Mazda’s CX-5 is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle in the USA.
It’s a solid, mid-pack seller in the country’s hardest-fought segment and tops more than its share of the year-end Top 10 lists.
This is not a big surprise; the people who write best-of lists tend to like to drive and the CX-5 is the compact segment’s most driver-focused vehicle.
While it’s neither wildly powerful nor super-quick, the CX-5 is balanced, responsive and rewarding to drive. It’s agile in traffic and settled and stable on the highway but it reveals its true self when the road turns curvy.
There’s more to the CX-5 than its ability to carve a corner, though. Up against even its better-known rivals, the CX-5 stands out for its refinement, exuberant styling and features-rich affordability.
It’s economical to own and operate. It boasts better-than-average towing capacity.
And in recent years, the CX-5 has transitioned into one of most luxurious of the small crossovers.
In 2017, a full makeover planted the CX-5 on a strong and rigid platform, allowing engineers to tune the suspension with greater precision. Ride quality improved — the CX-5 now has one of the smoothest rides of all small CUVs — while its delightful driving dynamics remained largely intact.
The new structure reduced the dread NVH — noise, vibration and harshness — to near-luxury levels. In its top Signature trim, the CX-5 inches to within a hair’s breadth of luxury-class stature.
Inside, Mazda’s less-is-more design strategy and agreeable infotainment interface cut cabin clutter. The thin, tiered dash is adorned only by a quartet of octagonal vents. Stitched and textured soft-touch surfaces blanket the dash and door panels.
All materials seem at least a half-step better than other offerings in the segment. Fit-and-finish is top-notch.
The 2020 CX-5 is available in five trims: Sport ($25,090); Touring ($26,730); Grand Touring ($30,210); Grand Touring Reserve ($35,035); and Signature ($37,055).
The lower trims come standard with front-wheel-drive with available AWD. The top two are AWD-only.
Standard-features include rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, push-button ignition, electronic parking brake, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 7-inch touchscreen, 40/20/40-split reclining rear seats and a four-speaker sound system.
For 2020, Mazda's i-Activsense of advanced safety features is also standard. Features include dynamic cruise control with stop-and-go function; blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning; low-speed automatic emergency braking, with day and nighttime pedestrian detection; lane-departure warning, with lane-keep assist and automatic high-beams.
There are three available engines. A 168-horsepower four-cylinder engine powers the lower trims. The Grand Touring Reserve and Signature run a turbocharged four that makes 227 hp on regular unleaded and 250 on premium.
The Signature can also be had with a four-cylinder diesel (168 horsepower/290 lb-ft of torque). It adds $4,100 to the price of the already-spendy Signature and only modestly boosts fuel efficiency.
Its strength is its 3,500 towing capacity, which outshines the other models’ 2,000-pound limit.
The gas engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Unlike most contemporary automatics, which are geared for maximum efficiency, it responds quickly and decisively to throttle input. It won’t leave you in the lurch with a too-slow downshift.
The turbocharged engine powers the CX-5 from 0-60 in the low-6-second range, with the diesel a few ticks slower. The lower trims need about 8 seconds to do the deed, but don’t feel slow.
Steering is quick and accurate.
The CX-5 cabin and cargo area are less spacious than others, but the cockpit is as tranquil and serene as they come.
Its size takes a toll on casual cabin storage. There’s a cell-phone-sized tray ahead of the shift lever and the cushioned console-mounted armrest conceals a small covered bin.
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2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature
Vehicle base price: $25,090
Trim level base price: $37,055
As tested: $38,925 (includes handling and destination)
Options: Machine Gray paint, rear bumper guard, roof rack side rails
Tow rating: 2,000/3,500 pounds
EPA rating: 24 combined/22 city/27 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified