Like one of the Flying Wallendas, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 walks a figurative tightrope between passion and practicality. It’s a combination that has helped make the compact crossover SUV the brand’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the past two years.
Despite being dimensionally similar to its predecessor, the new CX-5 looks both wider and longer thanks to a massive concave grille and slim LED headlights that accentuate the car’s width, as well as A-pillars that have been pushed back 1.4 inches in order to emphasize the length of the CX-5’s hood. The swoopy exterior cuts into the crossover’s cargo capacity, however, leaving the new CX-5 with just 31 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, down three cubes to the prior CX-5 and down eight to the Honda CR-V.
Nevertheless, the new CX-5’s passenger compartment benefits from high-quality materials, top-notch fit and finish, and adequate space for those seated in the front or in the two outboard rear seats. The new CX-5’s interior is noticeably quieter, too, with our sound-level meter registering just 67 decibels at 70 mph, or one decibel lower than a Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4MATIC.
Steady as She Goes
Motivating every 2017 CX-5—at least until the promised diesel engine arrives—is Mazda’s familiar 2.5-liter inline-four. Tuned to produce 187 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque in this application, the engine channels power to the CX-5’s drive wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that’s eager to downshift with only a slight prod of the pedal—a rarity in modern automatic gearboxes with maximum fuel efficiency as their overriding mission. Manual control can be assumed via the console-mounted shift lever, but there are no wheel- or column-mounted paddles. All-wheel-drive CX-5s continue to direct a majority of the engine’s torque to the front wheels most of the time but can send as much as 50 percent rearward when needed.
With a curb weight of 3678 pounds, our all-wheel-drive CX-5 Grand Touring test car carried an extra 141 pounds of mass compared with the front-wheel-drive CX-5 Grand Touring we recently tested. Despite increased launch traction, the heftier AWD model’s straight-line performance fell behind its lighter FWD kin, with this CX-5 taking 8.1 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph, 0.3 second longer than the front-drive model and half a second behind a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive CR-V. A bigger disappointment was the all-wheel-drive CX-5’s 70-mph-to-zero stopping distance of 182 feet—five feet longer than its front-wheel-drive counterpart and a full 16 feet more than the Honda.
Although the CX-5’s mass and driveline may impact its ability to stop and go, it doesn’t inhibit behind-the-wheel enjoyment. Credit a handful of improvements to the new CX-5’s makeup, including a chassis 15 percent stiffer than the prior model’s and a steering rack rigidly mounted to the front subframe. It also adds Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control technology that briefly reduces engine torque at turn-in to imperceptibly transfer load to the front axle, which takes up any slack in the suspension and subsequently improves steering response. The new platform’s center of gravity is slightly lower than in the previous generation, and the track is a touch wider. The sum of all these parts is an exceptionally well-balanced compact SUV that manages to blend driver engagement with passenger comfort.
Mazda offers the CX-5 in three different trim levels: the base $24,985 Sport, the mid-level $26,855 Touring, and the top-of-the-line $30,335 Grand Touring. In all three, front drive comes standard, but all-wheel drive—as tested here—is a $1300 option.
Even the base Sport includes as standard a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a rearview camera, a 40/20/40 split-folding and reclining rear seat, and Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support system that can detect an impending collision and automatically apply the CX-5’s brakes when traveling between 2 and 19 mph. Still, most consumers may want the mid-level Touring trim. This model adds a host of comfort and convenience items, including a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a proximity key, rear HVAC vents, blind-spot monitoring, and more. It also opens up the options book to items such as a lane-departure-warning and lane-keeping-assist system, automatic headlights, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, premium audio, navigation, a sunroof, and a power-opening liftgate—a first for the CX-5.
The Touring’s optional items move to the standard features list on Grand Touring models, which also come standard with leather, 19-inch wheels and tires (compared with the 17s on Sport and Touring models), adaptive headlights, and LED fog lights and taillamps. Our Grand Touring test example upped the ante with the $1830 Premium package, adding a memory driver’s seat, a power passenger’s seat, a windshield-wiper de-icer, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, and heated outboard rear seats. Additional options included a $595 coat of Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, a $70 cargo mat, and a $250 rear cargo cover, ultimately raising the crossover’s as-tested price to $34,380.
Although there are quicker and more spacious compact crossover SUVs available, few juggle driving enjoyment and general practicality like the 2017 Mazda CX-5. It’s a trick that is likely to keep the CX-5 atop Mazda’s sales charts.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED: $34,380 (base price: $26,285)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-capable inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 152 cu in, 2488 cc
Power: 187 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 106.2 in
Length: 179.1 in
Width: 72.5 in Height: 65.3 in
Passenger volume: 102 cu ft
Cargo volume: 31 cu ft
Curb weight: 3678 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 8.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 24.2 sec
Zero to 110 mph: 31.6 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.5 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.9 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.3 sec @ 85 mph
Top speed (drag limited, C/D est): 130 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 182 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.82 g
EPA combined/city/highway: 26/23/29 mpg
C/D observed: 24 mpg
C/D observed 75-mph highway driving: 32 mpg
C/D observed highway range: 480 mi