Mazda CX-5 SUV review, images

The Mazda CX-5 is a compact crossover SUV that slots in between…

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… The subcompact CX-3 and…

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… The midsize CX-9.

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It competes in a segment packed with heavy hitters including the Honda CR-V,…

Honda
Toyota
Ford

…. Nissan Rogue, and…

Nissan
Hollis Johnson

The CX-5 features Mazda’s signature KODO design language which aims to deliver a look that’s timelessly elegant and understated while conveying the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship. In other words, the CX-5 is striking and memorable without being over the top.

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The CX-5’s rear end is less angular and aggressive with shorter overhangs.

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Inside the CX-5’s interior really impresses. It’s stylish yet boasts stellar ergonomics. Material quality is close to what you would find in a premium-badged vehicle.

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I found the while leather-trimmed seats in our test car to be well bolstered and comfortable with good adjustability.

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The rear cabin is roomy with adequate room for two full-size adults. The center seat is more geared towards children. The CX-5’s 39.6 inches of rear legroom may be a bit tight for the taller folks amongst us.

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On the road, the cabin is quiet and refined. Extra sound deadening fixes one of the biggest complaints about its predecessor which had one of the louder cabins in the segment.

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The centerpiece of the front dash is a seven-inch touchscreen running the company’s homegrown Mazda Connect infotainment system.

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The system, which can also be controlled using a center console-mounted rotary dial, features a simple and straightforward layout.

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It’s not as crispy rendered as premium systems found in luxury brands but looks on par with most mass market units.

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Its user interface leaves much to be desired. For examples, it took to some hunting before we figured out how to cancel a route on the navigation system. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not yet available on the CX-5.

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What did work well is a multi-function heads-up display.

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Overall, the CX-5 Grand Touring came equipped with a healthy complement of tech goodies including adaptive cruise control, a rear camera, lane keep assist, smart city brake support, rear cross traffic alert, and a 10-speaker Bose sound system.

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Lift up the single piece tailgate…

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… A solid 30.9 cubic feet of cargo room. Fold down the 40/20/40 split bench and cargo space expands to 59.6 cubic inches.

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The CX-5 also comes with an actual spare tire. A rarity these days.

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Under the hood is a 2.5-liter, 187 horsepower, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. It utilizes Mazda’s lean burning, high compression SKYACTIV technology to increase fuel economy and improve emissions. It’s hooked up to a smooth shifting six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive.

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So, what’s it like to drive?

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The Mazda CX-5 is a joy to drive. The SKYACTIV four-cylinder meshes perfectly with the six-speed automatic. Around town, it’s perky off the line and delivers more than adequate power around town.

Since it has a naturally aspirated engine, it lacked the broad power band of turbocharged and supercharged engines. As a result, it struggles a bit under hard acceleration. The transmission is quick to respond and will gladly drop down a couple of gears and the engine is more than willing to rev. In fact, this car with the CX-9’s 250 hp turbo engine would be an absolute rocket. I also want to commend Mazda for sticking with a traditional six-speed automatic and not using soul-sucking continuously variable transmission.

Handling wise, the CX-5 is simply wonderful. It’s crisp steering really allows you to push the car in the twisty bits. However, Mazda’s stability control will kick in before you can really have fun. Overall, the CX-5’s suspension, chassis, and steering are beautifully tuned. As a result, you get a crossover SUV that’s both confident in the corners and comfortable cruising down the highway.

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The 2018 Mazda CX-5 definitely brings the Zoom Zoom to the compact crossover SUV market. I know that’s cheesier than a brick of brie, but it’s true. While most of its contemporaries are happy to be capable yet inoffensive and unremarkable daily drivers, the CX-5 dares to be more.

The Mazda offers its drivers a brighter view of the world where a winding piece of tarmac is more than a barrier to your destination, but rather an experience to be enjoyed.

And for that reason, the CX-5 is easily my compact crossover of choice.