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2018 Mazda CX-5

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Overview (Final Score: B)

Mazda redesigned its CX-5 compact crossover last year where it made a number of notable improvements. This includes a premium interior, more active safety features, a slightly improved ride and more sound deadening. The automaker could have just rested on its laurels and not make any changes for 2018. But Mazda decided to make some updates that include new tech for the four-cylinder engine and adding more active safety features to lower trims. Do the changes help keep the CX-5 in the running as one of best compact crossovers?

What We Love About the 2018 Mazda CX-5

  • Premium exterior and interior

  • Impressive fuel economy figures

  • Sharp chassis provides an entertaining ride

What We Didn't Love About the 2018 Mazda CX-5

  • Infotainment system is feeling old

  • Smallish cargo area

  • Loses steam at higher speeds


Exterior View (9/10)

The CX-5's design is influenced heavily by the larger CX-9 with muscular sheet metal and short overhangs to make the model look smaller than it actually is. The front features a large hexagonal grille and a set of slim LED headlights that are slanted to help it stand apart from competitors. For the side, designers gave the rear a fastback shape to emphasize its sporty nature. Dipped in Mazda's Soul Red paint, the CX-5 stands out in what is becoming a very crowded class.


Interior Comfort, Quality and Ease of Use (8/10)

Step inside the CX-5 and you might be wondering if you're actually in a German luxury car. Mazda's designers have been working on making their interiors look and feel premium for the past few years, and the CX-5 is a prime example. The dash is beautifully crafted with a modern design and the use of high-quality materials such as aluminum trim around the vents.

Our CX-5 Grand Touring tester came with leather upholstery, power adjustments for the front seats, and heat for both rows. The front seats offer excellent headroom and good legroom for most passengers. Support for long trips is excellent, though some will complain about the seats being a bit too firm. With Mazda's premium ambitions, we would have liked to see ventilation for the front seats on those hot summer days. The rear seats offer enough headroom for tall passengers, but legroom is a bit lacking.

Cargo space in the CX-5 measures 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 59.6 when folded. This puts the CX-5 in the mid-pack of compact crossovers, tying with the Kia Sportage. Those wanting more space should check out the Honda CR-V.


Technology (6/10)

All CX-5s come equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen featuring the Mazda Connect infotainment system. A rotary knob with shortcut buttons on the center console provides a secondary control. Mazda Connect is beginning to show its age as performance is slower than systems found in the Chevrolet Equinox and Volkswagen Tiguan. The touchscreen is very frustrating to use as it is hard to tell which parts of the system are touch enabled. It doesn't help that you cannot use the touchscreen while on the move. Finally, Mazda doesn't offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility for the CX-5. It should be noted that Mazda is beginning to add both for the 2019 6 sedan and CX-9 crossover. We hope the 2019 CX-5 will get it as well.

On the plus side, the interface is very straightforward to use thanks in part to the rotary knob.

Fuel Economy (10/10)

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD is rated at 24 City/30 Highway/26 Combined, while the FWD version returns 25/31/28. During our weeklong test, we returned a surprising average of 28.5 mpg in the AWD model.


Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (7/10)

Consumer Reports predicts the 2018 Mazda CX-5 will have average reliability, while J.D. Power rates the model below average. There is no initial quality rating for the 2018 CX-5, but Mazda as a brand finished midpack in the 2018 J.D. Power initial quality study.


Safety (10/10)

Mazda has improved the CX-5's safety credentials for the 2018 model year. The base Sport now gets Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert as standard. Touring models add automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. Sport models can get those additional safety features by adding the i-ActiveSense package. Traffic Sign Recognition is only available on the Grand Touring by optioning the Premium package.

Standard safety features include a full set of airbags, traction and stability control; tire pressure monitoring, and backup camera.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the CX-5 with a five-star overall rating. Over at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the CX-5 was named a Top Safety Pick.


Performance (8/10)

Under the CX-5's hood is a 2.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up with a six-speed automatic and the choice of either front- or all-wheel drive. Around town, the CX-5 feels spritely thanks to a sharp throttle response. It becomes a different story when it comes to highway driving or making a pass as the engine struggles to provide the necessary thrust. This might be resolved if the long-delayed turbodiesel engine is launched for the CX-5 within the coming year. The six-speed automatic is unobtrusive and provides rapid up and downshifts.

Mazda has somehow figured out the dark arts of making a compact crossover fun to drive. The chassis provides excellent body control and stability when pushed into a corner. Steering feels precise and provides good weighting when turning. The ride is somewhat firm with some jolts from road imperfections coming inside. A lot of this is due to the 19-inch wheels fitted to our Grand Touring tester. Those who have driven the CX-5 on the smaller 17-inch wheels say the ride is significantly smoother. Wind and road noise don't come inside, even at highway speeds.

Pricing and Value (9/10)

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 kicks off at $24,150 for the base Sport FWD and climbs to $30,945 for the Grand Touring AWD. Our CX-5 Grand Touring with a couple of options comes in at $34,685. Most buyers should consider the mid-level Touring as you'll get most everything you need such as six-way power driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, and a number of active safety features.


Total Score and Competitive Comparison (67/80, 84%)

The Honda CR-V is considered by many to be one of the best models in the class. It offers one the largest interiors for passengers and cargo, supple ride, and excellent fuel economy for the class. The only big downside is a frustrating infotainment system as it is noticeably slower than other systems in the class. Volkswagen's recently redesigned Tiguan is a bit on the expensive side and trails the CX-5 in terms of fuel economy. But the Tiguan fights back with a larger interior, impressive infotainment system, and a nice balance of comfort and athleticism.

In what is becoming a crowded class, the 2018 Mazda CX-5 does stand above most compact crossovers. The sharp looking exterior and premium feeling interior can make you feel that you're in something more expensive. Add in a thrifty four-cylinder, a chassis that provides an engaging drive, and a long list of driver assistance features, and you have a very compelling model. There are some downsides to be aware of such as a smallish cargo area, disappointing performance at higher speeds, and a somewhat confounding infotainment system. But if you're willing to overlook some of those issues, the CX-5 will bring a smile to your face.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sport Sport AWD 4 Cylinder AWD 25450
Touring Touring AWD 4 Cylinder AWD 27515
Grand Touring Grand Touring AWD 4 Cylinder AWD 30945
Sport Sport FWD 4 Cylinder FWD 24150
Touring Touring FWD 4 Cylinder FWD 26215
Grand Touring Grand Touring FWD 4 Cylinder FWD 29645

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