The 2023 Mazda CX-5 continues to be one of the strongest-selling models in the brand’s growing pool of SUV entries, thanks to its ability to blend style with segment-blurring luxury. However, it’s facing traditional competition from rivals and an internal threat from the recently launched Mazda CX-50. Can the 2023 Mazda CX-5 still make a name for itself in this hotly contested segment or has its age finally caught up with it?
CX-5 Styling Hides The Wrinkles Well
While it’s no secret that the CX-5 is starting to age, you would be hard-pressed to find any obvious signs of this in its core exterior styling. Mazda designers have always preferred a simple organic theme that blends sportiness with some of the traits we have seen from its concept cars. The result is a look that has proven very resilient to the effects of time, and our Soul Red-hued tester still manages to look as fresh as it did when it first appeared several years ago. The front grille is arguably the boldest part of the CX-5’s entire presentation, and we like the splash of red that Mazda put into the upper corner to help denote the fact that it has the more powerful 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (more on that later).
The side profile transitions into the rear of the CX-5, which has taillights that are somewhat reminiscent of the MX-5 roadster, and they seem to melt into the rear bodywork itself. Like before, the rear is also the blandest part of the entire presentation but with the bulk of its rivals also tending to stumble when it comes to designing this particular part of an SUV or CUV, we are willing to give Mazda a pass here. That said, the CX-50’s wagon-like shape might draw some buyers away from the CX-5, especially those that want some of the capability of a traditional SUV but aren’t ready to go all in on a formal boxy-shaped vehicle.
Luxury Lined Interior Still Delivers The Goods
Slip inside the Mazda CX-5, and you’ll be forgiven if you thought you were in a Mercedes or Audi product. Higher trim CX-5s, like our tester, still come with an impressive array of high-quality materials, including soft leather seating surfaces, soft-touch plastic on virtually all major touchpoints, and splashes of wood trim in range-topping Signature models. The cabin design itself is refreshingly simple, and it doesn’t go too overboard in its attempts to coddle and woo drivers. That’s good since any additional gimmicks would make you miss some of the thoughtful details that Mazda engineers have put in to increase versatility, including plenty of small storage nooks as well as a flat load floor that allows owners to haul a wide variety of cargo.
Second-row occupants have plenty of room to stretch out their legs and relax, while the second-row seats can be folded down to enhance cargo space when they are not being used to haul people. All CX-5 models come with a 10.25-inch infotainment system that comes bundled with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. This system is still largely controlled via a large control knob but Mazda reps that we have spoken to have revealed that more touch-centric controls are coming so look for the controller to gradually become a secondary control method over the next few years.
CX-5 Turbo Engine Delivers Fun, Still Makes SUV Fun
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 continues to offer two engines for buyers to choose from. The 2.5 S model is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5 liter four cylinder good for 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard but if you’re a buyer that craves more power, 2.5 Turbo models like our example come equipped with a turbocharged 2.5 liter four cylinder that’s good for 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Mazda says that the engine can make 256 hp but it has to be fed a steady diet of premium fuel to achieve that.
Our example delivered snappy acceleration and it felt like we were driving a much smaller vehicle at times. This amount of acceleration is also more than what you get from slower rivals like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. Our tester also delivered sports car like handling but like the CX-50, the suspension has a firm tune and that made going over pock marked bumps unpleasant at times. The CX-50 on the other hand does a better job of masking the bumps thanks to the model exclusive tweaks that help the platform have a more confident personality and have less unwanted motions.
Part of the CX-5’s plan for success is its G-Vectoring Control Plus system which shifts the engine’s torque to the front wheels when the SUV enters a turn. This helps provide more front-end grip and it helped our tester have sharper reflexes than other SUVs that we have tested. The system can also lightly apply the brake on the outside most wheel to help smooth out transitions in sharp turns.
The 2023 Mazda CX-5 still manages to deliver the goods when it comes to delivering a good value to customers. A base 2.5 S model starts at $27,975 when destination is included. That’s right in the thick of it with mainstream rivals and the 2.5 S is a good launching pad as a result. This pricing goes up accordingly as you ascend the trim ladder with 2.5 Turbo models like our tester having a base sticker of $38,720. Our tester came with a light sprinkling of options which caused the final sticker to be just under $40,000.
This price is still in line with other near luxury models but it also makes you question why you would move up a rung to the $41,250 Signature model. The Signature does feature higher quality leather seats and rosewood trim but with the lower 2.5 model still delivering the bulk of the performance and tech enhancements to consumers, the Signature’s place in the lineup is thrown into question.
It will be interesting to see how the CX-5 measures up against its corporate partner the CX-50. Both models are similar in size, and their pricing ladders mirror each other too. This kind of mirroring helps create prime ground for internal sales cannibalization but Mazda is confident that the two models will still cater to different sales targets though time will tell on whether that pans out or not?
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.