The CX-5 crossover is a big deal to Mazda – it’s the best-selling vehicle they have in the U.S., and having sold over 2 million units worldwide it’s a bona fide success.
It’s a well-loved product, too. Having been here since 2012, it got a nice refresh when we tested the 2017 CX-5, and we felt that it was still our favorite small crossover – it’s a great drive. But time moves on, some big hitters have come our way, including the all-new 2019 RAV4, which we loved for its looks, performance, and hybrid efficiency, all in one package.
Mazda didn’t flinch. Instead, they brought out their own heavy hitter, the 2019 CX-5, now available with an available 2.5-liter, turbo 4-cylinder.
Oh, and how does 250 horsepower sound to you? Sounds like time for another road test!
The smallest amount of change on the ’19 CX is on the outside, which is fine by us – the comprehensive upgrades for 2017 still look great. Most noticeable, was a larger, more corporate “Kodo, Soul of Motion” design language front grille. Slimmer headlights and taillights kept things looking fresh.
With the new, extrovert RAV4, the CX-5 even more so has moved to Premium territory, and away from sporty. But it’s well done and tasteful. Our Snowflake White Pearl Mica tester – in the new top-level Signature trim – could easily pass for an Audi Q5. Not bad at all!
That refresh in ’17 took a mid-class interior and turned it into a stellar cabin. A conscious upgrading of materials, including real aluminum trim, a slightly raised center console and larger greenhouse made for a lovely environment. High PQ as we say in the trade. (PQ= Perceived Quality).
Mazda, which has a very German-like philosophy of constantly improving the details, didn’t stop there. For the 2019 model, they’ve introduced a new Signature trim level for the CX-5. This top of the line trim started in the big brother CX-9, and was also added to the Mazda 6 sedan.
It’s beautiful in both of those vehicles, and it works similar magic here. It starts with Caturra Brown Nappa leather seats that look, feel and smell rich, with genuine layered wood trim and satin chrome accents that make a RAV4 or CR-V look positively low-rent. The front seats are heated and cooled for your comfort, while those in back in enjoy plenty of room and heated seats as well.
When the interior was redone in 2017, the rear seats were redesigned to fold flat and it creates an impressive amount of interior space that’s easy accessed – especially with the Signature’s power rear door. Hey it’s plush, but it’s still a crossover!
Mazda continues to ladle on the goodness in the Signature, adding a leather-wrapped steering wheel with unique stitching, ambient interior LED lighting, a black headliner and frameless rearview mirror. All subtle, but all adding up to a quiet wow factor that impresses every time you get in.
We also love the new gauge package that bins the old “binnacle” style, and gives a handsome and modern face, with cleaner graphics, and a crisp TFT center screen. The info-tainment display is unchanged, and the graphics are looking a little last-gen, but with Mazda now adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you’ll never notice.
Access is from the center console’s large knob, that’s simple to use and feels very Audi like. The volume knob is a smaller control right next to it, and we eventually got used to the location – we kept reaching up towards the rest of the controls, where we’d expect it to be. And who could blame us, the 10-speaker Bose audio system sounds great – we wanted to crank it!
There’s also a handy heads-up display, that’s especially useful with traffic sign recognition, keeping you in the loop for local speed limits, stop signs, etc. Perhaps our favorite piece of tech is the Signature’s 360-degree view monitor. Much like the system pioneered by Nissan, it gives a bird’s eye view for perfect placement when parking. Nice.
We also appreciated the rear cross traffic alert – it seems like people are zipping by faster and faster in parking lots these days – good to have some techno-help on your side.
Now with Turbo!
All of the above are nice, but what really got us interested was the newly available 2.5-liter turbocharged engine. We’ve sampled it in Mazda’s CX-9 and Mazda 6 sedan. We loved it in the larger SUV, and enjoyed it in the 6 – although it was more luxury than sport for our tastes.
While non-turbo CX-5 models get a vibrant 187 horsepower 2.5-liter, four cylinder, the magic of forced induction brings the turbo motor up to a mouthwatering 250 horsepower. Even more important, it brings a mountain of torque, 310 ft-lb, at a super-low 2,000 rpm.
And even though Mazda is touting the CX-5 Signature as a luxury model, we found a lot for enthusiasts to love as well. Like the CX-9 and Mazda 6, this engine is designed less to be a high-revver, and more about low-end grunt.
Super refined and very quiet, step on the gas and you glide away on a wave of power. We averaged 0-60 mph in the low 6 second mark. That’s quick! Take advantage of being in the turbo zone though, and you can slide below 20 mpg, but easy cruising on the freeway got us close to 30 mpg.
The 6-speed automatic is excellent, and Sport Mode gives you a healthy wallop in the back when you lay into the gas. Another sign that Mazda isn’t trying to fuel your sport vehicle fantasies – no paddle shifters. You can hand shift the transmission through the gear lever, so all is not lost.
One thing that is lost is noise. Mazda spent a lot of time making the CX-5 quieter, and it is impressive. Whisper quiet, it feels like true luxury transport. The chassis setup is interesting too. It’s firm, (turbo models get an upgraded suspension), and with the precise steering, the excellent grip of the standard all-wheel drive, and Mazda’s love of the drive, it’s a lot of fun to toss around on a twisty road. Brakes are powerful and direct, too.
This is one car that can wear a lot of hats, – hushed commuter, or boisterous backroad bahnstormer. It’s a balance we find in just about all the vehicles Mazda makes, and one of the reasons we love the brand so much.
Another Reason We Love Mazda
Value. You can get a front wheel drive CX-5 Sport for just $24,350, and with alloy wheels, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Alert, Mazda Connect info-tainment, and that wonderful chassis, it’s the Crossover for people who would want a sports car – like, say, a Miata. Bargain!
If you want All wheel drive it’s a reasonable $1400 more. Step up to the Touring trim at $26,615, and you add goodies like radar cruise control with full stop and go, and lane departure warning.
Luxury starts with the Grand Touring, which brings you leather seats, power moonroof, navigation and more, at $30,045 impressive bang for the buck.
If you’re jonesing for turbo, you have two choices – the Grand Touring Reserve starting at $34,870, or the ultimate Signature model like our tester at $36,890. All turbo models come with standard all-wheel drive. Our tester also had Snowflake White Pearl Mica paint ($200), a couple small accessories., Add in $1,045 delivery, and our tester came in at $38,385.
While that’s getting close to 40 large, the addition of that powerful motor, and the beautiful luxury of the Signature model, the CX-5 pole vaults into a class above. Load up a comparable Audi Q5 and you’re looking at $55,000. The slightly smaller Volvo XC40 would also be a good choice, but comparably equipped, you’re looking at $47,395. Mazda’s giving you the luxury treatment at an extremely reasonable price.
We came away massively impressed with the Mazda CX-5 Turbo Signature. Powerful, beautifully-equipped, impeccably built, while still keeping the fun-to-drive spirit we love.
It’s easy to see why the Mazda CX-5 is a best-seller. It’s a great SUV. And with the added oomph and luxury of the 2.5 turbo model, it’s even better!
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.