Mazda’s engineering strays away from the beaten path.
The Mazda CX-5 was introduced in 2012, after Mazda wanted a piece of the compact crossover pie. In today’s industry, the compact crossover is one of the most popular and profitable segments. With a path paved by the Honda CR-V (reviewed here) and Toyota RAV4, Mazda has historically trailed in the wake of the two brands. The CX-5 made a good first impression garnering a decent following. The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature is Mazda’s second attempt at taking a bigger piece of the pie.
The CX-5’s design takes a different direction from its competition. Mazda has given it a classy and civilized look while the competition generally going for sporty and rugged. The CX-5 carries Mazda’s signature grill design with a bold wing integrated into deep aggressive headlights. The KODO design language is implemented with smooth flowing lines along the profile. The rear end seems very rounded but offset by a long roofline and rear spoiler. Overall, the CX-5 is a mix of simple flowing lines and angles. The limited use of plastic body cladding and chrome highlights gives it an upscale vibe, akin to a man in a tailored business suit.
The interior of the CX-5 also gives off the same upscale impressions, with barely any low-rent plastics to be seen anywhere. The door panels and dash are all covered in leather with contrast stitching, with handles and air vents finished in beautiful satin chrome. There are a few interior details which are specific to the Signature trim only, including a is a frameless rearview mirror with HomeLink and Nappa leather for a more luxurious feel. The dashboard and door panels receive Abachi wood trimming for an organic feel.
The gauge cluster is a combination of analog and digital displays. The main digital display in the middle is a speedometer mimicking an analog gauge with trip information, gear selection or speed in the center. The infotainment display is a standalone eight-inch touchscreen that sits on top of the dash. Surprisingly the CX-5 still runs the same version of Mazda Connect as the previous generation Mazda3. The screen resolution is decent but it’s not Mazda’s best effort. Luckily there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity which helps level the playing field. A soothing audio experience provided by a Bose 10-speaker system to challenge the competition.
Handling is another area which the CX-5 sets itself apart from its rivals. Instead of soft and lifeless steering, Mazda has opted to give the CX-5 sharper handling characteristics expected from a crossover in this segment. However, this does come with its drawbacks; sacrifices to ride comfort. Over rough roads, the poor ride quality in immediately noticeable, with jarring body movements and suspension that appears a bit firm.
To be able to achieve this sharp and stable handling, Mazda did not only rely on stiffer springs and shocks, they had to be intuitive and implemented G Vectoring Control Plus. In short, the system controls engine torque to move the vehicle’s load onto the appropriate wheels to improve grip and turn in response. GVC Plus enhances the system’s ability and smoothness by using braking to optimize load distribution between the four corners depending on steering input to read driver intentions. In practice, this helps to eliminate a lot of excessive body motions and lean. I hope in time Mazda can further improve this tech and achieve a better balance between the handling and comfort.
The Mazda CX-5 continues to follow the trend of punching a class above in the power department. The Signature is powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Dynamic Pressure Turbo. This motor is capable of 250 horsepower at 5,000RPM and 320 lb-ft. of torque at 2,000RPM on 93-octane gasoline. This engine is also flexible enough to take 87 octane and the numbers reduce to 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft.
We found the motor to be sufficiently responsive with minimal turbo lag. Grunt is plentiful during day to day driving, and buyers will never feel the need for more power. The engine note is quite aggressive too, with a deep growl during acceleration. Power is delivered through a six-speed automatic transmission which is smooth, but lagging in the number of gears when compared to eight and nine-speed comeptitors.
The CX-5 paired with the turbocharged engine provides good fuel economy in line with other competition in the class. Consumption is rated at 10.8L/100km city and 8.7L/100km highway. During our week of testing with a heavy bias towards city driving and using 91-octane fuel, we averaged 11.0L/100km. It’s worth mentioning that our test took place in a winter setting with extreme cold temperatures and running a winter tire setup.
The CX-5 is very well equipped with safety equipment in this highest trim, as you would expect. The i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system uses 27 sensors to predict road conditions and manage power distribution for maximum grip and efficiency. The i-ACTIVSENSE suite of radar sensing safety features includes blind spot monitoring, adaptive front lighting, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam control, Smart City Braking, radar cruise control, forward obstruction warning and smart braking support.
Pricing starts at $27,950 for the base model, with our top of the line Signature test vehicle at $41,900. Key competitors include Toyota’s RAV4 (reviewed here) topping out at $40,690 and with a hybrid offering. Another major rival is the Honda’s CR-V right around $43,000 fully loaded. The Nissan Rogue is still on the market as well, but is aging quite poorly and in dire need of a refresh. While all of the competition offers great value and features, the CX-5 takes the cake with styling and driving dynamics.
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature tries to fend off the class leaders by aiming above them with exterior design that’s classy, interior materials that are high quality and class-leading powertrain output. Mazda’s engineering strays away from the beaten path exemplified by their GVC technology which translates into the driving experience. The CX-5 is great option for those who are in the market for a compact crossover but want a different flavour than the usual chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.