|Positives: Excellent driving dynamics, beautifully crisp exterior design looks upscale, interior quality and ergonomics are top notch.|
|Negatives: Still needs a smidge more power, still no ventilated seats.|
|Bottom Line: Talk about getting more for your money, the CX-5 in only the second year of its second generation gets small but meaningful upgrades to its already excellent set of standard features. It remains the best-driving, best-designed small crossover for the price and should be a the top of shoppers' lists.|
No one would call the last CX-5 harsh on roads, but it defintely leaned towards firm. Mazda not only kept the great driving dynamics of the new version, but it also improved the ride quality. The rest of the driving experience is also virtually peerless in the segment.
Ride Quality: The ride is smoother and more compliant with road irregularities. The car feels much better in daily driving.
Acceleration: Though the 2.5-liter four gets 3 more horses than the 2016 model, the car's weight has also gone up due to increased sound deadening materials. Acceleration isn't astounding but, rather, adequate. The transmission shifts beautifully, and throttle response is even better than the last CX-5. In Sport Mode, the gears are held longer, and throttle response seems even better. We just wish the Sport Mode system wasn't so aggressive. It seemed like we were waiting too long for the transmission to shift at low, suburban traffic speeds.
Braking: The CX-5's brakes are strong and responsive with a solid and progressive pedal feel. They match the rest of the car's driving abilities.
Steering: The addition of Mazda's G-Vectoring Control helps the CX-5 get through turns faster and with greater control. It helps tighten steering input and response, and the feel and turn-in are excellent.
Handling: Body control in the CX-5 is one of best we've seen. It remains a benchmark for mid-sized crossovers to aspire to and feels like a slightly taller sports car. Seriously good.
The CX-5's infotainment and tech might not be the most eye-catching or the most sophisticated in the industry, but it's one of the most functional. Mazda's attention to detail and mindfulness of driver needs shows up in the new CX-5 in a big way. They're not trying to make things look the best. They're making everything work seamlessly for the driver. Currently there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration, but it's expected in the near future. Mazda says they will be able to upgrade those who bought early
Infotainment System: The new screen no longer looks glued on the dash but integrated into it. The resolution and colors seem more vivid, too.
Controls: The multi-function Commander controls between the seats are superb. They actuate and feel fantastic. The knob is responsive with turning and tilting functions clear and easy. The adjacent buttons also work just as well.
We couldn't identify much of a difference between the new model and the old one in photos. The shape was essentially the same. Even when we saw the 2017 model at the Chicago Auto Show, it was hard to notice big differences, but when you see them parked side-by-side, the contrasts are significant. The new CX-5 is more refined and upscale in just about every way, and it still keeps the ethos of the first (and still excellent) CX-5.
Front: The shape of the grille is the same as before, but the size and angle of it have changed for the better. Even moreso, the replacement of the horizontal grille bars with tasty black mesh makes the CX-5 look racier and more expensive. It also seems to invite damage since it juts out pretty far.
Rear: The handsome taillights look like an blending of the CX-9s and the Miata's. They're thin and sinister, and they go well with the rear end's simple but sporty styling. Mazda also does great twin, round exhaust ports, which we adore for their purity.
Profile: Mazda upped the drama without overdoing it. The single crease from the old car gets toned down and mated to a descending crease that's soft but noticeable. The hood looks longer, but the essential shape is the same, and that's a good thing. We also loved the black-highlighted 19" alloy wheels.
Cabin: As good as the exterior is, it almost gets upstaged by the gorgeous interior. All trim bits are high quality, imparting both a look and feel that's beyond the CX-5's price range. Stitching all around and the near-white leather seats make the Toyota RAV4 seem like a clown car.
For 2018, the Grand Touring model gets new features that include memory positioning for the driver’s seat and a power front passenger’s seat, standard. The interior is still one of the best in the industry for its ease of use, comfort, and styling. We love it.
Front Seats: Some of the best seats in the business, and in Parchment Leather trim, it simply looks posh, and they feel great, too. Good bolstering, adjustment and support.
Rear Seats: The CX-5 has good rear seats that work for six-footers, but the legroom isn't huge. They are, however, comfortable for long trips.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): This is one area where Mazda made solid gains. The upgraded sound deadening works thanks to thicker front glass, more door seals, and argo compartment carpeting makes the new CX-5 quieter than before. It was an area that was lacking, and Mazda addressed it properly.
Visibility: Great seating position and visibility all around. The standard rearview camera is an added benefit.
Climate: The heated seats and optional heated steering wheel complement the excellent automatic dual zone climate system very well. We just wish there was the option of cooled seats like the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Last time we drove the CX-5 in 2017, it hadn't been crash tested yet, but it has been since, nailing the best marks possible by one body and very good marks from another.
IIHS Rating: The 2018 CX-5 gets the Top Safety Pick+ rating, getting "good" scores in every crash test, "superior" in accident avoidance tech, and "acceptable" in the headlight and LATCH ease of use categories.
NHTSA Rating: Four stars in crash test ratings, one shy of the top score due to a slightly less-than-perfect side barrier crash test and rollover test.
Standard Tech: The top trim level comes with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, Smart City brake support, Smart brake support (both accident avoidance tech features), lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. It's a solid set that's excellent at this price.
Optional Tech: None.
The CX-5 is well thought-out in terms of small item storage. Everything is well-placed and truly usable. The rear cargo section now gets carpet to aid in sound deadening, improving the look, feel and quietness.
Storage Space: The open cubby at the base of the center stack is rubberized and large. Very convenient for keys, phone, and other small daily gear items. The armrest isn't long, but it's deep enough for items like a small camera, snacks, etc.
Cargo Room: The 30.9 (all seats in place) and 59.6 (second row folded flat) are good capacity numbers, but they get dwarfed by the new Honda CR-V's 39.2 and 75.8, as well as the Toyota RAV4's 38.4 and 73.4 cubic feet.
Thanks to new cylinder deactivation tech, the CX-5 does a bit better with fuel economy. It's still one of the better small crossovers out there in terms of mileage.
Observed: 23.1 mpg.
Distance Driven: 212 miles.
Driving Factors: We drove it in Sport Mode about 25% of the time, but it's a bit too high-revving for our likes.
The BOSE premium audio system with 10 speakers sounds excellent with good bass, no distortion at high volumes, good clarity and fullness. We enjoyed listening to it throughout the week. At this trim level, the system comes standard, which is very good news for the savvy car shopper.