Mazda has put a lot of effort into making the CX-5 a usable SUV, enlarging door openings for easy entrance and exit to both the front and rear seats. The seating height is halfway between that of a car and a sport-utility, high enough for good visibility and confidence but low enough so occupants don’t have to step up but can simply swing themselves in through the opening.
The seats themselves are comfortable both front and rear, with good bolstering in front to hold occupants in place. Hollowed-out seat backs in the front give enough rear-seat legroom for four six-foot adults to sit comfortably without contortions. Mazda says rear-seat legroom is the best in the class, though we’d wait for final 2013 Escape figures before cracking the champagne.
For the driver, the manual shift lever is in the right place and offers Miata-style short throws, while a bottom-hinged accelerator pedal reduces foot fatigue on longer trips. A cell phone fits into the arm-rest recess, which has a rubber mat at the bottom, and there’s a console bin, a sunglasses holder, and another flat tray at the front of the console. The interiors include a handsome soft-touch dashboard top surface, and our test vehicles appeared well assembled.
The CX-5 offers a long load bay with a low lift-over height and no protruding shapes; again, Mazda says its volume is best in class. Single-pull releases for the 40-20-40 split rear seat-back cushions are standard in the cargo area, though the system (which moves the rear seat cushion forward and down) requires the rear headrests to be removed first. On the other hand, Mazda provides two dished trays outboard of the load area into which those headrests fit neatly—a very nice touch we wish every maker would copy.
One passenger-friendly feature that Mazda has carried over from its larger seven-seat CX-9 crossover is door bottoms that extend down around around to cover the door sill. This keeps dirt, slush, and water off the sill, which in turn keeps it off passengers’ clothing as they climb in and out.
Noise is well suppressed until the engine has to rev—which it will do often to move the car along expeditiously—and at higher speeds, it’s quiet enough inside that wind noise from mirrors is apparent. It’s particularly silent at idle, when a glance at the tachometer may be needed to see if the engine is running.