Interested in the more powerful CX-5? Here are a few other options
Turbocharging can’t solve every automotive problem, but it definitely enhances the Mazda CX-5’s appeal. New for 2019, the CX-5’s 2.5T engine option is good for 227 or 250 hp (depending on whether you use regular or premium fuel) and 310 lb-ft of torque. Although we have a few reservations about the CX-5 2.5T, overall, the updated Mazda is compelling. Mazda isn’t alone in this niche; buyers willing to spend nearly $40,000 USD on a non-luxury-branded compact crossover like the CX-5 2.5T Signature actually have options.
So read our 2019 CX-5 Turbo First Test, and check out a few other crossovers below.
Jeep Cherokee 2.0 or 3.2
For some, the Jeep Cherokee makes up in brand cachet what it lacks in cargo space. If cargo—or even storage space up front—isn’t a priority, the Cherokee with the new 2.0-liter turbo-four or 3.2-liter naturally aspirated V-6 may work. We’d suggest stretching financially for a model with the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen, as the 7.0-inch layout doesn’t use its space smartly when Apple CarPlay is displayed. We’ve tested an all-wheel-drive 2019 Cherokee 2.0 hitting 60 mph in 6.6 seconds and a 2016 Cherokee 3.2 reaching 60 in 6.8 seconds.
Chevrolet Equinox 2.0T
Only one of the Equinox’s three engines can propel the spacious crossover to 60 mph in under 7.0 seconds. The diesel and 1.5-liter turbo-four are more efficiency focused, but the 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four completes the benchmark sprint in 6.6 seconds. As with the Jeep Cherokee, the Chevrolet Equinox won’t feel as sporty as the Mazda CX-5 2.5 or 2.5T, but it’s still an option for those strictly seeking straight-line speed.
GMC Terrain Denali 2.0T
Using the same turbo-four and nine-speed automatic as the Chevrolet Equinox, the GMC Terrain wears an unmistakable look. Spend enough on the compact crossover, and a Terrain Denali adds an attractive monochrome look—though it should be noted that every color except white is an extra-cost option. Acceleration from 0 to 60 took 6.8 seconds in our testing of a loaded all-wheel-drive model that, like the Equinox, doesn’t activate its AWD system automatically if it detects slipping.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Still one of only two hybrid entries in the compact crossover class as this is written, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is an unusual yet worthwhile entry in this group. Unlike almost every crossover on this list, the RAV4 Hybrid doesn’t struggle to get 30 mpg (7.8 L/100km); instead, it’s expected to be EPA-rated at 41/37 mpg (5.7/6.4 L/100km) city/highway. Although the RAV4 Hybrid’s 0–60 time can’t match that of the 227-/250-hp CX-5 2.5T (6.4 seconds), the Toyota’s hybrid powertrain can feel deceptively quick from a stop. We wish the 2.5-liter engine were quieter in all 2019 RAV4s, but at least in the hybrid model, getting top fuel economy (or seeing how long you can safely go without the engine turning on) can become a game to liven up a dreary commute.
Honda CR-V Touring 1.5T
Unlike every other vehicle on this list, it’s impossible to elevate a CR-V’s MSRP to nearly $40,000 USD unless the spacious cargo area holds a suitcase full of cash. And for those rare buyers who want to spend that much on a smaller—but more special—crossover, the CR-V probably won’t fit their needs. But even though the CR-V doesn’t offer a panoramic moonroof, surround-view camera system, ventilated front seats, or touchscreen larger than 7.0 inches, the Honda impresses in other ways. Already, the current-gen CR-V won a comparison against a CX-5 2.5 and was our 2018 SUV of the Year. That doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, and 0–60 in 7.6 seconds isn’t as quick as others on this list. If you can survive without a few of the features the Honda lacks, however, the crossover will provide a longer driving range and save you thousands of dollars.
Mazda CX-5 2.5 GT with GT Premium package
The biggest threat to the new CX-5 2.5T comes from within Mazda itself. The automaker offers a CX-5 2.5 GT with a package that includes the same content as the CX-5 2.5T GT Reserve model, including power-folding side mirrors, ventilated (and heated) front seats, a head-up display, heated rear seats and steering wheel, and a windshield wiper de-icer. True, the base-engine CX-5 will occasionally leave the speed demons among us wishing for more power, but most of the time, the car simply provides the same fun-to-drive personality and attractive styling as the 2.5T models—but you get one or two more trips to and from work before having to refuel.
If you’re still set on a CX-5 with the 2.5-liter turbo-four—our tester wore a $39,030 USD price tag with a few dealer-installed accessories—decide how important softer leather and real wood trim is to you. Those upgrades, along with a surround-view camera system using the CX-5’s small 7.0-inch infotainment screen, are among the Signature model’s exclusive features. I find the CR-V’s faux wood trim more effective than the non-Signature CX-5’s trim, but both pale against the top-of-the-line CX-5’s real wood trim. That Signature model is mighty pricey for a trim with almost no visual distinguishing marks, but it still mostly justifies its price tag despite a lack of interior space and HVAC controls mounted too low on the center stack.
Ford and Kia both offer engine-upgraded models with premium features, but the 2.0-liter turbo-four models of the Escape and Sportage each have disadvantages that would prevent them from making my personal short list despite the Ford’s playful personality and the Kia’s value. The Escape—which is about to be replaced—gets a Poor rating in one of the IIHS’ newer safety tests and doesn’t offer the same level of active safety tech competitors provide. As for the Sportage, even the 237-hp version can’t keep up with a 190-hp CR-V to 60 mph, yet the Kia’s fuel economy with all-wheel drive is just 20/23 mpg (11.8/10.2 L/100km).
The 2019 Mazda CX-5 Turbo, shown in 2.5T Signature form, is pictured below