Mazda Motor Corp. doesn’t typically mingle with luxury brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but it has something none of those brands can offer: a fully-loaded and turbocharged, all-wheel drive crossover for less than $40,000.
The Japanese automaker added two premium trims to the 2019 CX-5’s repertoire – the Grand Touring Reserve and the Signature – that both feature a Skyactiv 2.5T engine. The more powerful engine delivers 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, giving them dramatically improved performance.
Though turbocharged engines are common in the segment, the CX-5’s is new. It offers notable upgrades over the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder base engine, which only produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.
The Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims offer advanced safety technology and standard AWD to firmly plant the CX-5 as a low-cost option to upscale crossovers like the Audi Q3 or BMW X3. Priced at $34,780 and $36,890, respectively, they cost roughly the same as similar crossovers like the Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V.
The entire CX-5 lineup is likely to continue as Mazda’s most popular vehicle thanks to the new trims and modest price. Since the CX-5 debuted in 2013, Mazda has sold more than 2 million of the vehicles worldwide. In the U.S., CX-5 sales topped 150,000 in 2018, increasing nearly 18 percent compared with 2017.
New Turbocharged Engine
On a test drive of the Signature trim in snow-laden Whistler, British Columbia, the 2019 CX-5 excelled on slick, icy roads while also providing a pleasant highway drive.
The turbocharged engine gave the vehicle a welcome uptick in power. The turbocharged CX-5 accelerates from 0 to 60 in in around 6.5 seconds, two seconds faster than the standard engine.
The combination of i-Activ AWD and the SkyActiv-Drive smooth-shifting six-speed transmission kept the driver in control on snow and ice.
Even as the crossover downshifted while climbing hills, boost from the lower gear was subtle enough to avoid ice slippage. At the same time, the engine provided enough power to maintain uphill speed. The lack of engine noise also was apparent, especially when punching the gas pedal to the floor. The quiet interior experience added to the cabin’s comfort.
Contributors to the CX-5’s superior handling include the automaker’s G-Vectoring Control Plus and dynamic stability control (standard on all trims), as well as the Signature trim’s standard P225/55R19 all-season tires.
GVC Plus sends more power to the front tires in slippery conditions, which helped the crossover maintain traction on Whistler’s slick roads.
Its stability control grounded the CX-5 in the icy conditions, but Mazda’s approach to this feature isn’t the same as other automakers’. On the 2019 CX-5, DSC doesn’t kick in the moment the vehicle slips. Instead, it allows time for driver-based corrections before assisting.
This delay puts the decision making in the driver’s hands, although the DSC would take control if the CX-5 lost control past a certain threshold. The experience, however, felt a bit rougher when compared with evenly braking the vehicle.
The turbocharged engine and AWD aren’t the only new features that allow the 2019 CX-5 Signature to compete above its price tag. Its upgraded interior boasts plenty of comforts that add to its premium feel.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel, frameless rearview mirror and front and rear parking sensors are standard. Mazda also added heated Caturra Brown Nappa leather seats, power-folding side mirrors and a 7-inch color touchscreen placed so the driver spends less time with their eyes off the road.
The dashboard on the passenger side has layered wood trim and satin chrome accents. Ambient lighting brightens the front and rear foot areas. The rear cargo area features an LED lamp.
Every trim level except for the Sport also includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The system defaults to a driver’s preferred media and navigational source, automatically connecting without driver input.
The interior has power-adjustable seats with memory settings, a Bose 10-speaker sound system, two front and two rear USB ports and built-in navigation.
The 2019 CX-5 handles snow and ice well, but the rest of its safety tech makes it capable in any condition. Signature-specific features like front and rear cameras make parking in tight areas easier. A 360-degree view displays its entire surroundings, and alerts announce the vehicle’s proximity to objects.
Its blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping alerts and smart brake support also make the CX-5 a reliable daily driver in addition to its proven ability as a solid road tripper on narrow mountain roads.
Since hitting the market in 2013, the Mazda CX-5 has been a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nod to the vehicle’s front-crash prevention and LED headlights.
Sizing up the Competition
The CX-5 Signature competes with vehicles like Toyota’s RAV4 Limited and Ford’s Escape Titanium 4WD, but Mazda’s efforts to upgrade the vehicle’s safety features, interior comfort and on-road performance make it feel far better than its competition. And it doesn’t come at the expense of a higher price.
Pricing for the RAV4 Limited starts at $33,500, while Ford’s Escape Titanium 4WD is $34,120. Both are in the same ballpark as the CX-5 Signature, priced at $36,890. For comparison, the top BMW X3 trim, a 2019 M40i, starts at $54,650.
Mazda wants to do more than offer a high-quality crossover with a cost-effective price tag. The automaker intends for the design and engineering of its vehicles to connect the car and the driver.
That symbiotic approach coupled with the CX-5’s price, capability and comfort make the 2019 CX-5 Signature one of the best compact crossovers on the market.
Editor’s note: To facilitate this report, Trucks.com attended an event at which Mazda hosted travel and lodging.