2017 Mazda CX-5 Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
October 3, 2017

The 2017 Mazda CX-5 takes a lot of small steps forward, but are any of them big enough changes to sway buyers?

The 2017 Mazda CX-5 is new this year, and improves upon last year's model with a better interior and exterior look, quieter ride, a new-ish standard engine, and a coming turbodiesel that could be among the leaders for small crossovers in highway mileage. It's offered in Sport, Touring, Grand Select, and Grand Touring trims with varying levels of creature comforts.

It earns a 7.0 overall on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Styling and performance

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Mazda's ethos of performance and style is in full view here, again. The CX-5 looks better than many of its boxy competitors without overworked lines; and it's a more enjoyable crossover to drive. While we had our gripes with the outgoing model, style and driveability weren't on that list.

The new CX-5 isn't a huge departure from the outgoing model. The shape is instantly recognizable, and its trapezoidal grille is still front and center. Instead, subtle changes to the sheet metal bends along the sides, chrome accents below the window and the grille, and a floating badge on a slightly canted grille are the best indications that you're driving Mazda's latest and greatest.

Inside, the CX-5 borrows heavily from the CX-9 and that's a good thing. It's an upscale interior without commanding luxury money, and little things like the steering wheel have been improved.

Under the hood, Mazda's argument for the new car is more nuanced. A reworked 2.5-liter inline-4 is standard on all models, a turbodiesel will appear in the fall (something we've heard that before). The new engine makes 187 horsepower, a modest 3 hp improvement over the last model, and is mated to a 6-speed automatic only—no more manual.

In general, performance is sharp and the steering is precise. It's the most fun we've had in a compact crossover—not a high bar to begin with, but we appreciate the effort.

Comfort, safety and features

The CX-5 was among the smallest in its class, and the new version doesn't change that much. Five adults will fit within the CX-5, thanks to a little more shoulder room in a slightly wider track. Scalloped seats and enough leg room in the back make it possible for 6-footers to sit behind 6-footers, although cargo capacity is behind others with only 31 cubes fitting in when all the seats are up.

Mazda's attention to detail would make any accountant proud. The automaker's seek-and-destroy mission for nasty sounds resulted in a cabin that's quiet and calm, although not quite a sensory-deprivation chamber like a Lexus or Toyota.

Safety scores for the CX-5 could be concerning. So far, federal testers have given the CX-5 a four-star overall rating, which is relatively uncommon for the class and a new car. The IIHS hasn't yet weighed in, so stay tuned.

All versions of the CX-5 are outfitted with good standard equipment, including a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment that doesn't have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet, but we expect that to change soon.

Grand Touring models can be decked with leather seating, power liftgate, an active safety suite, and heated seats for front and rear passengers. Pricing starts in line with the other guys, at $24,985 for front-drive Sport models and can run up to just over $34,000 for a fully loaded Grand Touring model with all-wheel drive.

The Grand Select is a late-introduction model that's equipped like a Grand Touring, only with fewer active safety features and a $500 lower price tag. Yeah, we don't get it either.

8

2017 Mazda CX-5

Styling

The new look may be hard to spot, but the 2017 Mazda CX-5 is still one of the best-looking crossovers on the road.

Among competitors, the newly redesigned Mazda CX-5 is a knockout—even the last model was good looking too.

We give it a point for a well-designed interior that’s better than average, and an exterior that’s not only better than average—it’s better than that. The CX-5 earns an 8 out of 10 on our style-o-meter. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

We acknowledge that for most it’s hard to pick out the differences in the CX-5 from last year’s model, especially when taken alone.

Beyond the typical compact crossover dimensions, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 manages to stand out thanks to a newly designed grille that’s canted slightly forward. The grille reaches into narrower headlights that stop short of the front fenders. The most noticeable change is the single chrome accent running underneath the grille’s trapezoidal face; last year’s bars have been replaced with a mesh grille and a floating badge.

Along the sides, the front fenders’ shoulder line reaches further back into the sheet metal and into the car’s haunches. Smaller black cladding around the wheel arches helps the standard 17-inch wheels fill the arches a little more, but the 19-inchers on the Grand Touring version fill them best.

A single chrome boomerang underneath the window line draws eyes in the same way that the chrome line in the front does, part of Mazda’s lead designer in America Julian Montousse’s “purity through intensification” approach. (Eds note: Also the tagline for Opus Dei?)

Around back, less cladding on the rear bumper, smaller taillights, and a more rounded shape for the tailgate finish off the car.

Inside the CX-5 borrows heavily from the bigger sibling CX-9 with cleaner lights, redesigned vents, and an emphasis on a more cohesive look. The touchscreen has moved from inside the dash to on top of it, an ergonomic question that we cover in the comfort section.

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2017 Mazda CX-5

Performance

Mazda nailed the performance of the new CX-5. Were you expecting anything different?

The 2017 Mazda CX-5 is available with two engines, however only one will be underhood when the crossover goes on sale this spring.

A 2.5-liter inline-4 is standard and makes 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are like last year’s CX-5, although Mazda says the engine has been reworked to provide better response. A 2.2-liter turbodiesel will be available this fall and joins the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain as small crossovers with an available diesel engine. For now, a 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, last year’s manual transmission and 2.0-liter inline-4 have been dropped in the States.

For its sharp steering the CX-5 earns a point above average. Its base engine and transmission combo is bright and worth mentioning as nearly earning another point, but the CX-5 nets a 6 out of 10 on our performance scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

While the horsepower improvements over last year’s version are modest (only 3 hp more than the last generation’s 2.5-liter inline-4) engineers at Mazda have finely tuned the CX-5’s response and acceleration. The CX-5 launches off the line with confidence and doesn’t exhibit any of the lag normally associated with turbocharged engines. That's the good news. The bad news? Its fuel economy dips slightly from last year, and competitors' turbocharged engines are posting heady numbers in the segment.

The details of Mazda's overhaul this time around are too numerous to list, but a few are worth mentioning. The throttle mapping carefully and successfully walks the line between sharp and jerky, and the transmission responds with a delayed 1-2 shift to get up to speed quickly. Mazda also tuned the crossover’s 6-speed automatic to hold a gear longer on interstate interchanges to merge with moving traffic, which we appreciated—but others might perceive as hesitation to upshift.

One transmission note: the 6-speed manual that was previously standard on base CX-5s is gone, as is the old 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. We'll miss the stick, but buyers wont; Mazda says barely 5 percent of buyers opted to row it themselves. 

Independent struts up front and multi-link rears soak up most of the road’s imperfections, and the cars we drove rode on big 19-inchers at the corners that managed to keep most of the drama outside. Despite giving up some sidewall to the standard 17-inch tires fitted on Sport and Touring models of the CX-5, the big 19-inch wheels don’t feel flinty or especially hard.

Mazda’s other improvement to overall ride, which first made an appearance on Mazda3 models, include engine torque vectoring that helps cut down head toss. Small, imperceptible adjustments in power delivery when heading into corner help shift weight to the front of the car in cornering to reduce steering input and control weight transfer. The system is largely invisible, which is likely what Mazda was going for.

New for this year, Mazda mounted the steering rack directly to the front suspension to provide better feedback. Indeed, the CX-5 is sharper on the road than most of its competitors, but that's something we've been saying about the Mazda crossover for a while now. There's good news, however: the solid-mounted steering rack doesn't shimmy or rattle on bumpy roads.

Point the nose of the CX-5 in the direction you need to go and it promptly obeys. "Steering feel" is a nebulous term that's overused by many, but understood by few. Put simply, the steering feel of the CX-5 is firm, without being heavy. Cock the wheel with small inputs and the steering responds progressively; little inputs are registered and returned, but bigger inputs rise at a predictable rate with each turn. The best test is to hold the wheel at a constant angle (like at a roundabout) and notice how the car's overall speed and steering angle are directly proportional—automakers still struggle with that. Mazda doesn't.

Front-wheel drive is standard on all trims of the CX-5 and all-wheel drive is available at every level as a $1,300 option.

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2017 Mazda CX-5

Comfort & Quality

Quieter, better looking, and smarter materials make for a better CX-5—even though it's still relatively small.

Mazda says CX-5 shoppers complained most about interior noise and harshness, and that those areas were the biggest improvements for 2017.

Five passengers will easily fit in the CX-5, with a newly reclining rear seat that adjusts by 4 degrees for taller torsos. The rear cargo area holds 30.9 cubic feet of gear, 59.6 cubes with the rear seats folded flat. Those dimensions are smaller than most of the CX-5’s competitors, including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester.

Starting with an average 5, we say the CX-5 is comfortable for all its passengers, and is an improvement over last year’s model in almost every way. It earns a 6 out of 10 for comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Quieting the CX-5’s ride was Mazda’s biggest task, and their meticulous approach to everything shows. The doors now have a third seal to keep road noise out, and Touring and Grand Touring models feature thicker acoustic glass up front to hush the insides. Little things like carpeting over gaps between the rear wheels and rear hatch go further to cut down noise, but the complete list is too long to mention here.

Overall, Mazda says it added about 100 pounds of sound-deadening materials, which shows up in the tale of the tape. The new car is about 100 pounds heavier than the outgoing car (3,527 pounds in front-drive spec) with 106.3 inches between the wheels and 179.1 inches from bumper to bumper. The last two figures are nearly identical to the outgoing version, even though this year’s model is all new.

For front seat passengers, the driver-centric cockpit is a better place to sit with all-day comfortable seats and outward visibility that’s improved by pushing the front pillars back more than an inch. Mazda says it’s improved ergonomics by moving arm rests up to a more natural position where elbows would fall, and leveled inboard and outboard arm rests. Thanks guys. A 7.0-inch touchscreen is front and center mounted atop the dash, although it’ll likely be a magnet for smudges.

An infotainment controller is planted in the center console, along with a shifter that has been pushed back more than 2 inches to better accommodate the driver. The result is an infotainment knob that’s somewhat hard to grip and a touchscreen that’s a little too far to reach. Minor agita, but still worth mentioning.

Rear doors open wider this year to help entry and exit into the second row. Rear seat passengers get 39.6 inches of leg room, up a fraction of an inch from 2016. Tall 6-footers should fit fine behind other 6-footers, but the new CX-5 isn’t as capacious as the CR-V and Rogue, which seem to be a quarter-size bigger compared to the CX-5. According to our knees, which are attached to a 6-foot-3 editor, there's plenty of room for tall adults at every position.

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2017 Mazda CX-5

Safety

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 comes standard with good safety tech and has performed well in crash-testing.

The 2017 Mazda CX-5 would have a near-perfect safety rating if not for a single blemish from the federal government: an uncommon four-star (out of five) overall safety rating.

As a result, it's rated at 9 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The IIHS disagrees, rating the CX-5 as a Top Safety Pick+ when equipped with automatic emergency braking and certain headlight configurations.

According to the automaker, the 2017 CX-5 is built with stiffer roof pillars and more high-strength material than the outgoing model, which was a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS last year. Second, Mazda equipped the 2017 CX-5 with their brake-based torque vectoring system that shifts torque to outside wheels to aid maneuverability and stability.

Last, Mazda says the newest CX-5 should be about 15 percent stiffer overall than the outgoing model, which should also help prevent accidents.

If those should all fall apart, the CX-5 is equipped with a full complement of airbags that should help protect passengers in a crash.

All versions of the CX-5 come standard with low-speed automatic emergency braking designed to prevent crashes in urban settings. Full-speed automatic emergency braking is optional on the CX-5 Touring (in the i-Activesense package) and standard on the Grand Touring.

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2017 Mazda CX-5

Features

Base cars are well equipped, but we're missing a better infotainment system to relieve us of Mazda's menu-heavy approach.

The 2017 Mazda CX-5 comes in four different trims—Sport, Touring, Grand Select, and Grand Touring—with varying levels of creature comforts all the way up. Standard front-drive Sport models start at $24,985 with $940 destination included. At the top, a fully loaded Grand Touring model with all the amenities, all-wheel drive, and premium paint costs $34,060. All-wheel drive can be added at every step along the way for $1,300.

That's a hefty increase over last year, but it's worth noting that the previously standard 6-speed stick shift and 2.0-liter 4-cylinder have been canned. So, apples for apples, the CX-5 is actually a better value going into the new year.

Every CX-5 will be equipped with LED headlights; a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment; Bluetooth connectivity; power windows, door locks, and mirrors; a rearview camera; keyless ignition; cloth upholstery; and two USB chargers that can charge larger devices.

For good base equipment, the CX-5 earns another point above average, and its 7.0-inch touchscreen is good for its class too. We have to take away a point for Mazda's menu-heavy, slightly frustrating infotainment system. The 2017 Mazda CX-5 earns a 6 out of 10 for features on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Like the CX-9 before it, Mazda has worked to position the CX-5 as a slightly premium crossover compared to its rivals. It's evident in the interior mostly, where many of the CX-9's details have been cribbed for the smaller crossover.

An improved touchscreen is sharper and bright, but still relies on the same finicky infotainment system that isn't our favorite compared to others in the class. Simple tasks like programming presets or entering destinations take longer than we'd like, and although we hear Apple CarPlay or Android Auto will be coming to the rescue soon, the base system is a liability—not an asset.

Stepping up to Touring models, which is something Mazda expects most CX-5 buyers will do, adds leatherette interior, acoustic windows up front for a quieter cabin, a power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, an upgraded 6-speaker sound system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear USB ports, and blind-spot monitors. An optional preferred package on Touring models adds automatic headlights, navigation, power liftgate, and Bose 10-speaker premium audio for $780. An additional safety package can add forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning for for $625, but the two bundles can't be added simultaneously to Touring cars.

Getting all the fixings requires a Grand Touring model, which Mazda says will be about 50 percent of buyers. Grand Touring models add the preferred and safety packages along with leather seats and 19-inch wheels. Few options are available for Grand Touring models beyond a premium package that adds power adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and a new head-up display.

A late addition to the lineup for 2017 is the Grand Select which is basically a Grand Touring without all the safety tech—for $500 less. An odd buy, that one. Spend the extra $500, we say.

Our tester was a Grand Touring model loaded to the hilt (and beyond $30,000) with the head-up display. While we like the information provided—especially blind-spot monitor information—it's a little busy with information. Strange considering Mazda's spartan approach to infotainment.

Premium paint colors, including the deep red that Mazda shows in most of its cars, are available from $200 to $595 on most models.

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2017 Mazda CX-5

Fuel Economy

The CX-5's official numbers dipped slightly from last year, although the new CX-5 is still efficient for its class.

The CX-5 is available with two different powertrain configurations and two drive systems, but only one transmission option for now. The standard 2.5-liter inline-4 has been rated at 24 mpg city, 31 highway, 27 combined in front-drive configuration, and adding all-wheel drive drops those numbers slightly to 23/29/26 mpg. Both of those figures earn a 7 on our efficiency scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The most-efficient model of the CX-5 won’t arrive until later this year. A 2.2-liter turbodiesel should be the mileage champ and help the Mazda crossover better compete against similar models such as the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, which also has a diesel powertrain, and the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. EPA figures aren't out yet for those models, but we expect that they could reach high-30s for highway mileage.

The bigger, 2.5-liter inline-4 will be the more common pick among buyers and it’s available with front- or all-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic only.

In our limited testing around Southern California, we managed 24 mpg displayed by the trip computer over 115 miles.

Honda's smaller, turbocharged engine in the CR-V does slightly better on the official EPA test, although with any forced-induction engine the real-world returns can vary greatly depending on how you drive.

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July 10, 2017
2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

WOW! WHAT A DEAL OF A CROSSOVER!

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DRIVING-IT TURNS CORNERS AND CURVES INTERIOR-LEATHER AND COMFORT EXTERIOR-MY FRIEND THOUGHT IT WAS A LEXIS COST- A LOT LESS THAN A LEXIS OR AUDIE OR A MBZ. PRICELESS - EXPERIENCE GO BUY ONE FOR YOURSELF! + More »
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Styling 8
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 9
Features 6
Fuel Economy 7
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