A quick look at parking lots and the vehicles around you on the everyday commute will confirm that sales and leases of SUVs and CUVs are big. Not big; they’re huge! It seems they’re everywhere and they look and act all the same in terms of styling and performance.
And then there’s Mazda, who thrive on presenting vehicles that have their own identity and, yes, charm. So it is with the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD, driven to Las Vegas for NHRA’s penultimate race of the season. While retaining the CUV/SUV stature of two boxes, five doors (including the hatch) and either two or three rows of seating, the Mazda CX-5 looks and acts differently from most SUV/CUVs offered for sale or lease.
CX-5 is Mazda’s best-seller in a lineup that includes the MX-5 Miata, Mazda3, Mazda6, CX-3 and CX-9. It slots well in a compact crossover market in terms of pricing and performance and, from both its looks and capabilities, the Mazda CX-5 shows why this rather small Japanese brand is truly a premium powerhouse.
Mazda gave us a Soul Red example for our drive over the soulless expanse of I-15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. The majestic color stands apart from pretenders with its deep luster that accents the luscious body lines of CX-5. A large grille sets apart the LED lighting and presents an integrated look, particularly with brightwork around the grille and tiny fog lamps. The sides flow without being hampered by excessive creases to a rear with high-mounted lamps and nearly hidden double pipes.
Under the post-mounted hood lies Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbocharged engine with 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 2,000. Redline is at 6,400. Use premium fuel and horsepower goes to 250 on this directly-injected four-cylinder engine. Mazda fits a six-speed automatic transmission that offers sport mode to make driving even more enjoyable.
MacPherson strut and multilink front and rear suspensions are accompanied by stabilizer bars while the power rack and pinion, variable assist electric power steering is exceptionally precise for its genre. The turning circle on this I-Activ all-wheel-drive system is a meager 36 feet, while ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes allow this 3825-pound to stop instantaneously. The Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD will tow 2,000 pounds. Toyo P225/55R 19- inch tires ride on 10-spoke subtle gray alloy rims.
Mileage is an excellent and achievable 22/27/24 mpg from the 15.3-gallon tank. Using regular fuel throughout this trip, those figures were simple to achieve and regularly surpass. In fact, on the ride back to the Los Angeles area, despite many hills, it was easy to get over 30mpg in spirited application of the accelerator pedal.
Inside the cabin, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD is top-of-the-line apportioned, with requisite amenities mostly standard on this particular vehicle. In fact, the only options applied to the initial $37,935 ticket are for the gorgeous paint, rear bumper guard and retractable cargo cover, bringing the price of entry to $38,975. Standard items include Caturra brown leather seating, navigation, advanced keyless entry, power tilt/slide sunroof, heads-up display, dual zone climate control with rear vents, four USB plugs, heated front and rear seats and heated steering wheel among the more usable items.
The heads-up display on this car gives speed limits, speed the driver is achieving, blind spot, following distance and cruise control settings; it can be adjusted for height. The navigation system sourced through Mazda is excellent with its directions and dual screens which give exits from freeways and points of interest nearby. There’s a dual camera with the blind spot activation and is easy to get accustomed to using.
The Mazda CX-5’s steering wheel has volume controls for the Bose audio, trip info and phone activation on the left, with cruise control settings, including following distance settings on the right. The driver’s office felt comfortable from the start of our trip and all controls are easy to access. The sunroof is small, but does aid in avoiding radar traps from sky-borne police, and rearward visibility is excellent.
The central stack has a single 12-volt plug and grippy base while USB, 12-volt and auxiliary plugs lie inside a covered central bi-level storage area. It was great to have both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on this machine, as well as a three-month free SiriusXM option for music on our long drive. Kudos to Mazda for making all of these options available and also equipping the CX-5 so well at this cost.
Using both normal and sport driving modes, this enthusiastic driver was exceptionally pleased with the feedback of the latter mode, which didn’t hold gears as long as other systems tend to do. The changing seasons at late October, early November meant the heated and cooled front seats were activated for both the driver and four-legged passenger; cold mornings with a heated steering wheel are just the ticket.
The power-activated hatch on the Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD has a button inside the hatch door for closure and can be opened from the cabin or by a light touch to the sensor tab at the opening. With the rear seats up, cargo space is an excellent 30.9 cubic feet, increasing to 59.6 cubes with the rear seats folded flat. There are hidden covered cubbies on either side of the hatch, perfect for that extra bottle of wine.
LED lighting throughout this vehicle is excellent and Mazda supplies the CX-5 with auto high beams and dimming capabilities. Driving at night was never a chore and it was always easy to see both the road ahead and obstacles that might not be easily evident. This was especially appreciated driving dark streets on Halloween, with children not always readily visible.
The real buzzword for the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD is refinement. Where the first generation CX-5 was a bit on the loud side at speed, it’s now serene; where it lacked amenities previously, it has just about everything a buyer could want. Speed isn’t neck-snapping but the right amount of torque is available for instant usage. Even the multi-media interface with its central tunnel wheel is both easy to use and feels natural and welcoming. Mazda’s styling can’t be beat, no matter how hard other manufacturers try; its mechanical capabilities mated to its lovely looks make the CX-5 a perfect package.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit