2018 Mazda CX-5 Checking Back In With One Of Our Favorite Crossovers
Last year we checked out the refreshed 2017 CX-5, and had high praised for the refinements Mazda made to the sound-deadening and ride-quality. It really lends an overall experience that feels up a class from the price point. When the CX-5 came out in 2013, it really was a hit for Mazda. An affordable crossover that looked great, got good mileage and was comfortable. It had lots of tech for it’s day, getting such additions as blind spot monitors and heads-up display long before some of it’s competitors.
Lately, however, it feels like it’s been lagging behind on tech as it lacks some of the more advanced driving aids. For 2018, Mazda has fixed that.
Now available with their full i-Activsense safety suite on all trim levels, the new CX-5 gets some of the latest tech with only a modest price increase. The radar cruise, lane assist, emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitors are now offered as an option on the lowest trim ‘Sport’ version, for a modest $625 fee. The lower models now join the GT at the top of the range with all these features.
For a vehicle that was on the forefront of in-vehicle tech a few years ago, the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are significant. Mazda claims to be adding those later this year to their simple-to-use infotainment system, possibly even available as an upgrade to previous vehicles. Once that’s added, the CX-5 will finally feel up to date technology wise, a good match for its already up-to-date looks and driving experience. The 2.5-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder sips gas as it transmits 184hp to either the front wheels or all of them. Mileage is excellent for a non-hybrid, coming in at 25/31MPG city/highway for the front-drive model and 24/30MPG for the all-wheel drive.
The interior is finished nicely as well, with some very high-quality materials for the price point. There’s soft-touch everywhere with nice aluminum inserts and glossy faux wood-grain. The test car we got, a Touring model, had supple bone-colored leatherette seats which contrast nicely with the black carpets and consoles. Heated seats keep you toasty over a long Chicago Winter, and the material feels almost like leather. The layout of the controls is also very good, keeping everything right within reach when you need it. The center control pad for the infotainment is a bit far back, making it a little awkward to use, but overall everything else is spot-on.
In this class of Crossover, lots of the competitors either look too bland or too ‘funky,’ like they are trying too hard. The CX-5 strikes a great balance, looking interesting without looking weird. There’s a very sporty intent to the design, and it’s backed up with handling prowess. Sure, we’d love to have a little more power – but around the corners, nothing in the class comes close. Take one of these on a twisty road, and you’ll come back with a big smile on your face. It’s a great way to have a vehicle you can ‘use’ daily, but also have fun with. The transmission is a combination of an automatic-style torque converter, to get you off the line, and a dual-clutch for sharp, spirited shifts. It’s good, but not great – giving just a little lag on inputs even in the sport mode.
Overall, there’s lots to still like about the CX-5. The design is still fresh, the price is right and there’s now tech available at all trim levels. The quiet luxury of the cabin is a welcome change in this size of vehicle, and the addition of Apple Carplay and Android Auto later this year really will make this the best in class again. There’s few vehicles out there that have a better combination of value, efficiency, handling, space, luxury and now technology. There’s no wonder it’s a best-seller for Mazda!
Special thanks to Mazda Motor Company for providing the 2018 Mazda CX-5 for review.