The 2018 Mazda CX-5 is offered with front-wheel or all-wheel drive in three trim levels, the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Loaded with a 2.5L inline 4-cylinder engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission and with 187 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, it has the power to get the job done.
The CX-5 otherwise manages to feel balanced, responsive and sprightly, even with its somewhat taller seating position. A responsive electric-boost rack-and-pinion power steering and sporty yet absorbent suspension, it's one of the best-handling compact utility vehicles.
The CX-5 is also very versatile. In all versions of the CX-5, the back seats are split 20/40/40 and fold nearly flat. Liftover height is low, and the resulting cargo floor is continuous, which should make it easy to pack in larger pieces of weekend cargo.
Sport models include a long list of standard features such as LED headlights, a 7.0-inch color dashboard display with Mazda's fancy Commander knob, a second USB port, G-Vectoring Control, and Smart City Brake Support, Mazda's low-speed automated-emergency-braking system. Also standard on Sport models are items such as Bluetooth, cruise control, keyless entry, push-button ignition, 17-inch aluminum wheels, and power windows and door locks, factors to keep in mind when comparing the CX-5 against less expensive competitors that lack some of that equipment.
The Touring model adds much more popular equipment, such as 19-inch wheels, a rear-seat armrest, a rearview camera, steering-wheel audio controls, upgraded upholstery and a 6-speaker sound system with 5.8-inch touch-screen interface, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio, HD Radio, SMS text-messaging capability and Pandora compatibility. The system also gives rear-seat passengers a pair of USB ports, a fold-down center armrest, and A/C vents between the front seats. Safety-wise, the trim adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Grand Touring models add a lot of equipment that is optional on the Touring, including automatic and adaptive headlights, LED fog lights, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power liftgate and a sunroof. Inside, the Grand Touring has an 8-way power driver's seat, auto-dimming mirrors, a Bose 10-speaker audio system, navigation, leather seat surfaces, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, higher-speed automatic braking and automatic high-beam control.
Major factory options are grouped into just a few packages, for the Touring model these include a preferred equipment package that features: an auto-dimming mirror, automatic on/off headlights, rain sensing front wipers, a Bose 10 Speaker audio system, navigation, power moonroof and power rear liftgate. The i-Activsense package, which includes: automatic high-beam control, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, radar-based adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking with a higher speed range, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
A premium package can be added to the Grand Touring and has: a windshield de-icer, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a 6-way power passenger seat, 2-position driver's memory and a full-color head-up display. There are just a few other port- or dealer-installed options, such as remote engine start, fog lamps, rear parking sensors and roof-rack accessories for kayaks, snowboards and other cargo.
Sometimes, making a change means losing sight of what you used to hold dear. Thankfully, that's not the case for the 2021 Mazda CX-5. While the Japanese automaker has injected its latest vehicles with affordable doses of luxury-level trimmings, the company hasn't lost sight of the fun-to-drive nature that brought people into its showrooms in years past. If anything, it only makes this compact crossover more compelling.
Devoid of harsh angles and eye-grabbing garishness, I appreciate the CX-5's clean body lines, with only a hint of aggression on the hood giving way to subdued curves on the sides. It's a little anonymous, sure, but I think it's interesting in the compact crossover segment; competitors like the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue are content to go hard in the paint with unique styling but a general glossing-over of driving dynamics, whereas Mazda's taking the opposite approach.
The best parts of the CX-5's design are inside. This cabin is one of my favorites in the segment; just like the exterior, Mazda chooses to prioritize cleanliness over whiz-bang, look-at-me styling. Combine that with a whole lot of impressively soft leather on my Signature-trim tester, and you have an interior that borders on bona-fide luxury -- and for less than the average new-car transaction price. The front seats are spacious and supportive without being tight, and while the rear seats may be a little cramped for folks over 6 feet tall, there's still a decent amount of space back there.
The Good ~ Fun to drive ~ Properly fancy interior ~ Affordable
The Bad ~ Light on cargo space ~ Middling MPGs ~ Lack of touchscreen isn't for everyone
The Bottom Line If you want a compact crossover that's more exciting than a manila envelope, the 2021 Mazda CX-5 is ready and waiting.
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