REVIEW: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD – Leaving The Mainstream Behind

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For 2019, Mazda adds a new level of performance and luxury to its critically-acclaimed CX-5 crossover.

What is it? 

The CX-5 from Mazda is a two-row crossover competing with the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue. The Mazda CX-5 also compares very well to the BMW X2 and X3, Lexus NX, as well as the Acura RDX and Audi Q5. Unlike many of its peers, the CX-5 now has the luxury features and performance to transcend its mainstream roots.

Pricing and trims

Mazda offers five trim levels of the CX-5. The entry Sport trim starts at about $26K, the Touring at about $28K and the Grand Touring at About $31,500. These three trims use the normally-aspirated (non-turbo) 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine from Mazda. The top two trims are the Grand Touring Reserve starting at about $36K and the Signature starting at about $38K. These top two trims have Mazda’s 2.5-liter turbocharged engine which has a class-leading 310 lb-ft of torque.

We tested the top-trim Signature, with an as-tested price including destination charges of $39,155. However, as a comparison vehicle, we also had on hand a 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Premium, the prior top-trim.

Safety

There is no safer two-row crossover for sale in America than the Mazda CX-5. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the CX-5 a Top Safety Pick Plus, the highest rating possible.

Every Mazda CX-5 comes with some level of automatic emergency braking. The Sport has only a low-speed, City Brake system. Above that level, every CX-5 trim has full-range auto braking and many other features. The Lane Departure safety system offers multiple levels of protection and sensitivity, and we liked that in rural areas, where one constantly moves across the median for joggers and monster potholes, the system can be disabled without an annoying warning light in one’s face.

Performance

The biggest change for 2019 is the addition of the new top two trims with the turbocharged engine. With 310 lb-ft of torque, the new engine has a whopping 40% more torque than the base engine does and it can be felt in every situation. Mazda’s CX-5 isn’t set up to be a pretend race-car. Rather, the added torque enables a quiet confidence in every normal driving situation. Starting off, the CX-5 feels more linear and the pull is more like a diesel than a normal gas engine. The effect is more refined than a peaky rocket type of sport model. The engine never seems to work hard, even when one guns it up an on-ramp. The strength of the engine is down low in the RPM ranges and seeing 4,000 RPMs is a rarity.

Mazda is one of the few automakers left who has not adopted a constantly-variable transmission. Instead, it uses a six-speed auto that never hunts and always seems to be in the perfect gear. We are starting to prefer CVTs, but Mazda’s six-speed is hard not to love.

Ride and handling

Every CX-5 we have driven has a premium feel to its ride. There are no harsh sensations even on hard pothole impacts. The CX-5 is tight in its steering and handles well in corners with very little lean. We would equate the CX-5 with the Lexus NX. We have recently tested the Nissan Roge and Subaru Forester in their top trims for 2019 and the CX-5 is our favorite of the bunch in terms of handling.

Seating, Interior Features

Mazda’s CX-5 Signature features seats that are both heated and cooled. The steering wheel is heated as well. The CX-5 Signature also has adaptive (turning) headlights and a full-color head up display with traffic sign recognition. Having all of these in a crossover this size in the luxury and premium segments is very rare. At this price point, we can’t think of any luxury crossover that has this full set of features. The CX-5 has 103.6 cubic feet of passenger space. That tops the Honda CR-V’s 102.9 cu ft.

Seating in back is comfortable for adults and buckling a child into a car seat is easier than in a sedan due to the added ride height.

Cargo

The Mazda CX-5 offers about 31 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 59.6 cubic feet when the back seats are folded. By comparison, an Acura RDX has about a cubic foot less in each regard.

Infotainment and controls

Mazda’s CX-5 gets both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for 2019 and we sampled both systems and found them to work great. This is a combination you cannot get in the Lexus NX or BMW X3. Mazda’s remote rotary control knob is our favorite of all remote interface systems and the screen can also be touched when not moving.

Overall

The 2019 Mazda CX-5 is easily the best of its class in many ways. The CR-V, RAV4, and Forester simply do not have the pull to compete with the CX-5’s new turbocharged engine. The CX-5 even offers more torque than the Acura RDX and BMW X3 xDrive30i. Coupled with its premium interior and features, Mazda is bridging the gap between mainstream and luxury with its upscale CX-5. Add in the fact that Mazda is now ahead of the pack with regard to smartphone integration and it is hard not to see the CX-5 as one of the best two-row crossovers on the market.

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham