So far, the road to 40,000 miles in our Mazda CX-5 has been smooth, even as winter descends on these Michigan roads. There’s nothing shocking about compact crossovers, other than the rate at which consumers keep buying them. So far, the CX-5 has performed as expected, with a few minor annoyances sprinkled on top.
As part of our current 17-car long-term test fleet, the Mazda CX-5 conceals its handsome face behind our more interesting, and sometimes problematic, vehicles. It’s easy to be overshadowed by, say, our 362-hp twin-turbo Mercedes wagon, or a long-termer that shall go nameless but is tethered to the future of driverless cars and also has a fart button. (Yes, it’s our Tesla Model 3.) The CX-5 is like a comfortable knee brace: you don’t want to wear it, but when you do it’s not so bad, because it’s good at what it’s supposed to do.
Our long-termer has the new-for-2019 250-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four. This engine is only available with all-wheel-drive models. Just after we ordered ours, it added a 2.0-liter diesel engine option. The price tag on our all-wheel-drive Signature trim CX-5 is $39,850, which got us a Bose sound system, adaptive headlights, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats (ventilated in front), and a 360-degree parking camera. The options on ours put it far from the $25,395 CX-5’s base price and closer in price to the Jeep Cherokee or the GMC Terrain Denali.
Our experience with the turbocharged engine has generated few comments, which is a good thing. If engineers can create something to keep automotive journalists from complaining, they should box it and sell it to the masses. Mazda appears to have done just that. The new turbo engine emits a noticeable moan. The noise is somewhat expected for an engine that can send the CX-5 from zero to 60 mph in only 6.2 seconds. We’ve found the CX-5’s 187-hp base engine feels underpowered—or, in other words, boring. Which is an adjective we would use to describe most patients in the hospital wing of compact crossovers. Our CX-5 wishes them a full recovery.
That isn’t to say our romance with the CX-5 has been perfect. An overwhelming number of entries in the CX-5’s logbook cry over slow infotainment loading times. After startup, several staffers were terrorized with the inability to change the SiriusXM channel from E Street to Fly FM fast enough. The 7.0-inch touchscreen loads at the same rate that old hips dance to Springsteen. On occasion, SiriusXM suffered from repetitive lost signal errors, a problem annoying enough that one of us said it would prevent them from buying a CX-5.
Another common bruise in the logbook was the low-res camera. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is already barely larger than phones tagged XL, but the camera quality was deemed poor by three staffers who had driven the vehicle long distances. The longest trip was an 800-mile weekend journey by testing director Dave VanderWerp, who was unimpressed by the CX-5’s driver-assist technology. The absence of lane centering means that when the CX-5 begins to wander from its lane, it doesn’t automatically correct and nudge the car back to safety. The CX-5 just buzzes, which isn’t as much help compared to some of its cheaper rivals with similar assistance tech.
A fresh set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 winter tires came in handy earlier this week, when the first major snowfall hit the Midwest. Senior editor Joey Capparella wrote: “These Nokian winter tires feel pretty unstoppable. The heated seats and steering wheel get nice and toasty.” Meaning staffers looking forward to working from home on snow days should not take the CX-5 the night before.
The CX-5 has been back to the dealership twice, but only for routine maintenance to change engine oil, rotate the tires, and for inspections at the 7500- and 15,000-mile marks. The cabin air filter was also changed, but other than that, our CX-5 has been trouble-free.
Through its first 10,000 miles, the CX-5 has not been the first pick by staffers rushing to lunch on Taco Tuesday. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s just fine. Now that we’ve entered snow season here in the mitten state, we’ll be monitoring its competence in dealing with Siberian conditions and its ability to whisk us to warmer, sunnier climes.
Months in Fleet: 8 months Current Mileage: 16,331 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 15.3 gal Observed Fuel Range: 360 miles
Service: $265 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
Mazda has few obvious problems, but if prodded to highlight some, we’d cite weak brand recognition in the United States and a shortage of fun paint colors, particularly for the MX-5 Miata. If that sounds as if we’re reaching, well, we are. The automaker’s products are so uniformly likable that finding things to gripe about takes some pedantic effort. Mazda is also pushing hurriedly upmarket, a development that is as easily seen through the lens of the CX-5 crossover as it is in any of Mazda’s recent products.
Like the recently updated Mazda 6 sedan, CX-9 SUV, and all-new Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, the CX-5 stands a head or two above similarly priced mainstream competitors, in this case, the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Chevrolet Equinox. The brand enjoys an enviable quirk: More than half of its sales mix, model for model, consists of the higher trim levels. Mazda has taken this to mean that buyers can and want to pay more for their vehicles, which has spurred it to add ever more deluxe Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims above the previously top-dog Grand Touring spec on some models, the CX-5 included. We’ve taken the same development as license to sign up for a 40,000-mile long-term test in a loaded 2019 CX-5 in range-topping Signature trim. We for sure wanted to get the newly available turbo 2.5-liter inline-four in our long-termer, and the only way to do that is with the Grand Touring Reserve or Signature trim level. The lesser Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trims make do with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter. And we’re not above spoiling ourselves with a top-spec example.
So what does a compact Mazda crossover costing BMW money deliver? For starters, the impression that it should cost BMW money. The CX-5 looks, inside and out, like something that belongs in the compact-luxury-SUV segment. It’s mostly true, even at the CX-5’s $25,395 starting price, and particularly so on the $37,935 Signature trim. Adding our test car’s gorgeous $595 Soul Red paint, $70 cargo mat, $125 floor mats, $400 backlit doorsill accents, $125 rear bumper guard, $250 retractable cargo cover, and $400 roof rack rails brings the final tally to just $39,900. This, we should point out, is for the gas-powered Signature; after we took delivery of our test car, Mazda introduced a diesel engine option available only on the Signature trim. Pricing with that engine starts at $42,045.
Mazda includes a number of features that push competitors’ nicer trim levels toward the same $40,000 mark, though none of those vehicles does as good an impression of a near-luxury product. (We’re looking specifically at the GMC Terrain Denali and Jeep Cherokee, which cost $42,670 and $43,150 when equipped similarly to our CX-5 Signature.) The Signature brings as standard equipment some active-safety gear that’s optional on several competitors, including automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning.
Also standard on the Signature: lovely Caturra Brown nappa leather seating, real wood trim, a Bose audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-folding door mirrors, adaptive headlights that point into corners, a power liftgate, power-operated and heated front and rear seats (ventilated in front), a heated steering wheel, a 7.0-inch touchscreen that can also be controlled via a central control knob, navigation, a 360-degree parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, and that aforementioned turbo four, which cranks out 250 horsepower. There are no major options offered beyond a few accessories.
The 2.5-liter in lesser CX-5s makes 187 horsepower, and all-wheel drive is a $1400 upcharge on Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring models. The turbocharged CX-5s are sold only with all-wheel drive. Like every modern, automatic-transmission Mazda, the CX-5 uses the brand’s slick-shifting six-speed unit.
The combination of a turbo gasoline engine and all-wheel drive delivers a 6.2-second zero-to-60-mph time and punchy acceleration at most speeds (certainly stronger than with the base gas engine). More of a huffer than a screamer, the turbo four shoves the Mazda along on a wave of low-end torque. It might not be thrilling in the “zoom-zoom” sense, but Mazda doesn’t lean on that phrase for marketing anymore, so let’s not dwell on the idea that a compact crossover’s engine needs to feel racy in order to be wholly effective. For now, we’re calling the power delivery a possible hang-up when set in the Mazda brand’s predominantly sporty context; we’ll deliberate further over the next 40,000 miles. So, stay tuned as we live with our luxurious Mazda day in and day out and see whether our early positive impressions of its smooth ride, quiet interior, and fine road manners are affirmed or challenged.
Months in Fleet: 1 month Current Mileage: 2429 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 23 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 15.3 gal Observed Fuel Range: 350 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0