If you want to check on the health of a particular car model, quickly scan the sales numbers. It’s not unusual for a model to fluctuate based on several factors, including how recently it’s been updated.
But when you check the numbers on the Mazda CX-5 you see something very telling. Those sales figures have increased every single year since the small crossover/SUV was first introduced to the American market in 2012.
In fact, from 2017 to 2018 it enjoyed a very healthy 18% jump. People, it seems, really dig this car.
And they should. You can be a real stickler and dig to find a few things to nitpick about — but there won’t be many. The CX-5 knows its market and certainly knows how to cater to it. It’s one of the better crossovers I’ve driven in the last year.
The 3 lower trim versions come with a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces almost 190 horsepower and come standard with front-wheel drive, although AWD is available as an option.
The top two tiers, the Grand Touring Reserve and the Signature line, add some turbo power to the engine which increases the horsepower to between 227 and 250. With these two all-wheel drive is standard.
A diesel engine choice is available, too.
I spent one week tooling around in the new Signature edition with its SKYACTIV-2.5T engine.
The exterior has a smooth, intriguing look.
All of the trim models of the CX-5 will deliver a comfortable, upscale interior. But the Signature model steps up the game even more. Premium materials abound, including Nappa leather and genuine layered wood trim. The overall sensation is quite luxurious.
The seats are well-contoured for a comfortable ride, and there’s plenty of space up front. Rear seat passengers experience slightly less room, but still enough to satisfy even larger guests.
Controls are all easily accessible for the driver, and the layout is pleasing and intuitive. The steering wheel has that tacky, confidence-building feel to it.
Storage space up front is about average. Door pockets provide good room, including storage of water bottles. I wish the center bin was a touch larger, but you get some extra room in front of the gear shift.
Rear cargo space is also decent, although it lags some of the competition in this segment. Still, I had no issues whatsoever, and the rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 configuration to allow extra content.
This is where the CX-5 really shines. Aided by its smaller size, it really scoots around town.
The acceleration itself isn’t something that will blow your hair back, but that’s more than compensated for by the nimble, fun ride.
The turbo engine of the Signature model has plenty of oomph to help you merge and/or pass. And the overall handling provides the kind of feeling that makes you wish for twists and turns.
Steering was good, braking about average, but the overall score is just superb. The word has gotten around, which is probably why those sales numbers are so strong.
Mazda made their fans happy by adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, features that quickly spoil us. These days when I test a car without them I wonder what the manufacturer was thinking.
I was also happy to find a suitable number of controls that still allow you to use knobs and buttons. I think you’ll find more and more car makers succumbing to the clamor of people who get a little tired of the over-reliance on a mouse or touchpad.
There are plenty of USB ports for driver and passengers. The 7-inch touchscreen is simple to navigate.
Driver aids are abundant, and function well. Upper trim levels add the really good stuff, like a heads-up display (absolutely love that) and a premium 360-degree camera during backup (also damned cool).
The Bottom Line
There’s significant competition in this category, and Mazda has not only taken on the field but bested them in most areas.
The size is just right for many customers, providing plenty of room without crowding your garage or the grocery store parking space. And the price will certainly please an audience that is too used to seeing mid-$40k as the base. My top-tier Signature model was below 40k.
The CX-5 won’t blow anyone away on the track, but its combination of good looks, premium luxury materials, comfortable ride, and dynamite handling make it one of the best choices you’ll find in the small crossover/SUV department.
One of the best.
2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature
2.5T, 4-cylinder turbo engine
Fuel economy: 22/27/24 combined
As tested: $39,030
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer