Test Drive: New Mazda CX-5: nimble, quiet, refined

The Mazda CX-5 is what the Mitsubishi Outlander used to be — a medium-priced, compact sport-utility vehicle with all-weather capability, mild off-road chops and unexpectedly sporty handling. As it has bulked up over the years, the Outlander’s vaunted athleticism has diminished, but not so the Mazda CX-5. Introduced in 2013, it has emerged as the clear favorite among people who think it’s possible for an SUV to be fun to drive.

The CX-5 has been redesigned for 2017, but not all of the changes are positive. The luggage and maximum cargo capacity are a little smaller, ground clearance is reduced, and the fuel economy is a point lower, clocking in at a still-respectable 23 mpg city, 29 highway. Horsepower is up a fraction, from 184 to 187.

In base trim, with front-wheel drive, the CX-5 has a starting price of $24,025. Our test car, a Grand Touring model with all-wheel drive, had a sticker price about $10,000 higher. Every CX-5 is equipped with the 2.5-liter inline Four and 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission.

A handful of SUVs match or exceed the CX-5’s prowess around sharp corners, but they bear labels such as BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. There’s plenty of competition from American, Japanese and Korean marques, including the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. Among Mazda entries in the SUV sweepstakes, the market seems to have judged the CX-3 too small, the CX-9 too big, and the redesigned CX-5 just right. It’s the sales leader among Mazda SUVs, with about 56,000 units sold through June — well ahead of last year’s pace.

The CX-5 Sport is a little more expensive than the base Equinox, but high-value features in the Grand Touring version place the CX-5 among the leaders, dollar for dollar, when standard equipment is factored into the equation. Our test car’s list included 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, power driver’s seat, remote keyless entry, push-button start, power moonroof, power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bose audio system with satellite radio, four USB ports, 7-inch color display with rear camera, multi-function Commander control in the center console, heated front seats and navigation system.

The top-of-the-line CX-5 also has a long list of safety features. Among them are blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, Smart City brake support to prevent rear-end crashes at low speeds, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. So equipped, our CX-5 was priced at just $31,635. Options added about $3,400 to the total.

We loved everything about the CX-5’s comportment on all kinds of roads. It’s nimble, yet rides smoothly and quietly, and exhibits notable refinement in its road manners and interior accommodations. Power is ample, but the car’s personality emphasizes balance, not raw muscle.

The 2017 CX-5, built in Hiroshima, Japan, is a new model, so government crash-test data are unavailable. The 2016 model was rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Price: $34,085

Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four, 187 horsepower, 185 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 3,655 lb.

Ground clearance: 7.6 in.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19×7-in. alloy

Tires: P225/55R19 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 30.9 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 59.6 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 2,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 15.3 gallons

Fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded gasoline

 

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

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