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2017 Mazda CX-5 Road Test and Review

Cherise Threewitt
by Cherise Threewitt
March 14, 2017
5 min. Reading Time
2017 Mazda CX-5 ・  Photo by Cherise LaPine

2017 Mazda CX-5 ・ Photo by Cherise LaPine

The Mazda CX-5 is a compact, family-friendly SUV, and it’s one of the best-selling vehicles in the brand’s current lineup. Mazda’s redesigned the CX-5 for the 2017 model year, and recently invited Autobytel to San Diego to check it out. We had a chance to get familiar with the CX-5 on city streets and out in the mountains, and also got some great insight about the vehicle from Mazda’s team of designers and engineers.

If you’re shopping for a small, family-friendly, 5-passenger vehicle in the coming months, this crossover should be on your list. Here’s what you need to know about the CX-5, which will arrive in Mazda dealerships at the end of March.


The Mazda CX-5, in base Sport trim, carries an MSRP of $24,045. The next level up, Touring, starts at $25,915. The top-level trim, the Grand Touring, starts at $29,395. These prices and trim levels are comparable to other top-selling models in the compact SUV class, such as the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, and Ford Escape, although Mazda plans to go after luxury customers, as well. (We’ll discuss that more later.)

All trim levels of the redesigned CX-5 come with the same engine and transmission combination. Front-wheel drive is standard with the CX-5, and all-wheel drive is available with each trim level for $1,300.

 Photo by Mazda

Photo by Mazda

Powertrains, Performance and Fuel Efficiency

The 2017 CX-5’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 187 horsepower (an increase of 3 over the last generation) and 185 lb-ft of torque, paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Power is smooth and predictable; Mazda eschews the turbocharged engines favored by competitors to maintain linear power delivery and to avoid turbo lag. EPA estimates come in at 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models. All-wheel drive models are estimated at 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway.

Mazda’s subtle design enhancements go a long way here. For example, the steering rack has new hydraulic bushings to reduce shimmy. The gas pedal is hinged at the bottom, rather than the top, to enable a more natural ankle movement. (Mazda explained that this is a very expensive design decision, which is why most competitors have a top-hinged pedal — we’re not sure if we ever would have noticed on our own, but it did feel nice. Our only complaint with the driving experience was the braking — the pedal’s firm, which is nice, but it tricked us into thinking we were braking harder and faster than we actually were.

 Photo by Mazda

Photo by Mazda

Exterior Design and Lighting

We really like the looks of the redesigned CX-5. It’s a more sophisticated and more detailed silhouette than the outgoing model, though the changes are actually rather subtle. Julien Montousse, the Design Director in charge of the new CX-5, explained that the CX-5’s strongest cues are along the beltline and toward the rear wheels, which help to visually “stabilize” the car. LED headlights frame a bold new inverted grille design.

The wheels are a lightweight alloy, with diamond-cut surfaces for contrast along the spokes. And, in terms of practicality, the A-pillar has been shifted slightly and the side mirrors re-shaped to maximize the driver’s visibility toward the sides.

 Photo by Mazda

Photo by Mazda

Interior Design and Capacities

The CX-5’s cabin has been fine-tuned to reflect the Japanese concept of “jinba ittai,” which translates roughly into “unity of horse and rider.” In other words, Mazda says, there should be a symbiotic relationship between the car and its driver, which they sought to enable with a renewed focus on the driver’s experience.

For a driver-centric layout, the cabin’s “waterline” has been raised to put controls within easier reach and make the cabin more intimate. The seat angle was adjusted to enable a more natural body position, and reclining ability was added to the rear row. The CX-5 is quieter, too, thanks to extra body-panel seals and sound-deadening insulation throughout the vehicle. Mazda’s designers also worked to reduce distractions caused by visual noise and worked with upholstery suppliers to find low-odor materials to use throughout the cabin.

Cargo volume behind the rear row is 30.9 cubic feet, and 59.6 cubic feet with the rear row folded (40/20/40 split).

 Photo by Mazda

Photo by Mazda

Audio and Infotainment

All CX-5s come with the Mazda Connect infotainment system, with voice recognition, Pandora internet radio, hands-free text messaging, and automatic emergency notification. The system’s easy to use, with a 7-inch color touch screen. Our drive partner complained that the screen was too small and too high up in the dashboard, but we thought it was okay.

All trim levels include Bluetooth, HD Radio, an aux-in jack, and two USB ports. Touring and Grand Touring models add two USB ports to the rear row. An upgraded Bose 10-speaker audio system, which has been tuned to optimize the sound quality of streamed and digital music, is available on the Touring and standard on the Grand Touring.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Available Equipment

The Mazda CX-5 Sport model includes cloth seating, push-button start, LED headlights, an infotainment system with a 7-inch color touch screen, a rearview camera, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The next level up, Touring, upgrades the seats to leatherette with front seat heaters, and adds navigation, auto-leveling headlights, advanced keyless entry, rear privacy glass, and some active safety features. Two options packages are available with this trim level, for extra convenience and safety features.

The top-level trim, the Grand Touring, adds leather seating, an 8-way power driver’s seat, SiriusXM satellite radio, LED foglights and taillights, auto-dimming mirrors with Homelink, and 19-inch alloy wheels. A package of interior upgrades is available. Mazda expects the Grand Touring to be the most popular model, and notes that in recent data from the previous-generation CX-5, Grand Touring models account for nearly half of of all sales.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Safety Ratings and Technology

The new Mazda CX-5 has received a 5-Star Overall crash test score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not published a rating for the CX-5 or evaluated the vehicle’s LATCH child safety seat system for ease of use.

For this generation, Mazda has improved the availability of high-tech active safety features. The base CX-5 includes Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support system, which helps reduce collisions at low speeds. The Touring model includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The Grand Touring trim level adds radar cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, smart brake support, and high beam control. The Grand Touring also offers a windshield-projected active driving display with traffic sign recognition; it’s definitely an acquired taste, and we found the projected speed limit information wasn’t always accurate.

 Photo by Mazda

Photo by Mazda

Other Cool Features

The CX-5 looks best finished in the available Soul Red Crystal paint, a color that was designed to complement the brand’s Kodo design language, the philosophy that treats the car as a work of art. Soul Red Crystal “kind of jams into your eyes,” said Julien Montousse, the Director of Design for the CX-5.

The Soul Red Crystal finish adds depth by adding the metallic flake first and the red on top. This three-layer paint technique accentuates the car’s lines and curves, adding greater contrast between the “highs” and “lows” in the body panels. It also “creat(es) a sense of movement even at a standstill,” in Mazda’s words. And it works. Look at a Soul Red Crystal CX-5 alongside a CX-5 in a different color and you’ll likely notice greater attention drawn to certain lines of the car; it’s like looking at two photos of Kim Kardashian side-by-side, one with makeup and one without.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine

Final Thoughts

During the presentation of the new CX-5, Mazda was forthcoming about the fact that this redesigned SUV reflects a desire to move the brand upmarket. Mazda says they’ve noticed a change in the customer base the last few years, higher incomes and more education, and the more upscale elements of the CX-5 are there to appeal to the expectations of those customers.

Based on our experience with the 2017 CX-5, we’re not suggesting this approach won’t work; after all, Mazda’s sources — the recent increases in sales, high demand for the CX-5, and strong sales of higher trim levels — seem to support this move. And in the case of the new CX-5, specifically, when Mazda throws around fancy terminology, we can actually see how those ideas play out in the finished product (which is, needless to say, not always the case). With that in mind, we’re eager to see how Mazda’s move upmarket plays out, but we hope vehicles like the CX-5 remain accessible.

 Photo by Cherise LaPine

Photo by Cherise LaPine


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