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.
A few years ago I sat in a presentation where Mazda engineers showed how the throttle response of a CX-5 crossover compared to that of a Porsche, a Lexus and an Audi. Why, I asked in slightly politer terms, would they waste our time on that instead of comparing the CX-5 to its actual competition, like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V? Because, a PR rep replied, Mazda didn't want to remain a mainstream brand but instead hoped to become a luxury contender.
At the time, that was a big stretch for the CX-5. But now that the compact crossover has a, with a powerful turbo engine under the hood and lots of lovely appointments, it's a little easier to consider the compact crossover as a near-premium vehicle.
White is unquestionably the worst color for the 2019 CX-5, hiding the clever surfacing that makes this crossover so pretty and making the rear look especially flat and uninspired. Still, Mazda's entry is by far the handsomest among the mainstream compact-crossover class, with an athletic stance. The sloping nose treatment that was introduced with thestill works very well, even if the massive grille is a little too noticeable on a white-painted car. Exterior upgrades on the Signature trim are limited to dark-silver 19-inch wheels and a liftgate badge reading "Sg," which sounds more like a chemical element than a car trim pack. That doesn't feel like enough visual distinction for what is the range-topping (and most expensive) trim level, but alas.
The Good The 2019 Mazda CX-5 is a great-driving crossover with a premium-feeling interior and lots of features.
The Bad The engine never feels as strong as the numbers suggest, and it's both thirsty and pricey.
The Bottom Line Mazda's new Signature trim level does the best job yet of making the CX-5 into a near-luxury contender.
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