Mazda has a legacy for uniquely designed, spirited cars and trucks. Mazda loves to buck the trends and do their own thing. The lovely but high maintenance rotary engines in the RX-7 and RX-8 come to mind. Mazda is sorta like that geek in class who does his own awkward thing, but still manages to get all of the chicks.
The Mazda CX-5 was a welcome replacement to the nerdy, awkward and hard to live with CX-7 and the rebadged Ford, aka Mazda Tribute. Debuting in 2012 as a 2013 model, the fresh from the ground up SUV took advantage of Mazda's SkyActiv Technology platforms. While the 2.0 liter engine wasn't a screamer, it had sufficient power to give the SUV a sense of excitement without the poor mileage of its competitors. The unique design accomplished stellar fuel economy without the more complex turbo. Think of SKyActiv as a deisel engine which runs on regular gas. High compression ratios deliver power with minimal fuel. COmbine with rigid and lightweight aluminum body structure and transmission, the diet reduced weight and made for further fuel enhancements. we just wonder how much more fuel economy this platform can get with more refinement and even a small turbo added.
Mazda kept the spirited handling we so love. The tagline, "zoom-zoom" comes to mind while behind the wheel. In fact, we heard a test driver wisper zoom-zoom as we tested the 2018 Touring model on Boulder Country's backroads. It loves to take turns at a high rate of speed, corners flat, and the powertrain keeps power at hand. Just like my 2008 Mazda 3, the CX-5 responds well to throttle input into a corner. As it begins to understeer, you can point the SUV into the turn by giving more throttle.
The spirited driving dynamics are great, but how does it do "off-road"? Even with 7.5 inches of ground clearance, the CX-5 is really not an off-roader beyond slick dirt or gravel roads. Yes, 7.5 inches is pretty good (the RAV4 only has 6.1 inches), but the sexy KODO design results in a nose so big, Gonzo would be jealous. This nose sticks our so far from the front axle, it is likely to get caught on even the smallest of rocks and/or ruts. The shallow approach angle makes us really nervous about taking this vehicle too far off-road. In fact, the extended nose could even be an issue around town with steep driveways and curbs. Don't get us wrong, the CX-5 is the best looking SUV, period. Just think of it as a fair-weather vehicle rather than an off-roader.
The interior of the CX-5 is, well, stunning. Mazda has really put a lot of work into the materials, fit and finish, and overall design. Our Touring model came in just at $30,000, but the interior could easily be found in a $50,000 BMW. We loved the seats, the soft touch materials, and highly refined switch gear. While the infotainment system sits atop the dash like an after thought and requires a steep learning curve to get used to, we did appreciate the center dial and the shortcut buttons. We also thought the overall look and feel of the system was antiquated. The system has been around for a few years now with few updates. Apple Car Play and Andriod Auto are not offered.
As a major improvement over the previous generation models, Mazda put a lot of effort into solving one of the biggest complaints, roald and wind noise. After the first mile, we were impressed with how quiet the interior was. It was definitely more BMW than Honda. This adds to that awesome feeling of luxury and comfort. In fact, the interior is a great place to spend time, so we highly recommend the CX-5 for long trips. Explore America in a CX-5!
Negatives of the interior include the shiny black piano key plastic which adorns the center console. It is so shiny and black, we are certain it is going to show crumbs and scratches like cat hair on a white shirt. It adds to the quality interior feel, but clean it frequently and carefully. In addition, we felt the cargo room of just 59.6 cubic feet, is well behind the class. The CR-V has 75.8 cubic feet. The Mazda's cargo area is shorter and taller, so longer items are not welcome. Perhaps the smaller cargo area gets you out of moving duty, perhaps a plus in the right context.
Stickering at just north of $32,000, the CX-5 Touring we drove seems like a fantastic bargain. While 2WD Sport models start at $24,150, we recommend the Touring trim which starts at $27,515. The Touring comes with most goodies a driver would want including HD radio, heated front seats, gorgeous leatherette/suede seats, auto on/off headlights, dual zone climate control, and 19" alloy wheels. The $1,200 Tech package is a bargain add-on with navigation, Bose sound system, moonroof, and power liftgate. Unless you are looking for near luxury, the Touring is a tremendous value, especially when a Subarua Forest XT Touring, which is also fun to drive, stickers for almost $40,000!
Stepping up to the Grand Touring gets you full LED lights front and rear, and real leather seats. You can also add the $1,395 Premium package to get heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and the Active Driving Display (HUD unit which shows speed, etc on the windshield). Even with a few dealer installed options, you can get a gorgeous, top-of-the-line CX-5 for under $35,000!! That is truly a bargain when the luxury rivals the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
If you want a fun to drive SUV, the CX-5 is a no brainer. If you want a fuel-efficent runabout, the CX-5 is it. If you want to drive to grandma's house on the other side of the country, the CX-5 will get you there comfortably. If you want to go off-road, look toward the Jeep Cherokee or Subaru Forester. We can see why the CX-5 is an extremely popular mid-size SUV. It is bargain for the level of refinement, efficiency and good looks. With depreciation holding strong and really good reliability numbers, the CX-5 will be a trusted friend for many, many, miles!
© 2018 ~ Spiral Analytics ~ Boulder County, Colorado ~ We Love Almost Anything on Wheels!