2018 Mazda CX-5

2018 Mazda CX-5 Review

It has a refined and upscale nature, plenty of technology and safety features, and excellent utility.
8.1 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Peter Gareffa
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Mazda redesigned its CX-5 crossover SUV just last year. Notable improvements include a more comfortable ride quality, a nicer cabin, and new safety and technology features. Factoring in the traditionally taut steering and suspension, we think the 2018 Mazda CX-5 is one of the best small SUVs available.

A quiet cabin and refined interior don't detract from this SUV's reputation as a driver's vehicle either. About the only thing that diminishes its appeal is a lack of an engine upgrade. Although performance is on par with the base engines on competing models, there's nothing more powerful available. Rival compact crossovers such as the Chevrolet Equinox and the Kia Sportage offer strong turbocharged engines if you're after something with more oomph, and competitors such as the Honda CR-V have a bit more interior room and better fuel economy.

But overall we like the 2018 Mazda CX-5 for its excellent balance of sportiness, comfort and practicality. The exterior design is sleek and modern, and while not overly generous inside, the interior offers a competitive amount of room for people and cargo. The upscale interior materials, along with a host of standard tech and convenience features, convey the sense of a vehicle that should cost quite a bit more than it does. It's a top pick for a small crossover in 2018.

Notably, we picked the 2018 Mazda CX-5 as one of Edmunds' Best Family SUVs and Best Small SUVs for this year.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 largely carries over from the previous model year, when it was extensively redesigned. New for 2018 are such standard features as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Also new is cylinder-deactivation technology intended to improve fuel economy slightly. The 2.5-liter engine automatically shuts down the two outside cylinders at cruising speeds to maximize efficiency. Last year's Grand Select trim level has been discontinued for 2018.

We recommend

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 is available in three trim levels to suit the tastes and needs of a variety of buyers. We like the midlevel Touring model for its practical combination of value and features, including 19-inch wheels (new this year) and a full suite of safety equipment. The optional Touring Preferred package adds such items as navigation and an upgraded sound system, and all-wheel drive is available for an extra cost for those who need it. We only recommend all-wheel drive if you live in a snowy climate since it hurts your fuel economy.




Trim levels & features

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 crossover is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All models have front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive available as an option. The sole engine choice is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder (187 hp, 186 lb-ft of torque), which is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Standard equipment for every CX-5 includes 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, a 40/20/40-split rear seats (fold and recline), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a four-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, a four-speaker stereo and two USB ports. Low-speed forward collision warning and mitigation and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are also included.

The available Sport i-Activsense package adds such features as automatic high-beams, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, upgraded forward collision warning and mitigation, and automatic windshield wipers.

The Touring trim adds a healthy dose of comfort items that most buyers will find appealing, such as 19-inch wheels, keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats, simulated leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver seat, two additional speakers and two more USB ports. It also gets the i-Activsense suite of safety features as standard. The optional Touring Preferred package adds such items as navigation, an upgraded 10-speaker Bose sound system, a sunroof and a power liftgate.

The Grand Touring gets you all of the above, along with leather upholstery, driver-seat memory settings, a power-adjustable passenger seat, satellite radio, and LED foglights and taillights. The available Grand Touring Premium package includes a head-up display with traffic sign recognition, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row outboard seats and windshield wiper de-icer.

Trim Tested Module

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring (2.5L inline-4 | 6-speed automatic | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Mazda CX-5 has received some revisions. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's 2018 Mazda CX-5, however.



Edmunds Scorecard

Overall8.1 / 10

Driving

8.0 / 10

Acceleration6.5 / 10
Braking7.5 / 10
Steering9.0 / 10
Handling10.0 / 10
Drivability7.5 / 10

Comfort

8.0 / 10

Seat comfort7.5 / 10
Ride comfort7.5 / 10
Noise & vibration8.0 / 10
Climate control8.5 / 10

Interior

8.0 / 10

Ease of use8.5 / 10
Getting in/getting out7.5 / 10
Driving position9.0 / 10
Roominess7.0 / 10
Visibility8.0 / 10
Quality9.5 / 10

Utility

8.5 / 10

Small-item storage9.0 / 10
Cargo space8.0 / 10

Technology

8.0 / 10

Audio & navigation8.5 / 10
Smartphone integration7.5 / 10
Driver aids8.0 / 10
Voice control8.0 / 10

Driving8.0

Mazda's penchant for handling prowess is alive and well. If your commute involves many twists or turns, you might not consider any other crossover. Just don't expect to get anywhere fast; the engine's thrust is ultimately meek when you really push it. Otherwise, it's an easy vehicle to live with.

Acceleration6.5

The 2.5-liter provides underwhelming acceleration from a stop or while moving. Overtaking on the highway requires some planning. A sprint from zero to 60 mph on our test track took 8.7 seconds, quick against rivals with similar engines. However, many vehicles in this class offer upgraded engines.

Braking7.5

It's easy to come to a smooth stop with the moderate pedal firmness and predictable brake effort. It took 121 feet to stop from 60 mph, an average stopping distance in this class.

Steering9.0

Steering is weighted a bit heavier than in most crossovers, reflecting the sporting intentions. It's never difficult to turn, however, and parking lot maneuvers are executed with ease. A slight buildup of effort at higher speeds helps you know exactly where the wheels are pointed.

Handling10.0

This is where this SUV excels. Since it's sharp and communicative, you can take corners at speeds greater than rivals without squealing tires or feeling as if you're out of control. The car is unfazed by quick left-to-right transitions. This is the best-handling small crossover. No doubt about it.

Drivability7.5

The automatic transmission doesn't immediately jump into the highest gear possible under moderate acceleration, which helps with everyday drivability. It's reluctant to downshift, waiting until you really give it the beans. In Sport mode, the transmission hangs onto gears until you totally back off the gas.

Comfort8.0

Most people will find the comfortable cabin to be quite pleasant. Noise levels are low, and the climate control system excels. A few minor annoyances — a ride that's firm and a rear bench with little thigh support — keep it from being the ultimate passenger-friendly vehicle.

Seat comfort7.5

The front seats are shaped well and envelop the body comfortably, though the side bolsters squish to the side during hard cornering. The rear bench is flat on the bottom, which might make long-distance travel uncomfortable for rear passengers. However, the rear seatback reclines for added comfort.

Ride comfort7.5

The suspension setup that makes the CX-5 a world-class handler also gives it a ride quality that is firmer than what you'll find in other compact crossovers. However, midcorner bumps barely faze the chassis, and it never feels floaty. Road imperfections are dealt with immediately.

Noise & vibration8.0

Noise isn't an omnipresent issue; wind noise and tire noise are really only evident at highway speeds. Even then, you won't have to raise your voice to talk to passengers. Engine noise is apparent from moderate to heavy acceleration. Sport mode hangs onto gears, prolonging the raucous note.

Climate control8.5

The automatic climate control system works well to keep temperatures constant, aided by the Touring's rear air vents. Heated front seats are toasty in the highest setting, and the heated steering wheel warms quickly. Controls for the rear seat heaters are awkwardly located in the armrest.

Interior8.0

The cabin is very much driver-oriented, with excellent visibility and a superb driving position. The short center console and wide gap between the brake and dead pedals are a boon for tall drivers. It's slightly less friendly to backseat passengers since there's less room than in some rivals.

Ease of use8.5

All controls are within the driver's reach. The center display loses touchscreen ability while the car is moving (it's controlled by an easy-to-use knob near the shifter) and doesn't wash out in sunlight. The driver armrests aren't tall enough to rest your elbow and still grip the steering wheel.

Getting in/getting out7.5

Step-in height is a couple inches taller than that of some vehicles in this segment, but most people will find it easy to enter the CX-5. The tall doors mean you don't have to duck. Exiting is also simple, but passengers sitting behind tall front occupants might have to scrunch their legs to leave.

Driving position9.0

The driver's seat offers a lot of vertical adjustment, from low-slung (for a crossover) to bury-your-head-in-the-roof. The front of the seat bottom raises fairly high, offering plenty of support on long-distance drives. The steering wheel also offers a nice range of tilt-and-telescoping adjustment.

Roominess7.0

The cabin feels spacious up front, and there's enough headroom for tall folks all around even with the sunroof. Rear passengers might feel cramped by the sculpted outboard seats, which also make it difficult for an adult to sit in the middle. Rear legroom is a little tight.

Visibility8.0

An elevated driving position, tall windows and narrow pillars make this an easy car to see out of. The exception is in the three-quarters view; the window is a bit smaller than those of competitors but provides a decent view to limit blind spots. Standard backup camera provides a high-def rear view.

Quality9.5

There's not a single cheap-feeling trim piece in the CX-5. All materials, from the leather upholstery to rarely used switchgear, feel expensive. The only disappointments are the malleable side bolsters that rub against the center console in turns. Everything else is exceptional.

Utility8.5

The cargo area is a little small for the class, but you still get the capacity expected from a crossover. The rear seats fold nearly flat at a pull of the remote release latches. The cargo cover is cleverly attached to the hatch, so you don't have to bend over and shove items in. Seats fold 40/20/40.

Small-item storage9.0

Storage spaces abound, with every door sporting spacious pockets with water bottle cutouts. The center bin is deep but not especially wide, though there's a secondary bin in front of the shifter for extra storage. There's a shallow tray inside the rear armrest complete with USB ports.

Cargo space8.0

The cargo area is a bit smaller those of competitors, but we were able to fit two large suitcases without impeding rear visibility. The loading height is a little taller than many in this class, and the door opening height is a little shorter. We dig the nifty retracting door-mounted cargo cover.

Child safety seat accommodation7.5

Four slots on the outboard seats allow access to the LATCH anchors. It's easy to push past the slots, but the anchors are inset a bit. The tethers on the seatback are easy to reach, even with the cargo cover in place; push down on the plastic tab that keeps stuff concealed to access the tether.

Towing7.5

The CX-5 can tow up to 2,000 pounds. This is above average for the segment, although the Ford Escape and Hyundai Santa Fe can tow up to 3,500 pounds with their upgraded engines.

Technology8.0

The CX-5 is a heavy hitter on the tech front, with USB ports sprinkled throughout the cabin, multiple advanced safety systems, and a standard 7-inch touchscreen with an intuitive user interface. The driver aids are fairly sensitive, particularly the blind-spot monitor.

Audio & navigation8.5

The infotainment system is easy to use overall, though some virtual button iconography is hard to decipher. The nav system predicts inputs so users don't have to enter the entire address. Destination entry is disabled while moving, but you can select "Home" or browse through recent destinations.

Smartphone integration7.5

There are two USB ports in the front and two in the back on the Grand Touring trim, both underneath that row's central armrest. The plugs in front seem to pull less power than in rivals; it takes quite a while to recharge phones. Mazda doesn't offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet.

Driver aids8.0

All of the latest advanced safety features are available. The lane departure warning system emits a unique low-pitched buzzing sound that really gets your attention. The blind-spot monitor is overly sensitive, even triggering while you're passing vehicles several car lengths behind.

Voice control8.0

The voice control system seems to be totally based around natural speech recognition, with no prompts whatsoever. It's good at destination entry, calling people and tuning to terrestrial radio stations. (We couldn't get it to tune to a satellite radio station, however.)

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.