Mazda CX-5 is one of the best looking compact SUVs on the market today. I especially like the front; it looks sharp, sleek and sporty. New for 2019 are the introduction of the top Signature trim, the newly available SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine with 310 lb-ft of torque and 227 hp (on regular gas), and the now standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
My tester is the new Signature trim which includes Nappa leather seats, genuine wood trim, 19” alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, Bose sound system, head-up display and i-Activ AWD. The starting price is $40,950, which I think is a reasonable price given the generous equipment and powerful engine.
I had the CX-5 for a week and drove it to Sunshine Coast for a family trip. Having reviewed the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Acura RDX and Infiniti QX 50 recently, I’m going to compare them in this review.
The biggest advantage the CX-5 has over the mainstream competitors (CR-V, Rogue etc) is the available Skyactiv-G 2.5T engine that produces minimum 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The mainstream competitors offer no more than 200 hp and torque, which is significantly less than what the CX-5 offers, and it shows. There is no shortage of passing power and no struggle going uphill, which are often seen in competitors. The only small complaint I have regarding the engine is the noise; it is noticeably louder than the premium competitors. Acura RDX and Infiniti QX 50 both offer significantly more hp but less torque. RDX gears towards a sporty drive, while QX 50 is more about luxurious comfort. The physical dimension of CX-5 is a bit smaller so it feels more nimble and agile in cornering. However, the trade-off is the interior space which I’ll get into next.
It is a compact SUV and if space is your #1 priority, look elsewhere. The rear legroom is the biggest challenge during my roadtrip. All the competitors I mentioned in this review offer more rear legroom and probably shoulder room as well. The trunk is not bad; it is big enough to store luggages and bags. The front seats are quite spacious, no complaints there. Storage space is also quite good.
Is it premium?
Mazda wants to move upmarket. It wants a slice of the premium segment. I think CX-5 is almost there but missing a few marks here and there. The interior looks upscale and stylish. The Nappa leather and wood trim contribute to the upscale feel. It is; however, missing things like panoramic sunroof, wipers that automatically return to position upon shutting down the car, climate control for rear seats, additional driving modes other than Sport and hood struts. These are mostly standard items for RDX and QX 50, which make them feel like proper premium vehicles. Mazda CX-5 does not offer them, even at the top trim, so that separates it from the premium competitors. It is worth mentioning though, the CX-5 costs approximately 10k less than the premium competitors.
My verdict of the CX-5 is that it is the perfect SUV for those who weigh driving experience over space and luxury. It is much more fun to drive than the CR-V and Rogue, or even the QX 50. I would say it is on par with RDX in terms of driving experience. It also looks sharper than CR-V and Rogue and probably at the same level as the RDX and QX 50. The biggest let down is the space, especially the rear seats. Check it out yourself and if you’re okay with the space in the rear seats, you can save thousands getting this over the premium competitors.