With the second generation CX-5, Mazda retained most of the sporty handling that made the first-generation enjoyable, but this SUV is much more mature now with vastly improved ride comfort, noise isolation, and interior quality. It's one of the more desirable models in the compact SUV class. Unlike purely rational choices like the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, there’s a bit of joie de vivre with the CX-5.
The standard powertrain is a 187-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. This makes for a docile, responsive, and easy-to-drive combination. Due to the added weight that achieved a quieter cabin, fuel economy is down by one to a still competitive 24 mpg overall. That's a tradeoff we embrace. A punchier turbo engine comes on top trims.
From the first few miles, it's abundantly clear that Mazda has worked wonders smoothing out the car's ride, to the point it’s now one of the most comfortable in its segment. It's supple and controlled, shrugging off bumps easily. And yet, point the CX-5 into a turn and it willingly follows the chosen path. Handling is athletic, with responsive steering and an eagerness to attack corners. The lower profile 19-inch tires degrade the ride only slightly.
Noise isolation is another CX-5 asset. It has one of the quietest cabins in the non-luxury compact SUV segment.
Step inside and it's immediately apparent Mazda crafted a fine interior. There are lots of soft-touch bits, detailed stitching, chrome trim, and high-quality plastics that lend class. The comfortable, supportive seats are covered with soft leatherette and suede. Most controls and knobs work well, but Mazda’s infotainment screen in conjunction with the central rotary controller, takes some practice to master. The screen's icons are not well labeled, and simple adjustments that should be quick take several steps.
The rear seat is roomy enough, though not as generous as those in the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. Wide-opening doors make it easy for both kids and adults to climb inside. The second row is a comfortable space, with backrests that can recline slightly.
Outward visibility is good, though the rear three-quarter view is challenged by the sloping roofline and chunky rear pillars.
The CX-5 is enjoyable to drive, and for some buyers, high end versions might bridge the gap between the common small SUV and a luxury one of a similar size and power like a Lexus NX.
On the safety front, forward-collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking is standard on all versions. The more desirable, full-speed system is standard on the Grand Touring, and it's available on the mid-level Touring trim. Blind-spot warning is standard.