Mazda is known for its great handling vehicles, and the CX-5 is no exception. The ‘zoom zoom’ philosophy is implemented fully on this small crossover, which returns great turn-in feel and less understeer than you might expect from something in this class.
But the majority of people buying one of these probably don’t care about that. How then, does the CX-5 fare in the real world, hauling family, friends and gear.
FAST FACTS 1. Power comes from a 2.5 L four-cylinder engine that makes 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. 2. Our all-wheel drive test vehicle is officially rated at 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. 3. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available with the upgraded 2.5 L engine. 4. Our fully-loaded long-term test vehicle comes in at $31,590 after destination charges.
First off, the seats in the CX-5 are fairly comfortable, and elicited no complaints from my three passengers over a four-hour road trip. Size wise, this crossover offers almost-industry-leading storage space, trailing only the Honda CR-V. There is more than enough room for four adult passengers, along with quite a bit of gear stacked in the back.
As any gigging musician will tell you (especially a drummer), having extra space in the back of your vehicle is a requirement, and the CX-5 offers just enough. Packed with a five-piece drum kit, cymbals, a bass amp, a guitar amp, assorted gear and two cases of water, the CX-5 proved itself as a worthy musician’s vehicle. The back seats had to be folded down, and the rear-side doors were not quite wide enough to fit my 24-inch kick drum, but considering that this small crossover was the primary mode of transportation for all of my band’s (Quilted – check us out!) gear, those are fair compromises.
INTERIOR WORKS WELL, LOOKS BAD
Up front, the interior is quite a bore to look at, surprising considering the exterior styling is so attractive. Functionality is good thanks to the simplicity, it’s just the design that could use some spice, as it appears that Mazda didn’t even consider the looks of this crossover on the inside. Contrasting black with a different black? Not exactly the most creative interior design.
To be fair, Mazda does offer a tan (sand) colored interior as well, but only with some models and not with our Soul Red Metallic exterior color.
Our tester, the CX-5 Grand Touring model, comes equipped with a touchscreen that keeps the simplicity theme, as controls of the navigation and stereo are self-explanatory and offered no hassle.
Sitting in the driver’s seat offers a high perch and upright seating position that makes visibility great. And with good sight-lines around the rest of the car the blind-spot monitoring system equipped on higher-trimmed CX-5s is mostly irrelevant.
The monitor is also too sensitive, and still activates once you are a fair distance past the car behind you that you intend to pass. Night time offered a separate challenge for the blind-spot system, which activated on more than one occasion when there was simply nothing there.
FUN TO DRIVE BUT STIFF
The suspension is set up for fun and because of that it can feel quite stiff over the rough stuff. While many buyers may not mind, some moderate sized bumps may be enough to awaken a sleeping baby, so a softer ride may be more desirable for the customer with a small child.
Fuel economy promises and delivers as well, with the average at the end of my two week stint sitting at 25 mpg, just one tick below where the government says this vehicle should be. And that is with the new 2.5-liter engine which Mazda installed just this year in the CX-5 due to complaints from media and customers that the original standalone engine option, a 2.0-liter, didn’t have enough jam for the small crossover. A boost of 30 hp and 35 lb-ft torque makes all the difference, and provides the CX-5 with solid power.
That power is sent through a six-speed automatic transmission, which brings with it a few issues. Shifts are smooth, when they happen. The CX-5 likes to hold gears a little longer than most would like, and isn’t to quick to kick down and provide more power.
For the mom or dad that favors a fun drive over a the regular crop of comfortable, numb-feeling small crossovers, the CX-5 offers quite a bit, though if fun isn’t a primary concern, than the stiff setup can be a deterrent.