2019 Mazda CX-5 — Leader of the pack

By Jim Prueter

(May 22, 2019) Just two years ago Mazda completely redesigned the CX-5 compact SUV, its best-selling model. Mazda said they made over 250 improvements for the second-generation CX-5, none more obvious than the updated exterior styling Mazda designers call “refined toughness.” For the record, the 2019 CX-5 tested here has remained almost mostly unchanged since that time.

However, there have been a few updates. Last year, Mazda added standard blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. For 2019, there’s a new top-of-the-line up market Signature trim level, tested here, powered by a new 250-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine attached to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Other Signature features includes genuine layered wood trim and brushed metal accents inside, a 360-degree-view camera system with front and rear parking sensors, and dark brown Nappa leather interior that’s so dark it’s nearly impossible to distinguish it from black even in direct unfiltered sunlight. There are no available options for the Signature trim level.

Another new addition for 2019 is an available 2.2-liter diesel engine that delivers 168-horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque giving the CX-5 the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds, if so desired. The diesel fuel economy as rated by the EPA is 27 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

The CX-5 is an outstanding two-row, five-passenger, all-wheel drive compact crossover that’s nothing short of spectacular to drive. Its near perfect balance of sportiness, practicality, comfort, sharp steering, and taut, nimble handling courtesy of its Skyactiv G-Vectoring Control Plus feature is unequaled by competitors. The CX-5 rides on 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and all-season tires.

Once inside, it’s immediately obvious that Mazda designers have crafted an exceptionally high quality, detailed cabin with materials most commonly found in premium and near-luxury vehicles. The ventilated and heated front and rear Nappa leather upholstered seats are supportive yet comfortable with eight-way power driver’s seat and six-way power passenger seat.

Rear seat room is on par for the class but not as spacious as competitors like the Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V. We like that the backrests and recline for additional comfort.

An attractive seven-inch touchscreen that sits atop the instrument panel is also operated via an intuitive console-mounted rotary control. The disappointment here is that the system, with its aging and dated menu design, is slow in responding to commands and the screen is a few inches too small. For the first time, Mazda has now made Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available on the CX-5. It’s standard on the Signature model.

Other tech features include an HD radio and SiriusXM, navigation, voice command, Bluetooth, and four USB ports. Our test CX-5 also included adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

While we’ve detailed a long list of “exceptionals” for our CX-5 Signature starting with the excellent new engine and superb handling, there are a few improvements we wished for: more cargo space behind the rear seat, better infotainment controls, and where most all competitors offer or include a panoramic sunroof, the CX-5’s very small, old-school sunroof only extends over the front two seats. These are the only areas where it doesn’t beat out its rivals.

While the CX-5 is priced competitively, it isn’t the most popular or best seller. Those honors go to the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Nissan Rogue. It falls in the middle of the pack, but we think, overall, it’s the best one in its class.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $36,890
Price as Tested: $39,325
What Makes it go: 2.5-L, 250-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder and 6-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 22-mpg city – 27-mpg highway – 24-mpg combined
Crash Test Ratings: Highest possible IIHS 2019 Top Safety Pick+ and 5-stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Where Built: Hiroshima, Japan

Competes With:
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Compass
Kia Sportage
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Fab Features:
The Soul Red crystal metallic paint is gorgeous
Superb driving dynamics
Crash test safety ratings