The Mazda CX-5 crossover is redesigned for 2017, quieter and better looking inside, and slightly more stylish outside. Too many details to mention, so many small things improved. Mazda goes about improvement properly and effectively.
The 2.5-liter engine is tweaked and retuned, now mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission (the manual has been dropped), with front- or all-wheel drive.
And there’s a high-mileage 2.2-liter turbodiesel coming later in the year, to compete with the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox diesel, GMC Terrain, and the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. It could be a race in rarified air between these four, to 40 mpg.
The revised 2.5-liter engine makes 187 horsepower, just three more horsepower than before, with 185 pound-feet of torque. Mazda says it’s sharper. We agree that the performance is sharp, plus the steering is precise, probably partly because the chassis is stiffer, with more high-strength steel. But maybe more because the 2017 has Mazda’s brake-based torque vectoring system that shifts torque to outside wheels in corners. In fact, it’s the most fun we’ve ever had in a compact crossover, having tested competitors including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester.
The 2017 model is about 100 pounds heavier, all of that weight coming in sound-deadening material. It’s fairly small, even for a compact, with a wheelbase of 106.3 inches and overal length of 179.1. It has less room inside than competitors like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.
Fuel mileage is 24 miles per gallon city, 31 highway, and 27 combined with front-wheel drive, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The new CX-5 hasn’t been crash-tested yet, but last year it was a Top Safety Pick+ of the insurance industry’s IIHS, and this year it has stiffer roof pillars.
The 2017 Mazda CX-5 comes in Sport ($24,045); Touring ($25,915); and Grand Touring ($29,395). Add just $1300 for all-wheel drive.
Sport comes with LED headlamps, 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera; cloth upholstery, and two USB chargers that can charge bigger things.
Touring, the most popular model, adds leatherette upholstery, acoustic front windows, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, better six-speaker sound system, rear USB ports, and blind-spot monitors. An optional package ($780) adds automatic headlamps, navigation, power liftgate, and Bose 10-speaker sound. For another $625 there’s a package with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning.
Grand Touring models add leather and 19-inch wheels to the above. Options beyond that include heated rear seats and a new head-up display.
The CX-5 is the most eye-catching crossover its size on the road. It doesn’t look boxy at all. It quietly screams style, especially in white.
The changes for 2017 are subtle. The front pillars are pushed back and inch, and the shoulders reach back farther. The grille gets mesh to replace chrome bars; it’s a rounded trapezoid that’s bold but not in your face, reaching to the LED headlamps. More improvement in the looks from thinner black cladding, and smaller rear taillamps.
The CX-5 pulls off the formerly impossible, to make a crossover look like it’s moving when it’s standing still. There’s a slim chrome boomerang under the windows to accelerate the flow. Mazda’s lead designer in America, Julian Montousse, gets a byline. He calls his approach purity through intensification.
The CX-5 interior closely follows that of the grander CX-9. Little things like the cleaner lighting, improved steering wheel, and the shift lever moved back two inches closer to a natural position for the driver’s hand. But mostly it’s the newfound silence. The cabin is as quiet as a Lexus. This is Mazda’s response to owners’ complaints about noise and harshness in the prior CX-5. Nasty road noise is gone, zapped, smothered with attention, and 100 pounds of insulation.
There’s a little more shoulder room in the rear, thanks to a slightly wider track. The rear doors open wider. And thanks to scalloping in the back of the front seats, there’s enough legroom for a six-footer in the rear, although three of them might get a bit tight. The rear seat reclines, another feature new for 2017. Behind the rear seat, there’s 31 cubic feet of storage, and 60 cubic with the rear folded flat. That’s a bit less than competitors including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester.
The pushed-back A pillars allow better visibility from the driver’s seat, and better ergonomics because the armrests could be raised to a more natural position.
The 7.0-inch touchscreen sits atop the dash, a bit too far away, and reflects smudges. There’s also a controller in the center console, an infotainment knob, but it’s a bit hard to grip. The touchscreen resolution is sharper in 2017, but the infotainment system remains finicky. Things like like programming presets or entering destinations take more touches than they need. In general, Mazda’s takes a Spartan approach to infotainment.
Mazda nailed it. We’re not surprised.
Crisp powertrain. Sharp steering. Finely tuned response. Less horsepower than competitors with turbos, but still confident acceleration.
Throttle response is quite sharp, which encourages smooth driving, which is another way of saying it’s not very forgiving of a loose foot. The transmission is programmed to stay in gear longer than drivers might be used to, when the car is accelerating onto freeways. It knows where it is, at least most of the time, by reading your foot.
We got about 150 miles of seat time at the launch of the CX-5, all of them on models with 19-inch wheels, rather than the standard 17s. The ride is usually firmer with bigger wheels because the tire sidewalls are thinner, but ours didn’t feel stiff. Most of the bumps are soaked up. The front suspension is independent strut and the rear is multi-link.
The cornering is precise, with progressive steering that’s firm but not heavy. The torque vectoring helps cut down head toss. Torque vectoring works by making tiny adjustments to the power and traction in individual wheels, in the corners; this improves balance which makes steering and handling more precise. That’s all the driver feels: precision, or rather less imbalance.
Another thing is the steering rack, newly mounted directly to the front suspension for more sensitivity, as in better feedback. But not too much: the solid-mounted steering rack doesn’t transmit too much on bumpy roads.
The redesigned 2017 Mazda CX-5 nails it. It’s strikingly stylish, its cabin is quiet like a luxury car, and it handles better than any small crossover we know.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.