Thursday, December 03, 2020

Miscellany: Mazda CX-5 review - Okay Zoom-Zoomer

After its split with Ford, Mazda shed its youthful, fun-loving "Zoom-Zoom" image and started positioning itself as a premium brand, sitting somewhere above rivals Toyota and Honda but below their Lexus and Acura luxury divisions. I recently tooled around in a 2020 Mazda CX-5 - does this compact crossover punch above its weight like Mazda hopes?

The CX-5 was the first Mazda vehicle to use its "KODO design language," all swoopy curves and simplified character lines. That works great when your car is painted "Soul Red Crystal," but it left my white CX-5 looking a little plain. This is an SUV that, while pleasant-looking, will quickly blend in with the rest of your suburban carpool.

Performance in my particular "Touring" trim was also a little vanilla. Under the hood was a 2.5L SkyActiv naturally aspirated inline four, making only 187 horsepower. It's not slow by any means, but it's not quick, either; if you care at all about acceleration, splurge for the turbo (250 horses with premium gas). Gas mileage is okay at about 25/31 mpg, though the tiny 15-gallon tank means you'll have to fill up frequently on road trips.

I liked how the CX-5 handled, but others in my party were less enthusiastic. In my hands, the steering felt accurate and heavier than you might expect for this class of car, and the CX-5 seemed agile on the road. However, I thought close quarters maneuvering in parking lots remained a chore, and people complained about the brakes lacking oomph.

The interior is where you see the most refinement from Mazda. The materials and craftsmanship are pretty much on par with my BMW 328i, which is quite an achievement for a vehicle that stickers at $26 grand in 2020. It's got nothing on the current crop of German luxury vehicles, mind you (test drive a Mercedes GLA if you don't believe me), but it's still pretty good.

The CX-5's rear seats were comfy, but not quite as spacious as the competition, and amenities back there are a little sparse. The cargo area was a bit cramped, too - enough space for four roller bags, but not much else. This is still a compact crossover, after all.

Overall, I thought the Mazda CX-5 was a very good, but not incredible SUV. I certainly wouldn't give it the fawning praise the C&D editors lavish on it. I think the question for buyers is whether the CX-5's nicer interior and sharper road manners are enough to pick this over the behemoths in this class, the RAV4 and CR-V. Those both have well-deserved reputations for reliability and practicality, but do they have soul like the Mazda? You'll need to test drive the CX-5 to find out.


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