Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Mazda’s CX-5 promises engagement — and delivers

It’s not enough for Mazda that its cars are comfortable, safe and stylish. Each model must also carry strands of the DNA that animates the MX-5 Miata sports car. (Mazda)
It’s not enough for Mazda that its cars are comfortable, safe and stylish. Each model must also carry strands of the DNA that animates the MX-5 Miata sports car. (Mazda)

Is it plagiarism if I quote myself?

Hope not since I’ve borrowed, with obvious modifications, the next three paragraphs from my recent take on Mazda’s midsize CX-9 crossover.

The CX-9 CX-5 isn’t the quickest, the roomiest or the most powerful of the three-row compact crossovers. It doesn’t tow the biggest load and its cargo hold pales in comparison to the class leaders.

If you love driving, though, the CX-9 ($32,130) CX-5 ($24,150)  is likely the only three-row small crossover you’ll ever want to own.

The CX-9 CX-5 is lithe, responsive and engaging. Quick, precise and communicative its well-weighted steering system progressively builds effort as the driver commits to a corner.

Siblings sharing DNA

This is what strategic automakers do. They build families of cars with shared DNA. Driving one tells you all you need to know about the rest. 

When the family outgrows the little CX-3, the CX-5 awaits. Max out the CX-5 and the CX-9 could be just the ticket. 

For Mazda, attitude is the common denominator. For years, its cars campaigned under its Zoom Zoom slogan. Its more recent Driving Matters mantra makes the same promise. 

It’s not enough for Mazda that its cars are comfortable, safe and stylish. Each model must also carry strands of the DNA that animates the MX-5 Miata sports car.

Mazda doesn’t build the fastest or most powerful cars in their respective segments. While most of its competitors offer a choice of powerplants, the CX-5 makes do with one. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 187 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Its 8.5-second 0-60 run is unremarkable, as its 2000-pound tow capacity.

Class-above engagement

But no small crossover even remotely near its price range is more engaging or dynamic. 

Predictably, the CX-5 is more tautly suspended than its competitors, though a 2017 model-year makeover softened the ride a bit. Still, body control remains impressive. Our tester responded quickly and precisely to steering inputs and dispatched quick corners with minimal lean.

Its well-sorted chassis nimbly reacts to quick left-and-right transitions. The CX-5 is no Miata, but it’s uncommonly surefooted in situations that would befuddle others.

Steering feel is a bit heavier — and more natural and communicative — than expected of a crossover. 

Taking refinement to another level

Last year’s redesign brought new levels of cabin refinement. Materials quality notched upward and new sound-deadening measures cut wind and road noise. New safety and driver-assist features included standard forward-collision warning with automatic low-speed emergency braking.

This year, the standard-features list grows again, with the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. A new cylinder-deactivation feature boosts efficiency by shutting down two cylinders at cruising speeds.

Other makers should study Mazda’s Connect infotainment system for its ease of operation. Connect’s intuitive menus can be accessed via a console-mounted knob or by voice. Touch works, too, but only when the vehicle is stationary.

Just as it should be.

The 7-inch tablet-style display perches atop the dash, where it is scannable at a glance. 

Improvements are in order

Connect could (and should) be improved, though. Neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto is currently offered, and the system does not include a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The CX-5 gave up some cargo space in last year’s redesign but gained incidental cabin storage. The center console includes a deep tray that effectively corrals cell phones and a bin with a removable shelf. Deep rear-seat door pockets hold water bottles and a fold-down armrest conceals a lidded storage bin.

The well-contoured front seats are abundantly comfortable and supportive and are adjustable across a wide range of motion. Outward visibility is excellent. 

The rear seat is a bit tight for adults and the bottom cushions are too short for long-legged passengers. The seatbacks fold to create a flat cargo floor. 

These days, there’s a competent crossover on every corner. But it’s the rare rig that promises to engage. Hats off to Mazda for fielding a family of them. 

Contact Don at or visit

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD
Vehicle base price: $24,150
Trim level base price: $30,945
As tested: $34,685 (includes destination and handling)
Options: illuminated door-sill trim plates; Soul Red Crystal paint; rear bumper guard; retractable  cargo cover; active driving display with traffic-sign recognition; heated steering wheel; heated rear seats; windshield wiper de-icer.
Tow capacity: 2000 pounds
EPA rating: 26 combined/24 city/30 highway

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.