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The 2019 Mazda CX-5 Joins Our Long-Term Fleet as a Totem of Mainstream Excellence

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 4/24/2019 Alexander Stoklosa

a red car: 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.
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.

Research the Mazda CX-5 on MSN Autos | Find a Mazda CX-5 near you

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.

a red car driving on a city street: To gauge how convincingly Mazda's slick CX-5 crossover can do an impression of a luxury vehicle, we're testing a fully loaded version for 40,000 miles.© Brad Fick - Car and Driver To gauge how convincingly Mazda's slick CX-5 crossover can do an impression of a luxury vehicle, we're testing a fully loaded version for 40,000 miles.

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.

a red car parked on the side of a building: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature© Brad Fick - Car and Driver 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

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.

a close up of a car: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature© Brad Fick - Car and Driver 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

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.

Research the Mazda CX-5 on MSN Autos | Find a Mazda CX-5 near you

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

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