Mazda’s CX-5 Turbo Signature
MAZDA’S BRAND-NEW SUBDIVISION
With a recent move – and the remodeling which comes with almost every move – I’m talking cars with the man giving us an estimate on new blinds and shades. As is often the case when people learn I review cars for what we laughingly call a ‘living’ (semi-retired still sounds better than under-employed – right?), Rick asked me if I had a favorite car. And if I did, what was it? Frankly, I have far too many favorites to narrow the answer to one or two, so I invariably punt, referencing not what I would ultimately want but what my wife and I own. Tina drives an ’06 Grand Cherokee (with Hemi!), while I enjoy a ’21 Mazda Miata with wheel, tire and suspension mods. In short, my favorites are Jeep and Mazda.
Beyond its MX-5 Miata, of course, Mazda offers a couple of sedans, the Mazda3 hatchback and an entire showroom of crossovers. And that crossover inventory has recently become more expansive with the intro of Mazda’s CX-50, which you shouldn’t confuse with the CX-5, the subject of this week’s testing.
The CX-5 is the well-established alternative to Honda’s CR-V or Toyota’s RAV4. Sitting north of the carmaker’s CX-30, the CX-5 occupies the compact crossover segment, sitting on a wheelbase of 106 inches and stretching 180 inches. From a sizing standpoint that would seem to be a sweet spot, offering enough substance to comfortably transport a young family, while its still-compact footprint allows for easy parking within tight urban landscapes. (Although for the tightest of urban landscapes and nothing but on-street parking, I’d go with a 2-door Wrangler…)
Inside, it’s immediately obvious – especially in Mazda’s Signature trim – that the carmaker has designs on the premium segment. Leather seating on the top trims isn’t an aberration; instead, it looks to reflect a design philosophy that began in the early planning of today’s CX-5. Obviously, plastics are widely deployed, but all of it has a substantive look and feel, even in those areas where the eyes and hands don’t often go. And for those wanting a high hip point for a commanding view of the road, the CX-5 doesn’t disappoint; in the CX-5, to channel Seinfeld’s Kramer, you’re truly Master of Your Domain.
Rear seat passengers aren’t treated with the same degree of largesse as those in the front, but two average adults (whatever that might be) will be comfortable, while three will be a push – even over lunch. Total passenger volume is 104 cubic feet, while cargo volume hovers around 30 cubic feet.
Under the hood Mazda gives you two choices, but only the turbocharged 2.5 liter is worthy of your monthly payment. Its 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels thru a 6-speed auto, will get you to 60 (as reported by Car and Driver magazine) in just over six seconds, which is just what you need for merging in today’s passive/aggressive traffic. And beyond that number is the powertrain’s refinement and flexibility. Under its hood the CX-5 is a fully baked alternative to Audis and BMWs and not the CR-V or RAV4 – but then, the CX-5 in its Signature trim is pushing $40K (base variants start at $28,000) and not the $30K you may remember from car prices ‘back in the day’.
Behind the CX-5’s wheel you’ll find steering that’s connected, and a ride that’s both comfortable and composed. Don’t, however, confuse this with a track day tool, as there’s entirely too much body lean to make aggressive cornering recreational; it’s only a tool for autocross fools. And while there are three drive modes available via a switch on the console, Normal and Sport are viable, while Off-Road should come with a tire change; the 225/55R-19s ain’t gonna’ cut it on anything beyond hard-packed gravel.
If confining yourself to the Mazda showroom, the CX-5 and CX-50 represent interesting choices, and for the time being Mazda believes the two models can successfully coexist. (Personally, I’m less sure.) Sitting on a wheelbase five inches longer, and having an overall length some six inches greater, the CX-50 comes to the party with more visual heft than the CX-5 without looking – you know – rowdy. But it also sits a little lower, which might restrict headroom for those of you sitting a little taller.
In short, you pay your money and make your choice. For me it’d be the CX-50 with its turbo drivetrain, effectively splitting the difference between my wife’s Jeep, with at least a pretense of off-road capability…and my Miata, with its on-road composure and connected-to-the-road feel.