Automotive journalists are often asked “What car should I buy?” Being asked what car to buy is probably the worst part about being an automotive journalists though. Not because we don’t like talking about cars, but that the answer provided is usually ignored and someone ends up buying the car they wanted and not liking it.
Regardless, the answer most often given is the Mazda CX-5. I’ve often wondered if it was a good answer, and after a week with the car, I will definitely say it is up there. But will it fit everyone’s need?
To start with, the CX-5 is one of the best looking vehicles in its class. There is nothing in the market that even comes close to appearance. It’s aggressive, while not being extreme. This is rare but appreciated among automotive journalists. Nearly every design cue can be found on every other Mazda in the lineup with the taillights being one of my favorites. While on the smaller side for the SUV, it gives of the Jaguar F-Type and F-Pace vibe which is one of the better compliments you can give a car. Design is not the only thing helping the CX-5.
For the price, not many comparable vehicles can match the driving dynamics of the Mazda. While 99% of people act like they don’t care about how their vehicle drives, it’s a lie. When a vehicle feels like pure jello to drive, no one really wants to drive it. Nearly every automobile has been decent to drive, nearly every car I have driven I can consider good at least.
While most cars are good to drive these days, the Mazda CX-5 remains up there. The CX-5 handled everything I could throw at it without care. Even when the car tried to get loose, the front end brought it back around very quickly. For the normal driver trying to get somewhere quick, this would be perfect. It is something that makes them more safe, and that is always something non-car people are willing to chase. The 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. It’s fun to have, it unnecessary in this market as the 187 horsepower model has been ample for years. This has been to go to version or automotive journalists and unless you are willing to spend the extra $5000, the non-turbo engine will do you just fine.
The interior of the CX-5 was probably the hardest thing to judge. The replaced an $101,905 Lexus LS500 and that kind of set a very hard to meet standard. After day one I would have said the materials were weak but as the week went by, I came to appreciate the materials for the $40,000 car it was. In fact, the worst part about the CX-5 Signature interior was the not the quality of the material, but the color. While Nappa brown leather is great, brown leather that is nearly black next to materials that actually are black is not a good look. The seats in isolation looked great, but that same leather on the door panels looked odd next to the black door panels.
Something else I like to talk about in cars is ingress and egress. The front door is fine and the sunken load floor in the back is fine, but something that came up during my testing was the poor design of the rear passengers door. Over the week multiple people complained about how hard it was it get in the back. The rear wheel well sits above and forward of the back seats making the occupant have to actually climb over it to sit down. The C-Pillar also curves down toward the front making the door even smaller. Parents with small children may even have trouble getting kids into what is otherwise a very comfortably sized crossover. Easy ingress and egress is supposed to be a main point of crossovers and SUVs and this shows a major problem Mazda needs to address in the next generation.
Other than the basic interior was the radio standard with most models of the CX-5. I should have known I would hated it, especially after my experience with the Mazda Miata based Fiat 124, but the level of disdain still manages to be a surprise as it remained uncomfortable, old, and basic feeling even in a $40,000 car. This was literally the only disappointment which was unfortunate as the CX-5 had a bunch of very upscale features. These included heated and front ventilated seats as well as heated reads seats. Not even the $100,000 Lexus I had came with heated rear seats. On top of that, Apple CarPlay and Androids Auto also came standard, which sounded great combined with the Bose Stereo System. Overall the CX/5 felt very loaded, but the base product did not feel like $15,000 was a reasonable amount to add on top of it.
After a week with the CX-5, I can add myself to list of journalists that have driven the CX-5 and comfortably say it is a good buy. Personally I believe the Grand Touring trim with the slower, but capable 2.5L non-turbo engine will fit most needs perfectly fine at around $30,000. If you have the $40,000 I would look at the Acura RDX, a vehicle I adored. If $30,000 is a bit steep for you, my review of the 2020 Kia Soul is live, and it offers a lot of options for your money at $22,000.