The arrival of the first Mazda CX-5, spelled the end of the CX-7 model, and while I wasn’t a fan of the CX-7 (noisy cabin, terrible fuel economy), I did like the way it handled, and I liked the way it went! The latter was due to its turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder motor that was good for 244 hp. This combination of its good chassis, excellent steering, and turbo oomph made for a pretty entertaining vehicle, especially if you were on a mountain pass!
That is exactly what I found when I navigated through the Pacheco Pass in California in a CX-7 Turbo. It just ate up the twisty turning miles of this scenic mountain pass with poise, and kept me smiling the whole way.
When Mazda introduced the CX-5 in 2012, it held a drive event in California, at the then Mazda sponsored Laguna Seca Raceway (which now has Weathertech as their title sponsor), to show how well it can handle. Sure, the gen-one CX-5 handled decently well, but it lacked the power to pull you out of a corner quickly; in short, I was missing the turbocharged CX-7.
When Mazda introduced the second-gen CX-9 model -circa 2016- it came with a turbocharged motor, and hence it performed very well. However, the CX-9 is a rather large vehicle, so not exactly the type you’d throw around on a twisty road. So, wouldn’t it be nice to have this turbocharged motor in a smaller, lighter vehicle, like the CX-5?
I guess, Mazda was thinking the same thing, and while the second-gen CX-5 model didn’t come equipped with turbo power upon its launch in 2017, this boosted motor is available as an option with the 2019 model. So, has the CX-5 finally become the vehicle I had always wanted it to be? Let’s look at it in detail, to find out:
Styling: In the looks department, there are no visual changes between the non-turbo CX-5 (GX, GS, GT) model and the turbocharged (Signature) model. In fact, there aren’t even any ‘Turbo’ badges on the vehicle, or on the engine cover – Mazda surely doesn’t want to shout out about the turbo goodness that their vehicle possesses. So, if you’re the type to keep things quiet, than you’d like the understated look of the CX-5 Signature – me, I’d definitely have some ‘Turbo’ badges on the body of the vehicle.
While the 2019 Mazda CX-5 is a nice looking vehicle, it doesn’t look exciting enough for me; however, there are no exciting looking vehicles in this segment at this price, which is sad!
Interior: Step inside and the only difference you’ll find between the Signature and lesser CX-5 models is in the quality of its materials – the Signature gets nicer, leather seating and trimmings- and also the fact that the top-of-the-range model gets all the equipment that would be on the options list of other CX-5 models. With features like a wonderful 10 speaker Bose premium audio system, infotainment system, automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control, and a lot more – it’s all here. You really don’t need anything more in your vehicle, but you can always want more – such as a bigger screen for its infotainment system, and more thigh support from the seat cushion. Apart from that, all else is good in here!
Powertrain: Under the hood lies a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder motor that produces 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on 93 octane fuel; considerably less on lower grade fuel (227 hp on 87 octane). In most vehicles, you can barely feel the difference in power when you cheap out on fuel, but in the CX-5 Signature, the difference is very apparent. In fact, when it was running on 87 octane, it didn’t even feel turbocharged at all. Give it the right fuel, and this thing wakes up and hurtles you down the road quite admirably. Mazda doesn’t publish performance numbers for its vehicles, but from just the seat of your pants, I can attest that the CX-5 Signature is more than quick enough to please most of us on a daily basis.
It is also more than competent enough, as the CX-5 Signature model gets all-wheel drive as standard, while regardless of the trim, all CX-5 models come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Driving Dynamics: Like most Mazda vehicles, the CX-5 Signature handles well, and has among the best steering feel of any SUV in its category; but in other areas, it could be improved upon!
My first issue with it was its ride quality. I think it has overly stiff dampers for a vehicle with a wheelbase of just 2,698 mm – although it has a longer wheelbase than a Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, and the Honda CR-V. So, due to the stiff dampers and springs, the ride at city speeds is quite harsh, and takes a lot of getting used to. That suspension setup does show you benefit at highway speeds, as the CX-5 feels very stable and secure.
However, on the highway, I do wish it had a bit more sound deadening! While the second-gen CX-5 is a huge improvement over the first-gen model in terms of sound proofing, it is still a bit noisier than the competition. I recently drove the new Toyota RAV4, which was also wearing winter tires, and that vehicle felt a lot quieter on the highway.
So, the CX-5 Signature is a decent vehicle to drive, but I was expecting it to be better!
Fuel Economy: During my test cycle (170 km of highway + 130 km of city driving), I averaged out at 9.5 l/100 km. That is actually better than most vehicles I’ve tested in this category. However, if you want the extra performance, you’ll have to pay extra for premium fuel.
Pricing: It’s not cheap to get into a CX-5 Signature either, as prices start from $40,950 – a brand new BMW X1 starts from $40,600. Yes, while the CX-5 Signature is better equipped than a base X1, the high entry point might deter some buyers. Plus, the much larger, nicer riding, and quieter Mazda CX-9, which comes as standard with the same turbocharged motor, is yours from $36,700 – I’d rather have that!
Verdict: The 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature has all the right ingredients, but lacked a good chef! A small, turbocharged, all-wheel drive, sport ute should have been a recipe for fun, but it misses the mark on dynamic ability, and is too pricey.