Making sense of the $39,030 USD Mazda CX-5 Signature
To the delight of lead-footed enthusiasts everywhere, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 now offers a more powerful turbo-four engine option. The 227-/250-hp 2.5T engine—output depends on whether you use regular or premium—wonderfully adds to the charm of the CX-5, already the most stylish crossover in its class. We spent a couple weeks driving the new CX-5 Signature to determine whether the turbo upgrade is worth the money.
If you’re aghast at how a CX-5 could possibly hit $39,030 USD, know that the engine upgrade is only available with all-wheel drive, and even then, only on Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims that have more content than the 187-hp CX-5’s lower trims. Trying to convince your spouse the turbo is worth it? Tell them the 2.5T’s GT Reserve is only $1,800 USD more than a base-engine GT model with a package that matches equipment.
Or just get in the CX-5 2.5T and step on it.
You don’t need to be a professional driver to feel the difference between regular 2019 CX-5s and 2019 CX-5 2.5T models … but if you were, you’d find 0–60 mph acceleration in just 6.4 seconds, impressive in its class and a noticeable upgrade over a CX-5 2.5 AWD we tested at 8.3 seconds. (The CX-5 turbo was tested with premium fuel.) Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said that the CX-5 2.5T’s engine had a nice growl to it. When it came to braking performance, he found the brake pedal a bit soft but otherwise appreciated that the Mazda had good body control and stopped straight. Braking from 60 to 0 mph took 125 feet, or about the same as our CX-5 2.5 AWD tester’s 123 feet.
The same is true on MotorTrend’s figure-eight course, which evaluates braking, cornering, acceleration, and the transitions between them. The CX-5 2.5T’s 27.7-second time at 0.62 g (average) isn’t appreciably different from the non-turbo model’s performance or, for that matter, from the results turned in by an all-wheel-drive 190-hp 2019 Honda CR-V 1.5, a well-rounded compact crossover and our 2018 SUV of the Year.
Although testing director Kim Reynolds liked the CX-5 2.5T’s steering feel and overall balance, he was frustrated by the Mazda’s restrictive stability control system, which prevented him from exploring the crossover’s limits. On the street, the experience matches that of MotorTrend’s test crew—rewarding, but with a stability control system that has a relatively low intervention threshold. The fun-to-drive CX-5 feels light on its feet even when you’re not pushing it, but the suspension on any CX-5 with 19-inch wheels may be a tad too firm for some. One note: Our tester’s engine exhibited a slight boominess just above 1,000 rpm—not a deal-breaker but something we hope is minimized in the future.
As with CX-5s powered by the standard 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine, the turbocharged CX-5 uses a six-speed automatic that’s responsive but not as smooth as the CVT of a CR-V 1.5, whose 7.6-second 0–60 time just about splits the difference between the two CX-5s.
Where the CX-5 trails its less powerful and slower competitors is fuel economy. That shouldn’t be surprising: Mazda added power to a package that already fell behind the class leaders. To be fair, the CX-5 2.5T AWD’s 22/27 mpg (10.7/8.7 L/100 km) city/highway is competitive with the Chevrolet Equinox 2.0T AWD’s 22/28 mpg (0–60 in 6.6 seconds) and the Jeep Cherokee Latitude AWD’s 21/29 mpg (11.2/8.1 L/100 km) (0–60 in 6.6 seconds).
Despite the CR-V’s slower acceleration, we’d still recommend comparing the CX-5 2.5T against the Honda, which is EPA-rated at 27/33 mpg (8.7/7.1 L/100 km) with all-wheel drive and a 1.5-liter engine. Thing is, the CX-5 2.5T’s extra power and torque will tempt you every time you get behind the wheel, meaning you may not achieve the EPA’s 22/27 mpg (10.7/8.7 L/100 km) estimate in the real world. Even if you did, however, that’s less driving range and lower fuel economy than the CX-5 2.5 AWD’s 24/30 mpg (9.8/7.8 L/100 km). Depending on how you feel about your role amid increasingly serious news about climate change, owning the gorgeous and entertaining CX-5 2.5T also comes standard with the guilt you may carry from driving a compact crossover with the fuel economy of a larger vehicle. Put another way, the quicker CX-5 2.5T merely manages EPA-rated fuel economy on the highway what the CR-V 1.5 AWD achieves in the city (the more challenging rating for non-hybrids).
So maybe you stick with a non-turbo CX-5. As with every crossover in this class, that Mazda must still compete against the CR-V that’s also fun to drive but far more practical inside. The Mazda’s rear seat is adequate to the Honda’s stretch-your-legs accommodations, and the cargo area is also much bigger in the Honda. Between trips to big box stores, the Honda still excels with its supremely flexible center console area between the two front seats. Adjusting the A/C is also far easier in the Honda, thanks to the Mazda’s style-over-substance layout that places HVAC controls awkwardly at the very bottom of the center stack. The upside? The CX-5 Signature’s dash looks clean and upscale, thanks to real wood trim and leather-like material just below the undersized 7.0-inch infotainment display. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the CX-5 Touring and above is huge, but we’re already looking forward to the CX-5’s adoption of the new 2019 Mazda3’s 8.8-inch display, which is helpfully canted toward the driver.
Aside from a few dealer-installed accessories such as a cargo mat and illuminated doorsill plates, our CX-5 Signature also justified its $39,030 USD as-tested price with a surround-view camera system that proved useful despite the center screen’s small size. Even if you save $2,020 USD by choosing the 2.5T’s GT Reserve trim, the CX-5 still comes with a few upscale features, including ventilated front seats and power-folding mirrors. If you can live without best-in-class interior space and if acceleration is more important than driving a crossover that can hit 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km), enjoy the CX-5 2.5T. Feel secure with its stellar safety scores, take pride in its stylish curves, and smile every time you can take advantage of its swift acceleration.
|2019 Mazda CX-5 AWD (Signature)||2019 Mazda CX-5 AWD (Grand Touring)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$39,030||$32,760|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.5L/227-hp*/310-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4||2.5L/187-hp/186-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,791 lb (59/41%)||3,694 lb (57/43%)|
|WHEELBASE||106.2 in||106.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||179.1 x 72.5 x 65.3 in||179.1 x 72.5 x 65.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.4 sec*||8.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.9 sec @ 93.6 mph*||16.4 sec @ 83.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.7 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)||27.8 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||23.3/32.2/26.6 mpg||n/a|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||22/27/24 mpg||24/30/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||153/125 kW-hr/100 miles||140/112 kW-hr/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.81 lb/mile||0.74 lb/mile|