The Mazda CX-5 is a driver-focused vehicle meant to deliver a different experience than your average small SUV. We think it offers a more satisfying experience than its chief rivals, the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester. And if looks have anything to do with it, we think it wins in exterior styling too.
Over the weekend, we drove the top trim, 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring with all-wheel drive.
The 2018 Mazda CX-5 largely carries over from the previous model year, when it received a complete redesign. New for 2018 are standard features like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Also new is cylinder-deactivation to improve fuel efficiency.
Features & Options
The 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD ($30,945) comes with acoustic front windows, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, an upgraded six-speaker sound system, rear USB ports, and blind-spot monitors. It also features keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The vehicle also receives additional driver assistance features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams.
Grand Touring models add leather and 19-inch wheels to the above. The Premium Package on this tester ($1,306) added a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a heads-up display, power front passenger seat, and windshield wiper de-icer. Total MSRP including destination: $34,535.
This CX-5 Grand Touring interior takes a step forward over the standard trim with leather seating and stitching on the dash, console, and door panels. The quality of materials is excellent for this price point. The cabin is driver-focused with a new leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the shift-lever location fits the driver’s hand perfectly.
The seven-inch touchscreen resolution is sharp and it sits high atop the stylish dash, but it’s a bit too far away for our liking. There’s also an infotainment controller in the center console with a radio volume control knob that’s easy to find without taking your eyes off the road. The seats are comfortable and offer plenty of adjustments and support for long-distance driving. The steering wheel also offers a nice range of tilt-and-telescoping positions.
This weekend, we took a couple of six-foot gentlemen to lunch, and they commented on how there seems to be more shoulder room in the rear, likely due to the CX-5’s slightly wider track. The rear doors open wide, so they had no trouble entering and exiting the crossover. And thanks to scalloping in the back of the front seats, there was plenty of legroom for our riders.
If you need to carry cargo, the 40/20/40-split folding backseat reclines. Behind the rear seat, there’s 31 cubic feet of cargo storage, and 60 with the rear folded flat. It’s a bit less than competitors, including the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The 2.5-liter SKYACTIV 4-cylinder engine produces 187 horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. Our tester came with Mazda’s all-wheel drive system for all-weather capability, a nice feature for those who live in winter climates. The 2.5-liter engine gets cylinder-deactivation technology which automatically shuts down the two outside cylinders at cruising speeds to maximize efficiency. Fuel mileage has increased 1 mpg over last year’s model.
EPA fuel mileage estimates are 24/30 city/highway and 26 combined with all-wheel drive.
We think the CX-5 is higher on the fun-to-drive meter than any other crossover out there. We took a weekend drive in the mountains west of Denver where this journalist lives, and the small SUV delivered a most satisfying experience. We tossed the CX-5 around the tight curves and it responded like a sports sedan.
The steering is precise, and the suspension is tuned for sporty driving over comfort. Be aware, the CX-5 is not going to win any races. The crossover has enough power for most driving situations, but was fairly tame when we pushed it hard up I-70. The naturally aspirated engine could use a turbo for those traveling up into the high country or hauling extra cargo over a high mountain pass. For normal commuting, you won’t have an issue.
The cabin was quiet when we got underway. It’s not as quiet as a luxury car, but it’s much improved when we pushed the pedal, especially at highway speeds. With the heated seats, steering wheel, and heads-up display, this small SUV feels like a more expensive vehicle. Overall, it’s the most fun we’ve ever had in a compact crossover, having tested the competition. If you live where there’s lots of twisty roads, this is the vehicle for you.
The 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD nails it in driving dynamics, with a comfortable, quiet cabin, driver-focused interior, and strong exterior styling. If you like to drive, this crossover delivers a different, more pleasurable experience than your average small SUV.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy