The market for compact crossovers hasn't been this competitive—or this crowded—in the more than two decades the mini-utility vehicles have been on the road.
After only four short years on the scene, Mazda has revamped its best-selling CX-5 to better compete with the likes of Honda, Chevrolet, Volkswagen, and Jeep. They all have new crossovers this year.
This 2017 Mazda CX-5 is the latest in a long line of compact 'utes to hit the streets this year and we've gotten behind the wheel to tell you what it's like.
First, let's get real: While Mazda says this crossover is "all-new" it certainly doesn't scream it. That's because this year's CX-5 is sized nearly the same as the outgoing version, which was on sale from 2013 to 2016.
Deeper creases in the sheet metal, a new nose, and lower window line all separate this from last year's model: barely. That's fine—we never really had a problem with the old one's looks.
Those mild changes carry over to the inside too. The big news is a second row that slightly reclines now to open up more room for rear seat passengers. There's no short third row here, like you might find in the larger Nissan Rogue or Volkswagen Tiguan. Instead, Mazda has touched up the interior in a few places to make the space a little nicer for the five who can fit inside.
To that end are little updates throughout the cabin. Those include a digital screen next to the gauges that replaced a dated LCD setup, and a head-up display for the driver that displays navigation information. We know, those are really minor updates, but like George Carlin said: "We won't sweat the petty stuff, and we won't pet the sweaty stuff."
The biggest changes are underneath the hood. Only one engine carries over from last year, a 2.5-liter inline-4, but a newly available turbodiesel gets us to sit up and pay attention. When it goes on sale later this year, the diesel should help the CX-5 achieve highway fuel economy figures in the mid- to upper-30s. Mazda hasn't told us what to expect from final EPA figures, but we'll know more later this year when it goes on sale.
For now, the gas engine in the CX-5 delivers a predictable—and mostly enjoyable—drive in Mazda 'ute. Our time behind the wheel of the 2017 CX-5 in San Diego allayed our concerns that Mazda was messing with success by rushing this one to market.
Among small crossovers, the CX-5 is still among the most driveable and most nimble. It may not have the same polish as the new Honda CR-V, nor the off-road chops of the Jeep Cherokee, but the Mazda formula of sharp handling and just enough power remains here. Mazda added its torque vectoring control to the CX-5 this year that sharpens turn-in a little, but mostly cuts down on head tossing that you might find in a tall crossover like this.
In short, the new 2017 Mazda CX-5 is a small upgrade on the outgoing crossover, which is fine by us. That one didn't really feel all that old.