The new car average price hovers just around $36,000, and that's a lot of coin, considering the median family income is about $59K. And you still have to take into account the fact that loan periods are skyrocketing, too, with many borrows getting loans for 72 to 84 months. Furthermore, the higher your interest rate and the worse your credit score is, that monthly amount can climb.

new car lot
Temptation can get the best of you. Let's try to keep a reign on spending, shall we? 

So, when it comes to buying a new car, if you just have to have a new one instead of used, which one ticks all the boxes for under $36,000? There are a lot of choices out there, but we've selected one that is the most well-rounded when it comes to virtually all aspects of driving, looks, usability, etc. There are a number of cars that do a few things well, but our choice manages to capture just about everything. 

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

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The CX-5 was excellent when it emerged as an all-new model, replacing the mediocre CX-7 back in 2013. It was really the first affordable small crossover that was truly exciting to drive. Over the years, it's become a true standout in the segment, nabbing accolades from pretty much every automotive journalist worth his/her salt. But why is it just so freakin' good? 

Get a Great Deal on a Mazda CX-5 Today

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Now in its second-generation, the CX-5 has evolved into a truly sophisticated small crossover that punches well above its weight class. First of all, there's no crossover in its price range that looks this upscale. Sure, the Honda CR-V looks better than ever, and the upcoming 2019 Toyota RAV4 ups its own game in the sheetmetal department, but the CX-5 manages to pull off the kind of styling that even upstages some of the more expensive offerings like the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the Lexus RX. The Merc looks boring by comparison, and the RX looks overstyled. The CX-5 sports clean lines without being too conservative, and it also has the right amount of curves and creases without pushing it too far. 

2018 mazda cx5 interior

What's more impressive than the way the CX-5 looks is the way it drives. Most crossovers aren't particularly good to drive, but the CX-5 is surprising because it handles like a sports car. The steering is near-perfect with precision, feedback, and the right amount of effort. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts remarkably well, and Mazda didn't opt for a terrible CVT that's just about everywhere these days. The 187 hp 4-cylinder engine isn't a monster, but it's responsive, smooth, and efficient. The CX-5 has cylinder deactivation to save on fuel when cruising, and it can get an easy 26 mpg combined. A 2.2-liter diesel mill than nabs 29 mpg combined is on the way, as well. 

mazda cx5 seats

If those weren't reasons enough to choose the CX-5, all you have to do is experience the interior. In top Grand Touring trim, it's lacking for nothing. Premium leather, all-wheel drive, LED lighting, adaptive cruise control, heated seats, Bose 10-speaker premium audio, lane departure warning, navigation, all come standard, and that's just a fraction of what's included. The seats are some of the best we've experienced, and the layout of the interior is near perfect. Unlike so many of its competitors, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything that looks for feels cheap inside. 

It'll Sell You on Safety Alone

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The CX-5 is one of the safest vehicles in its class, a serious bragging point. (image: IIHS)

There aren't many small crossovers that nab the IIHS's best safety score. It's a rigorous set of crash and safety tests that became more stringent of late. The Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V miss the top mark by a hair, and the Ford Escape doesn't even come close. With the full set of safety tech that comes with the CX-5, it even pulls off a "Superior" in the front crash prevention category. Even the CX-5's headlights, a category that most crossovers fail to perform well in, get the top score of "good". Families can rest assured that they're getting a truly safe automobile. 

How We'd Spec It

cx5 grand touring
It's hard to believe you get this much car at this price. The Grand Touring trim is packed. (image: Mazda)

We don't always recommend the top trim in every car model, but in the case of the CX-5 , the Grand Touring is the way to go since you can price it out for less than $36K, and it has virtually everything you'd want. In terms of tech, safety, build quality, styling, driving fun, and comfort, it's really hard to beat. Here's how we laid things out:

  • Grand Touring AWD MSRP: $30,945
  • Machine Gray Metallic Paint: $300
  • Parchment Leather Seating: Included
  • Premium Package (Active Driving Display with Traffic Sign Recognition, Heated rear seats,
    Heated steering wheel, Windshield wiper de-icer): $1,395
  • Rear Parking Sensors: $475
  • Destination Fee: $995
  • GRAND TOTAL (before tax, tags, title, dealers processing fee)$34,110

Find Local Discounts on the Mazda CX-5

Just Read Our Full Review:

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Review

2018 mazda cx5 red grand touring