Launched in 2017, the second-generation Mazda CX-5 set the benchmark for compact crossovers, rewarding Mazda’s efforts with strong sales. We spent a week with the top of the range 2023 Mazda CX-5 Signature to see if this staple of the lineup still remains relevant against newer models in the segment.
The CX-5 slots neatly in the middle of Mazda’s ever-expanding lineup of crossover vehicles making it the perfect size for the average family. A facelift in 2021 had Mazda sticking to their design ethos of less is more – the updated front end is less busy with a reshaped front grill and LED headlights.
New for 2023 is an addition to Mazda’s selection of premium paint colors, Rhodium White Metallic. Using the same Takuminuri (“Expert Painter”) paint process as the ubiquitous “Soul Red Crystal” and “Machine Grey”, aluminum flakes in the paint create a uniform reflective layer designed to accentuate every crease and line of the purposeful Kodo design. Mazda’s high-tech robots apply paint with the same precision and technique as human craftsmen allowing for the mass production of these signature finishes.
As we’ve come to expect from Mazda, build quality and materials are top notch for the segment especially with the Signature edition we have here. Soft Nappa leather seats, chrome fan bezels and a French seam running the length of the dash are luxurious touches to this compact cabin. The more you dig the more details you uncover like the heated rear seat controls embedded in the rear armrest or the unique stitching of the steering wheel.
The Abachi wood trim is the perfect interior accent, we just wish there was more of it as there are only some small swaths on the door trims and above the glove box – we’d love to see it on the center console where piano black currently resides.
A seven-inch digital LCD gauge display works in tandem with a color active driver display (heads up display) to keep important information in the driver’s line of sight. The physical tachometer needle is noteworthy; its sweep across the rev range is something true driving enthusiasts will appreciate as physical instruments fade away like our friend the manual transmission.
A 10.25-inch color display works in tandem with the Bose premium audio system with 10 speakers, which produce an above average in-car entertainment experience with one big caveat. Mazda’s market research tells them customers really like the center console located rotary dial interface so they’ve stuck with it. While that’s all fine and dandy, in 2023 virtually every other vehicle comes standard with a touchscreen. Trying to dial up your navigation destination or tune your radio station feels like a chore and trying to navigate Apple CarPlay apps designed with touch in mind is especially frustrating.
Thankfully once your favourites and destination are set the driving experience is sublime. From the moment you grasp the beautifully finished steering wheel and settle into the cocoa brown Nappa leather seats in the perfect position you know that the driving experience is what Mazda prioritizes over all else.
Steering inputs are direct and the weight is about as good as it gets with an electric assisted power steering rack. The independent MacPherson front struts and independent multi-link rear suspension is comfortable for daily driving but also provide handling dynamics well beyond what you expect from a compact crossover. Winter conditions allowed us to put the i-Activ all-wheel-drive system to the test, and we’re happy to report the CX-5 provided sure footed drama-free traction through the worst snowstorm to hit so far this year.
Equipped with the turbocharged version of Mazda’s 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine, the CX-5 effortlessly glides along with 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. Pay more for premium octane and the CX-5 rewards with a boosted output of 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft. to really put the chassis through its paces. With a rated fuel efficiency of 10.8L/100Km city, 8.7 highway and 9.5 combined, as well as the ability to choose regular or premium fuel it’s economical too. Our observed economy was right on the money at 9.5L/100km in harsh winter conditions, which is especially impressive.
The Signature edition is also loaded with Mazda’s i-Activesense safety features – including a 360 View Monitor with front and rear parking sensors, smart city brake support front and rear (SCBS), and traffic jam assist (TJA). The SCBS system monitors traffic conditions and starts pre-emptively squeezing the brakes when it thinks a collision is imminent. TJA works like radar cruise control for traffic jams and really helps reduce fatigue as it maintains a constant distance with the vehicle ahead at a preset speed.
Starting at $30,900, there are eight trims to choose from. Our tester is the top of the range Signature; including the fancy new Rhodium White Metallic the as-tested price is $44,250. The CX-5 is aging gracefully and we think it still sits atop of its class despite its age. The combination of power and handling prowess offers a connected feeling to the road that will have you longing for a spirited drive. After spending a week with the 2023 Mazda CX-5 Signature it’s not hard to imagine the perfect compact crossover – it could be just a touchscreen away.