2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Review

Turbocharging and tweaking to perfection


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Almost the perfect amount of power thanks to the new engine, improved handling is car-like, interior handily bests competitors, even more standard features.
Negatives: A bit of turbo lag on launch, needs paddle shifters.
Bottom Line: Just when you thought Mazda couldn't make the handsome and competent CX-5 any better, they pretty much make it perfect with the infusion of more power and refinement. It's great to drive, potent at highway speeds, and simply wonderful to operate and sit in. We can't imagine a better small crossover on earth for this price right now.
Ever since the CX-5 bowed in 2014, we just couldn't get enough of its car-like driving dynamics, great styling, and comfortable interior. And it's gotten even better in its second generation with a more mature and sophisticated look, a more upscale interior, and the way it drives has even been ramped up. Now, it gets the powertrain it deserves from the CX-9 and horsepower jumps to 227 from 185 (250 with premium gas). We drove the top Signature trim for a week to see if it was even possible to love the CX-5 even more.
 

Driving Experience

9.8

 

The CX-5 gets more power thanks to the new engine from the turbocharged CX-9 and the new Mazda6, but it also gets handling enhancements that result in a more composed driving experience, not that the CX-5 really needed much help. It was great to begin with and outclassed just about every other small crossover in the segment.

Ride Quality: The ride is not only more composed but loses none of its road feel for the driver.

Acceleration: Acceleration gets a boost thanks to more power. The 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque results in quicker acceleration and really great mid-range punch that makes highway passing much easier. We would've loved to see the addition of paddle shifters, though.

Braking: The CX-5's brakes are strong and responsive with a solid and progressive pedal feel.

Steering: The CX-5 steering setup results in quick turn-in, good feedback, and medium steering effort. It's one of the better small crossover systems. Only the Jaguar F-PACE/E-PACE and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio are better.

Handling: The upgraded G-Vectoring Control plus keeps things in check in the turns and returns great stability when straightening the wheel.

Technology

9

 

The CX-5's infotainment and tech aren't cutting edge, but everything works easily and remains the high points for keeping things less than distracting. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, and it's about time.

Infotainment System: The screen is easy to read, though responsiveness between menus could be quicker. We like the legibility and the flow, but you still can't use the touchscreen while driving. Though that's probably the safest route, it can be annoying.

Controls: All the buttons and knobs work great, especially the Commander control knob. We would like Mazda to make the INFO button on the steering wheel separate from the audio controls. It gets depressed accidentally too often.

Styling

9.7

 

The CX-5's styling goes largely unchanged except for small tweaks to the interior. It didn't really need much since it's one of the best-looking crossovers around. The interior continues to be the benchmark for the segment.

Front: Thin headlights and a dark chrome grille are incredibly well-excecuted in a world of other over overstyled models.

Rear: The taillights are thin and house nice cylindrical detailing inside, providing a sporty and elegant look at the same time. The twin round tailpipes are true to Mazda form and very well done. No fake ports here.

Profile: The hood slopes down to a crisp point at the front, and the body sculpting is smooth and attractive. No fender vents, and it's all the better for it.

Cabin: Mazda continues to make some of the best interiors in the business. For 2019, the biggest change is the gauge cluster that mimics the new Mazda6. It's cleaner and more open instead of the separate units in the 2018 model. Finishes and materials overall are superb.

Comfort

9.1

 

Mazda does a superb job of making their cars comfortable and easy to use. Drivers and passengers will find it comfortable, though because of the segment, the rear occupants can't be basketball players (unless they're in junior high).

Front Seats: Signature trim adds ventilated and heated seats to the mix, and the sporty seats have the right amount of bolstering and cushioning. Leather quality is also very good.

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): Sound deadening for this generation has been beefed up, and it pays off, especially at highway speeds where the CX-5 is much quieter. Build quality is also excellent.

Visibility: The CX-5 has good visibility all around. The sloping hood allows you to place it where you want. The standard rearview camera and 360 view camera are great additions and come standard.

Climate: The heated and ventilated seats on the Signature trim, along with the heated steering wheel are standard. The automatic climate control system works well.

Safety

9.7

 

The CX-5 is easily one of the safest vehicles in its class, getting top marks in crash testing and possessing a great list of safety technology.

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. The rear camera and 360 camera come standard, as well.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8

 

The CX-5 has great interior storage options. And though none of them is huge, the spaces are truly usable and easily accessible. Rear cargo space is also more than adequate.

Storage Space: The open cubby at the base of the center stack is pretty spacious and has a grippy rubber base. Very convenient for keys, phone, and other small daily gear items. The armrest can old larger items and is easy to open and close.

Cargo Room: The 30.9 (all seats in place) and 59.6 (second row folded flat) are pretty good, but they're less than some competitors like the spacious Honda CR-V and the Ford Escape.

Fuel Economy

8

 

Turbocharging the 2.5-liter engine gives it more power but also affects the fuel efficiency. It's still pretty good but loses out to the older and more efficient naturally-aspirated version.

Observed: 20.2 mpg.

Distance Driven: 167 miles.

Audio

9.2

 

The BOSE premium audio system with 10 speakers sounds excellent with good bass, no distortion at high volumes, good clarity and fullness. At this trim level, the system comes standard, which is textbook Mazda and makes it a solid value.



Final Thoughts

The one thing that was missing from the CX-5 equation has now been well-addressed, and the result is a great-driving, supremely attractive, well-appointed, and punchy crossover. Mazda knows how to build value into their vehicles. Right now, there isn't a crossover at this price we'd choose over the CX-5. It's just that good.

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