crossover, and highly recommended.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.