What We Got
Compact SUVs are all the rage, but they usually don't have a reputation for being fun to drive. With that in mind, we jumped at the chance to drive our 2018 Mazda CX-5 for a year, hoping it would deliver some excitement along with its utility.
Mazda lent us a Grand Touring AWD model with a base MSRP of $30,945. It came with the Premium package ($1,395), which added heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a windshield wiper de-icer, and a head-up display with traffic sign recognition.
Our CX-5 also came with an optional cargo mat ($70), illuminated doorsill plates ($400) and a rear bumper guard ($125). These options, plus a $595 charge for the Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint and destination fees, brought the CX-5's total to $34,505.
"The 187 horsepower is more than adequate for normal cruising speeds, but if you push the CX-5 at all, or try an aggressive lane change, the lack of power is very noticeable. The engine growls loudly, but the CX-5 does not move to match the sound. Also in terms of fuel economy, I averaged slightly more than 20 mpg, which falls short of the EPA ratings. Compared to the fuel economy you can get in a Honda CR-V, which feels larger and more powerful, the Mazda CX-5 doesn't compare." — Edmunds guest contributor
"I didn't find our CX-5 as fun to drive as I thought I would. As some of my co-workers have noted in previous updates, acceleration is merely adequate. More surprising to me, though, is the CX-5's heavy steering feel. It requires more muscle to turn the wheel than I think is necessary for a small crossover SUV.
"The heavy steering feel makes the CX-5 seem less willing to quickly zip around a turn, which partially masks the CX-5's otherwise sporty and composed handling capabilities. The heavier feel also means it's more of a chore when wheeling around parking lots. Now, I don't want an overly boosted and artificial feel, either. But a little more assist would be appreciated." — Brent Romans, senior editor
"I'm impressed with the manual shift mode in our CX-5. Pull the shift lever to the left and you've got access to the transmission's six forward gears. Pushing the lever forward results in a downshift, and pulling back is an upshift — thank goodness! Porsche does it this way, and that's all you need to know. Any other car that switches it around is wrong. (Joking, sort of.) Anyway, the manual downshifts are smooth and shift speed is quick enough. It's the kind of thing that helps support the CX-5's sporty persona." — Brent Romans
"I stopped at a fruit stand set up alongside California Route 152 on my way up to the Bay Area. After picking up some late summer peaches and plums, I got ready to pull back into traffic, traffic that was scooting along somewhere around 50 miles per hour. Although the CX-5 managed to get me up to flow-of-traffic speed, it didn't seem the least bit happy about it. The sluggish response to me laying into the gas [pedal] was more than surprising, it was disappointing. The CX-5 is fantastic in many respects. But getting up to highway speed quickly isn't one of them." — Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor
"One of our biggest complaints has been the CX-5's lack of power. It's definitely an issue, but shouldn't be a deal-breaker if you have some interest in this vehicle. I've gotten used to it for the most part, and it helps that I'm not an aggressive driver. If I need a quick burst of speed, I'll switch on Sport mode to make the throttle a little more responsive." — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
"Our Mazda CX-5 is one of the best compact crossovers on the market — check our rankings of small SUVs and you'll see that it's tied with the CR-V for the No. 1 spot, with an overall score of 8.1 out of 10. That's quite good, but there's always room for improvement.
"We felt let down by one aspect in particular: the engine. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder just doesn't feel very quick, especially in contrast to the CR-V's responsive turbocharged engine. Though outright acceleration isn't the most important thing in the world of crossovers, the CX-5 feels painfully slow while executing passing maneuvers on the freeway.
"For 2019, Mazda is offering an alternative for people like, well, me. The new Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims stuff the turbocharged 2.5-liter from the CX-9 underhood, giving the CX-5 one of the best acceleration times in the class. The best 0-60 mph time we've managed from a CX-5 with the standard engine is 8.7 seconds. (For reference, the CR-V clocks in at 7.6 seconds.)
"A recently tested 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature takes just 6.6 seconds, which is a few ticks quicker than a Chevrolet Equinox with the turbo 2.0-liter. Both cars have better acceleration than the V6-powered Jeep Cherokee or turbo 2.0-liter-equipped Ford Escape.
"The two trims help set the CX-5 apart from the rest of the crowd. The Grand Touring Reserve is essentially the same as the Grand Touring, but with the hot engine and standard all-wheel drive. The Signature adds nicer leather, real wood trim, a 360-degree camera, and front and rear parking sensors." — Cameron Rogers, reviews editor
"Even on the highway, and even with a mind for fuel economy, I'm having a hard time reaching the EPA's highway estimate in the CX-5. Passing power down low just isn't there, so when you go around a semi you really have to bury the throttle. On a recent road trip to and from Northern California, I was able to get it above 28 mpg, but only just. Even though that's a current record for our test, that's still 2 mpg below the EPA's estimate." — Travis Langness, reviews editor
"Our CX-5 is comfortable on long drives. The ride quality is reasonably smooth on the highway, and I have no problems staying comfortable in the driver's seat for multiple hours on the road." — Brent Romans
"I'm pleased with the operation of our CX-5's climate system this summer. It's kept me sufficiently cool thanks to effective air conditioning and well-placed vents. System operation is easy, too, as the buttons for the automatic dual-zone system are clearly labeled." — Brent Romans
"My sister Jennifer sat in the back seat with her 4-year-old daughter. And not only did she appreciate how easy it was to buckle in the child seat thanks to the anchor located midway down the back of the seat, but that she was still able to use the armrest even with the installed child seat there. It's a thoughtful bit of comfort." — Caroline Pardilla, senior copy editor
"One of the knocks on the CX-5 is its smaller cargo area compared to other small crossover titans such as the Honda CR-V. You get a maximum of 59.6 cubic feet of space compared to the Honda's 75.8. It's a fair complaint. But for the typical stuff like loading up grocery bags, kids' sports gear or the haul from a Costco spending spree, I think the CX-5's cargo area is perfectly adequate." — Brent Romans
"This past Sunday I chauffeured my sister, brother-in-law and 4-year-old niece to Universal Studios. Since it was just the four of us, we fit comfortably in the crossover. And it easily accommodated niece Astrid's stroller, snack pack, backpack of extra outfits, a car seat, and all the adults' bags. There was still plenty of room for the delicate balloon hats acquired at the end of the day." — Caroline Pardilla
"I've always accepted the CX-5's reduced cargo capacity as a trade-off for its design, but over the holidays I nearly ran into the limits of that capacity. I volunteered to take a family member to the airport. This family member had two large pieces of luggage that the cargo area could just barely fit. Admittedly, this luggage was big (is there a size above 'oversized'?), but it made me wonder if the CX-5 would've been able to fit another person and another person's worth of luggage. Probably yes, with the seats folded flat, but it'd be tight. Now, the size of the luggage means this was probably closer to an edge case, but it is something families should be aware of." — Carlos Lago, manager, feature content
"The CX-5's interior is impressive. The two-tone color scheme, high-quality materials, solid-feeling controls and no-nonsense design all help raise the CX-5's game. It's one of the main reasons to consider getting a CX-5, I'd say. As for downsides, the only thing I can come up with is the regular-size sunroof. Some rival crossover SUVs offer bigger, panoramic-style sunroofs that extend farther back so that the rear passengers can more easily see out." — Brent Romans
"One of the reasons the CX-5 feels so luxury-adjacent is the high-quality interior. Lots of nice materials, plush seats and a really quiet ride on the highway. Take off the badges and maybe fancy-up some of the fonts on the dials and you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish [it] from some of its luxury rivals." — Travis Langness
"I noticed the power window switches use a nice, smoother plastic compared to the ones in my older CX-5. Mazda's stepping up the luxury feel even more." —Kathleen Clonts, copy chief
Audio and Technology
"I'm glad Mazda finally came out with a full-speed range adaptive cruise control. Previous systems, as in our recently departed long-term CX-9, only worked down to a relatively useless 15 mph. The CX-5's system performs well too, maintaining a reasonable gap to the vehicle ahead and not overreacting with huge amounts of braking should another vehicle slip into your lane. It definitely helps blunt the stress edge of the rush-hour commute." — Jonathan Elfalan, road test manager
"Mazda has quietly announced an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto retroactive upgrade for 2014-and-newer Mazdas. It costs $199 for the parts, plus two hours of labor. It's mostly a software upgrade, but you do get a quicker-charging USB port. I called a couple of local dealerships and the prices with labor ranged from $450 to $499. We won't likely get this upgrade since the CX-5 is only with us for a few more months. It's pricey, but I'd definitely consider this upgrade. I hardly use the in-car nav, often opting for Google or Apple maps. Plus, it would be an improvement over having my phone mounted to the air vents." — Ron Montoya
"The head-up display is pretty nifty. An especially nice touch is its link to the navigation unit. The HUD shows a prominent bright-red stop sign when you"re approaching an intersection. This is especially valuable around curves and on streets where the view may be obstructed by vehicles or greenery." — Kathleen Clonts
"After the service wrench lit up on the instrument panel, we took our CX-5 to Mazda Santa Monica. We called Thursday and were able to schedule an appointment for the next morning. By early Friday afternoon, the car was ready for pickup. This routine maintenance included new oil, an oil filter, a tire rotation, and the standard list of safety inspections. Total cost: $101.33." — Mike Schmidt, senior manager, vehicle testing operations
"This morning, the CX-5 died on me in a very undramatic way. I went down to my parking spot, started up the car, then it immediately turned itself off. There was no clunking or banging or backfiring, just a shut-off. The check engine light came on. I then pressed the start button (to turn the car off) and started the car back up again. No issues, no check engine light, like nothing ever happened. Time to schedule a dealer visit and see if they've got that code stored in the car's computer." — Travis Langness
"Took the CX-5 to the dealership after it died on Travis. We got a call from the service adviser a few hours later, saying that the issue was fixed and the car was ready for pickup. The problem was a known issue, part of a technical service bulletin (TSB #01-015-18-3513) that noted the following:
'Some vehicles may experience a lack of power and the check engine light on with dtc p061b:00 stored in the PCM memory when engine cranking is interrupted. This concern most likely occurs when the brake pedal is released during engine cranking.'
"The fix was a simple software update to the powertrain control module. It was covered under warranty and we paid nothing. We'll keep our foot on the brake a little longer when starting and hopefully this issue doesn't crop up again." — Ron Montoya
"I always felt like the original CX-5 was a little overrated. Sure, it was an above-average athlete on twisty roads, but how many owners actually test the limits in that scenario? These things aren't sports cars; they're daily drivers or family haulers. And in those capacities, I felt the original CX-5 failed to distinguish itself.
"But this second-generation CX-5 is a big step up. It's quieter and more supple on the road, it's got a newfound premium vibe inside and out, and the old model's unpleasantly low (for me) back seat has been replaced with a higher-mounted unit that provides plenty of room and support for my 6-foot-1 frame.
"The one thing it's missing is a more powerful engine option to compete with something like the 2.0-liter turbocharged Ford Escape. Otherwise, I'd say the CX-5 now lives up to the media hype and may well be the best SUV in its class." — Josh Sadlier, senior manager, content strategy
"It's tough shopping for a small crossover in 2018. There are close to a dozen models that I'd be seriously interested in if I were in the market. So where does that leave the CX-5? I've been a little underwhelmed with our long-termer, to be honest. It hasn't been as fun to drive as I expected it to be, and that's supposed to be one of its distinguishing features. Still, the CX-5 has a quality cabin design, lots of useful features and attractive styling. If I had to cut my shopping list to, say, five crossovers, I'm pretty sure it'd make the cut." — Brent Romans
"A guy approached while I was waiting for my shawarma at the local Lebanese place and asked about the CX-5. He said the lease is almost up on his wife's Honda Pilot, and they're curious about Mazda. I offered to open the CX-5 up and give him and his wife a look inside. The guy said his family has always owned and enjoyed Hondas, but that he was enamored with the Mazda's design and color. He just loved how it looked inside and out; said so at least five times. I grabbed my shawarma and mentioned he should check out the CX-9 if they want something the same size as the Pilot. Clearly, Mazda's got the design thing down right." — Carlos Lago, manager, feature content
Maintenance & Repairs
Our CX-5 called for maintenance every 6,000 miles. We took it once at 6,000 and another at 12,000 miles. Each one cost about $102. The service included a safety inspection, oil change and a tire rotation.
We were informed of a recall affecting certain 2018 Mazda CX-5 models with side airbags that may not open properly in an accident (NHTSA campaign number: 18V426000). Our CX-5 was not one of the 682 units affected by the recall.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
The Mazda CX-5 has an EPA combined rating of 26 mpg (24 city/30 highway). We averaged about 23.1 mpg in 16,223 miles of driving, about 11% less than the EPA estimate. Our best gas fill was 33 mpg and our worst was 17.2 mpg. Finally, our best overall range on a single tank of gas was 347.2 miles.
Resale and Depreciation:
Our 2018 Mazda CX-5 had a sticker price of $34,505 when it was new. After a year of driving, our odometer had about 17,600 miles on it. Assuming clean condition, the CX-5 had a private-party appraised value of $24,818.
This is a 28% depreciation, which is worse than our long-term fleet average of 22%.
We loved the looks of our CX-5, both inside and out. The exterior was a stylish change of pace from most compact SUVs. The interior felt premium, and there were plenty of high-tech features.
Many of us were underwhelmed by the engine's power, and we had trouble nearing the EPA fuel estimates. The cargo area was small compared to competitors.
While the CX-5 didn't quite deliver the driving excitement we hoped for, it was still one of the top compact SUVs for shoppers to consider. Overall, we thought that this CX-5 was a notable improvement on the previous generation: better-looking, more refined and more comfortable.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$204 (over 14 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||None|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||2|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||1|
|Days Out of Service:||0|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||0|
|Best Fuel Economy:||33.0 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||17.2 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||23.1 mpg|
|Best Range:||347.2 miles|
|True Market Value at Service End:||$24,818|
|Depreciation:||28% of $34,505 MSRP|
|Final Odometer Reading:||17,600 miles|
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.