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2019 Mazda CX-5

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Overview (Final Score: 98%)

The two-row crossover segment is now America's largest, having passed both midsized sedans and full-sized pickups. We've tested every crossover in this segment and can happily report there isn't a bad one in the bunch. However, some do stick out as better than the pack. The Mazda CX-5 is one of those special crossovers.

Mazda's CX-5 has evolved from a run of the mill family crossover with one weak engine and one adequate engine, to a premium-quality crossover with a good engine and one that leads the segment in every objective and subjective way. Mazda's attention to detail and amazing list of available features has bumped the CX-5 up and out of the mainstream, while retaining its mainstream price structure. The CX-5 is a gem and is one of the highest-scoring vehicles we have tested of any type recently.

What We Love About the 2019 Mazda CX-5

  • Fantastic new engine option

  • Premium features at mainstream prices

  • Updated infotainment

What We Don't Love About the 2019 Mazda CX-5

  • Starting to seem a bit small compared to some competitors

  • Geared transmission

  • Hints of torque steer


Exterior View (10/10)

The 2019 Mazda CX-5 strikes a handsome pose. There is no bad side to the CX-5 and it performs the near miracle of not having a polarizing front grill to set off prior owners in chat rooms. In fact, the new front end adopted in 2018 seems to have caught the segment a bit by surprise. No other crossover its size has a look like it. The sleek hoodline and tiny, but effective, lower driving lights are understated elegance at its best.

Mazda also offers one of the best color palettes available. The Crystal Soul Red Metallic is unlike any red we have seen on any other crossover. It is thrilling in person, particularly when coupled with the parchment white interior.

In back, the CX-5's derriere is somehow smaller on the outside than the inside. Whatever trick of the eye Mazda employed, it is a mixed blessing. The CX-5 looks smaller than many crossovers it is actually just as roomy as.


Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (10/10)

Inside, Mazda now tops every mainstream crossover model and matches the premium look and feel of popular crossovers like the Acura RDX and Lexus NX. Noplace inside the CX-5 does it low price point reveal a corner cut. Even the door cards look rich and expensive. The dash has the best non-leather material we have ever seen and the brushed aluminum and wood treatments are as good as we have found in the premium segment.

Entering and exiting the CX-5 is easy since the B-pillar is located perfectly. Loading in a child to a car seat is also much easier than in any sedan offering this much room. Once inside, the CX-5's seat can feel a bit undersized, but that is subjective. We love the touch-screen and the remote rotary knob with its perfectly placed volume knob that one's hand finds intuitively.

Rear seat room and cargo volume are both middle of the pack and plenty roomy for a family vehicle. We also liked that Mazda has a spare tire under the cargo floor.


Technology (10/10)

Mazda recently updated its infotainment system to include both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You can't get both in any Lexus or BMW and the last 2019 Acura RDX we tested lacked Android Auto. We love this technology and it is quick and simple to use in the CX-5. It is plug and play as the saying goes and a passenger need not pair with the Bluetooth system in order to use the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That makes it much easier for your passenger to act as DJ and to help you navigate without bouncing your phone off the paired list.

The CX-5 is also the one of the only crossovers this size that offers both a color head up display and adaptive headlights (that swivel as you turn). We found the heated and ventilated seats and heated steering wheel unusual in a vehicle at this price point. Mazda seems to pack in much more content for the dollar than any premium brand crossover this size.


Fuel Economy (9/10)

Every CX-5 uses regular fuel. That is important to note since some of its peers, the new Infiniti QX-50, for example, are Premium only. That keeps the cost per mile low. Those looking for the most frugal CX-5 will opt for the base 2.5-liter engine, but boy, the up-powered turbo is so good we can't say the money saved is worth it.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (10/10)

Surprise! Mazda is suddenly a quality and reliability leader. In the 2018 JD Power Initial Quality Survey, Mazda scored ahead of Honda, Audi and Volvo. In the 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study, Mazda beat Cadillac and Acura. In Consumer Reports' just released brand rankings by dependability Mazda was third, behind only Toyota and Lexus. Why pay more for a premium crossover if its quality and reliability rankings are not as good as a lower-priced brand's?


Safety (10/10)

Another 10/10 since the Mazda CX-5 earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus award. There is no higher level of safety. Every trim of the Mazda CX-5 has some level of automatic emergency braking, and the top trims all have the complete complement of active safety measures. When we tested a fully-loaded Signature trim what struck us was the lack of annoying false-positive forward collision alerts. Mazda has this system figured out. We also liked that we could select the sensitivity of the lane keeping alerts and assist and turn it off entirely if we wanted to. So many crossovers this type we test have annoying safety nannies it is refreshing to drive one that does not.


Performance (9/10)

New for 2019, there are two versions of the CX-5 in terms of performance. The first is a normally-aspirated (non-turbo) 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine which develops 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. The engine is more than enough for most drivers' needs and it is class-competitive with vehicles like Nissan's Rogue and Subaru's Forester. We find the engine to be quiet and smooth, but it is not what most would call powerful. We have been conducting a long-term test of a 2018 CX-5 Grand Touring and after one year of operation the engine still feels adequate and has not had any issues.

Then there is Mazda's new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged gem that develops a class-leading 310 lb-ft of torque and 227 hp on regular fuel and 250 on premium. That class we are talking about is not the mainstream crossover class, but rather the premium class. The CX-5's top two trims have more torque than the Acura RDX, Lexus NX 300 and the BMW X3 xDrive30i. Mazda has used this engine in its CX-9 for two years and added it to the Mazda6 sedan last year. It is a proven winner and elevates the CX-5 past the point at which the mainstream models can be compared.

Mazda offers a six-speed automatic transmission. As automatics with gears go we would say it is among the finest on the market. However, geared transmissions now seem outdated to us having sampled so many smoother and "better" constantly variable transmissions (CVT). Folks who have not yet tried a CVT for a while often have the view that they won't like the feeling. We respectfully think they are mistaken, but for them, Mazda has just the ticket.

We did notice a bit of torque steer in the up-powered CX-5. The folks at Mazda seem to have made the front wheels a bit overpowered and it feels like they could have given the rear wheels more work. It's certainly not a deal breaker, and it is only felt when you push the CX-5 around in assertive driving. This alone is why we score the CX-5 a 9/10 for performance.

Pricing and Value (10/10)

Simply put, the CX-5's top two trims, Grand Touring Reserve and Signature are the best values in the premium crossover segment. The trims below these are class competitive with the CR-V and Nissan Rogue. Given Mazda's better looks, better quality, and better infotainment than the pack, we feel the CX-5 is a great value.


Total Score and Competitive Comparison (78/80, 98%)

The CX-5 from Mazda is almost unique in that it competes win both the mainstream and also premium segments. Those considering a CR-V or Forester should try the CX-5 and be sure they compare apples to apples by selecting one of the first three trims. Those who are shopping for an Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NX300, or Acura RDX will be shocked when they try the top two trims of the CX-5 and realize it has more content, a stronger engine, and better quality ratings for much less money. We are not sure to best end this love letter, but feel free to glance at other reviews. We dare you to try to find one that doesn't also rave about the Mazda CX-5.

Trim Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sport 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder FWD 24350
Touring 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder FWD 26615
Grand Touring 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder FWD 30045
AWD Grand Touring Reserve 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder AWD 34870
AWD Sport 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder AWD 25750
AWD Touring 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder AWD 28015
AWD Grand Touring 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder AWD 31445
AWD Diesel Signature 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder AWD 41000
AWD Signature 4dr SUV 4 Cylinder AWD 36890

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