Upscale interior. Plenty of standard features. Ride is a little firm for the class.
Interior Trim & Accents
Sporty Handling & Steering
The Mazda CX-5 was high on the fun-to-drive meter before the new turbocharged engine arrived, but now it has power to spare, even at altitude. The new 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder, sourced from the three-row CX-9, adds even more fun for driving enthusiasts. We recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature with all-wheel drive, the top-trim in the model line. The new Signature trim gets a broader list of premium features and conveniences to match the enjoyable driving dynamics.
What’s New For 2019
For 2019, the Mazda CX-5 gets a more powerful engine for Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now available, as are ventilated front seats and a surround-view parking camera. G-Vectoring Control Plus, a series of motion control technologies to increase steering response, is standard on all CX-5 models.
Features & Options: Just The Right Amount
The 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD ($36,890) comes standard with 19-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, LED fog lights, heated side mirrors, premium Nappa leather upholstery, a power-adjustable passenger seat, and driver-seat memory functions. The upgraded driver information display pairs with a navigation system and satellite radio. The top Signature trim also adds ambient lighting, wood trim, chrome accents, front and rear parking sensors, and the aforementioned surround-view camera.
Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE safety systems, like Smart City Brake Support and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, are standard on all CX-5 models.
Total MSRP including destination: $39,030. By comparison, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 starts at $24,350 in the Sport configuration.
Interior Highlights: The Little Things Add Up
This CX-5 Signature interior takes a step forward over the standard trim with the Nappa leather seats and stitching on the dash, console, and door panels. The quality of materials is excellent, but it should be for this price. The cabin is driver-focused with a leather-wrapped steering wheel that offers a nice range of tilt-and-telescoping positions. The seats are comfortable and offer plenty of adjustments and support for long-distance driving. However, with the interior, the little niceties really add up. For example, the shift-lever location fits the driver’s hand perfectly.
The seven-inch touchscreen’s resolution is sharp and it sits high atop the stylish dash, but it’s a bit too far away for our liking; and that’s really our only complaint about the interior. The infotainment controller in the center console includes a radio volume control knob that’s easy to find without taking your eyes off the road. This Signature tester came with heated (and cooled) front seats and a heated steering wheel for extra comfort on the recent cold spring mornings here in Colorado.
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 cubes 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 big news for 2019 is the CX-5’s new SKYACTIV-G engine, paired with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder produces 250 horsepower (on 93 octane) and a healthy 310 lb-ft. of torque. The extra power comes at a price, however. The spicier engine returns an EPA estimated 22/27 city/highway and 24 combined mpg. That’s if you keep your foot out of the turbo!
Those looking for a more fuel-efficient CX-5 should consider the available 2.2-liter diesel. With all-wheel drive, it delivers an EPA-estimated 27/30 city/highway and 28 combined mpg. The engine creates 168 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 290 lb-ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder is still available in a front-wheel drive configuration.
Driving Dynamics: Energetic & Fun
The CX-5 with the new turbo plant is higher on the fun-to-drive meter than any other compact crossover out there, despite the fuel economy. Last year, we complained about the naturally-aspirated engine needing more power for those traveling up into the high country or hauling extra cargo over a high mountain pass. Now with the turbo, the CX-5 has power to spare. And it still responds like a sports sedan around the tight curves.
Driving Dynamics: Sporty & Smooth
The steering is precise and the suspension is tuned for sporty driving over comfort. We instantly noticed Mazda’s new G-Vectoring Control Plus feature while in the mountains. The system makes steering response more consistent by using small changes in engine output to shift weight to the front tires whenever the driver turns the wheel. In this updated Plus version, as the driver straightens the wheel, braking is applied to the outside front wheel. The system helps prevent someone from “over-driving” the vehicle, especially at higher speeds or during evasive maneuvers.
The cabin was quiet, and the turbo doesn’t make much noise even 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 or bad weather, this is the vehicle for you.
Conclusion: Nicely Balanced
The 2019 Mazda CX-5 is a standout in the compact SUV segment. It provides an excellent balance of sportiness, comfort and practicality, and its upscale interior conveys a sense of richness you don’t find in rivals. It’s a good choice for driving enthusiasts who want to have a little more fun when getting around town.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy