Even with its nicely upgraded interior, we’re split on whether or not the Signature trim is worth the extra money. Regardless, we’re all sold on the CX-5 as one of the downright best options in the segment and recommend it for anyone looking for a crossover with some extra driving flare.
As we bid adieu to our Soul Red CX-5, here are a few final thoughts on our time spent with it.
Marvelous Mrs. Mazda
Clint Simone, Associate Editor, Video Producer
Favorite: How It Drives
This was a crossover-filled year for us, and amid some other notable favorites like the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4, our long-term Mazda ranks high up in the favorites. This is mostly due to its fun-to-drive nature from behind the wheel. Where other crossovers tend to phone it in with driving dynamics, the CX-5 is genuinely fun to drive. I know that handling and steering feel probably don’t top the list of many crossover shoppers, but there is space in the segment for a sporty-driving model – and the CX-5 is exactly that.
Least Favorite: Tech Behind The Times
There is some truly great technology available in the crossover world now, and the CX-5 is in need of an upgrade. Newer models like the Mazda3 and CX-30 use the company’s latest infotainment setup, which is far and away better than that of the CX-5. Thankfully, Mazda added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to higher-end CX-5 trims for 2019, but leave the Apple or Android environments and the default system suffers from plentiful lag and its share of glitches. The CX-5’s design could last another few years without issues, but unfortunately, the technology on offer is already behind the times.
Bottom Line: Grand Reserve And Go
As much as I loved the high-quality materials in our Signature tester, I just don’t think it’s worth the additional coin. One of the trim’s main selling points is the surround-view camera system –unfortunately, it’s on-screen display is too small to be effective. Other extras like the wood trim and brown leather interior are nice, but not nice enough to warrant our tester’s near-$40,000 price tag. I’m all in on the CX-5, but the Grand Reserve’s sub-$35,000 starting price seems to tick the right boxes, while keeping some money in your pocket, too.
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Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
Favorite Thing: Superb Styling
Both of my colleagues will probably praise the Mazda CX-5 for the way it drives. And for good reason; this crossover is great on-road. But where the CX-5 doesn't get enough credit, in my opinion, is in the way it looks. A compact, non-luxury crossover has no reason to look this sharp, especially with our Signature tester’s Soul Red paint and nicer 19-inch wheels. The CX-5 uses Mazda's signature “Kodo” design language well on the outside and incorporates a number of simple but stylish cues inside. If style is number one on your new crossover shopping list, look at the Mazda CX-5 first.
Least Favorite Thing: Outdated And Frustrating Tech
One thing we don't love about the Mazda CX-5 is its antiquated tech. The 7.0-inch touchscreen looks and feels old, and even with Apple CarPlay compatibility, its functionality isn't great. Navigating with the dial controller is unreasonably difficult and the on-screen graphics aren't as clear and crisp as they should be. The Mazda3 and CX-30's larger 8.8-inch screen with updated graphics and a revised layout make the setup in the CX-5 feel especially outdated.
Bottom Line: One Update Away From Perfection
The Mazda CX-5 looks great, drives great, and when comparing all the options, is a great value. If it weren't for the outdated tech, we'd say the CX-5 is damn-near perfect. What this crossover needs is a fresh interior makeover, ripe with the new 8.8-inch screen from the Mazda3 and CX-30 and updated dial controller. Otherwise, the CX-5 is hard to fault.
Greg Fink, Senior Editor
Favorite Thing: Refined Ride
The CX-5 just feels so right from the driver’s seat. The controls are engaging, the ride is comfortable, and the cabin is quiet. Mazda’s compact crossover truly drives like a premium product.
Least Favorite Thing: Terrible Tech
Too bad the CX-5’s infotainment system is absolutely horrid. It’s slow to respond to inputs, clunky to operate and offers touchscreen functionality only when the CX-5 is moving at speeds of less than five miles per hour (thereby making the feature all-but useless). Additionally, the compact crossover is beleaguered by a rearview camera (and, in the case of the Signature, surround-view cameras) with absolutely horrid image quality. It’s barely better than having no camera feed at all.
Bottom Line: The Competition Catches Up
There’s no other mainstream compact crossover that drives as well as the CX-5. But what the competition lacks in driving enjoyment, many rivals make up for with technological superiority. Take the Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Forester, both of which offer superior infotainment systems relative to the CX-5’s. The two Japanese crossovers also offer convenience features that are simply missing from the Mazda, like a lane-centering system.
Admittedly, neither are available with an engine that offers the power of the turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four of our CX-5 Signature long-term tester. If driving engagement is the most important metric in your compact crossover search, then there’s no better option than the CX-5. But let’s face it; you’re getting a compact crossover, not a sports car. In this segment, though, comfort and convenience features likely matter more to consumers than driving dynamics.