The Mazda CX-5 has been a favorite of ours ever since its debut. Like its competitors in the small crossover SUV segment, the CX-5 offers plenty of versatility, high fuel economy and good value for money. But the CX-5 is also enjoyable to drive, displaying not just good handling but a level of engagement that many other automakers simply cannot achieve, no matter how hard they try.
Though the CX-5 is a relative newcomer, with the first version introduced in 2013 and the second generation making its debut for 2017, the model has already become a huge success for the Mazda brand. Most of the SUVs in this segment offer good utility, but the high fun-to-drive factor could well give the CX-5 an edge if you want something a little extra from your next small crossover.
Current Mazda CX-5
Introduced for 2017, the second-generation CX-5 kept many of its predecessors' attributes. The two versions are nearly identical in size, and although the front-end styling differs greatly, from the side they share a similar profile. While the first-generation CX-5 offered two engines, the current CX-5 offers only the larger one, a 2.5 liter four-cylinder that delivers 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
The CX-5 comes in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. As with other Mazda models, even the entry-level Sport is well equipped with alloy wheels, LED headlights, air-conditioning and a 7-inch touchscreen display. The Touring adds simulated leather seating (heated in front), dual-zone climate control, an upgraded sound system, a blind-spot monitoring system, and full keyless entry and ignition, while the Grand Touring gets real leather, a Bose stereo, a sunroof and a power liftgate. All CX-5s feature low-speed collision warning with automatic braking. A higher-speed system, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance and automatic high beams are optional on the Touring and standard on the Grand Touring.
We praised the original CX-5 for its nimble nature, and we're pleased to report that the current version is no different. If you're just running to the grocery store for milk and eggs, the CX-5 offers a satisfying drive and connected feel to the road. The 2.5-liter engine isn't the most powerful in its class, but it's got enough juice for most people, and the fuel economy is better than average.
We're also very fond of the CX-5's cabin. Mazda has been working to upgrade the quality of their interior materials, and that shows in the CX-5. A great driving position, plenty of headroom, and a spacious backseat and cargo area add to the appeal.
Used Mazda CX-5 Models
The second-generation Mazda CX-5 made its debut in 2017. It's the same size as the older model, but features revised styling, a more upscale interior and a host of new convenience and safety features.
The first-generation Mazda CX-5 was produced for 2013-2016 and served as a replacement for the Mazda Tribute. Right away, the CX-5 caught our attention: It matched the competition on passenger space and cargo capacity, but like other contemporary Mazdas — and in sharp contrast to the Ford Escape-based Tribute — it was a fun to drive thanks to its athletic handling. Though power was modest, the CX-5 boasted high fuel economy, excellent safety scores and an impressive list of standard equipment. Throughout its run, we regarded the CX-5 as one of our favorite picks in this crowded and highly competitive class.
Like the current-generation car, Mazda offered the CX-5 in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Sport models came with the basics, while the Touring added equipment such as keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth and a power driver seat. Grand Touring models were the most lavishly equipped, with leather, a premium audio system and automatic climate control. Options were plentiful for Touring and Sport models, and included navigation, adaptive xenon headlights and satellite radio.
In its first year, the CX-5 was only available with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. In 2014, Mazda introduced a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 184 hp and 185 lb-ft as an option. Like most of its competitors, the CX-5 was available with either front- or all-wheel-drive, but the CX-5 was one of the few crossovers to offer a six-speed manual transmission, albeit only on the 2.0-liter front-wheel-drive versions. A six-speed automatic was optional on those vehicles and standard with all-wheel drive or the 2.5 liter engine. Our recommendation is to get the CX-5 with the bigger engine. You'll like the added power, and it gets nearly the same fuel economy.
Changes were minimal for 2015, and much the same was expected for 2016 given that the second-generation CX-5 was waiting in the wings. But much to our surprise, Mazda updated the CX-5 for the 2016 model year with styling updates, interior improvements, and advanced safety features including adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning system. They Mazda doubled down with a 2016.5 update that added a rearview camera to all models except the manual-transmission Sport, heated front seats to the Touring model, and navigation to both the Touring and Grand Touring. If you're shopping for a 2016, you might as well aim to get one of these updated models.