First Drive Mazda CX-5

by Michael Satterfield

I just got back from spending a few wonderful days in British Columbia with Mazda driving the new 2019 CX-5. While at first glance you might think little has changed since this second generation was introduced in 2017, under the skin the team at Mazda has been working their magic to make the CX-5 one of the most interesting compact SUVs available today, with a focus on luxury trim levels and driving dynamics not often found under $40,000.

What's new for 2019 is the 2.5-Liter Turbocharged engine that produces 250hp and 310 lb-ft torque on 93 Octane and 227hp when it's running on 87 Octane. Combined with their exclusive G-Vectoring steering control system, suspension improvements, and available i-ACTIV All-Wheel Drive the CX-5 is a potent performer in the compact SUV segment. Combining the performance and handling with the luxury features of the Signature trim level the new CX-5 is an interesting alternative to vehicles like the Range Rover Evoque and Porsche Macan.

I know most people wouldn't compare a Mazda to a Porsche or a Range Rover, but when you look at the options, built quality, and performance side by side the comparably equipped Porsche Macan 2.0-Liter Turbo is over $20,000 more than a CX-5 AWD Signature, and the lower horsepower Range Rover Evoque will set you back nearly $12,000 more. Mazda has found a way to build a quality car that offers incredible value and performance with uncompromising luxury for far less than its European rivals.

Driving around the winter wonderland that is Whistler, British Columbia the heated seats and Apple CarPlay made the drive comfortable and the CX-5 was surprisingly quiet even with snow tires. The new CarPlay interface took a little getting used to since it uses Mazda's proprietary console-mounted controller as opposed to the standard touchscreen interface that all other brands use. The interior is a nice place to be, well laid out, comfortable, using high-quality materials. 

The real stand out is the performance of the CX-5 and the way it drives, even though it is an SUV it is still a Mazda and still very fun to drive. Much of that is thanks to the Mazda exclusive G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) and i-ACTIV All-Wheel Drive not only inspire confidence in difficult conditions like ice and snow, but it makes the average driver better through some pretty impressive technology that makes steering response more precise by adjusting engine output to shift the weight to the front tires whenever the driver turns the wheel, resulting in better stability.

In addition to GVC Plus, Mazda's standard i-ACTIVSENSE safety features include hill launch assist, smart city brake support, blind-spot monitoring. High trim levels include lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, and adaptive front lighting.

Priced between $24,350-$36,890 the new Mazda CX-5 is setting a new standard in affordable luxury and performance that is slotted nicely between the Korean value brands and the luxury Japanese and European competitors. Pairing that with Mazda's reliability rating as the 3rd most reliable car brand behind Toyota/Lexus and Audi the new CX-5 is poised to become a class leader in the compact SUV segment.