G. Chambers Williams

Fun-to-drive Mazda CX-5 crossover has lots of technology, room for five

Just two years ago, Mazda redesigned the compact CX-5 crossover, with new styling, interior and added safety and convenience features.

For 2019, the CX-5 starts at $24,350 (plus $995 freight) for the base front-wheel-drive Sport model, and ranges as high as $36,890 for the new top-of-the-line Signature trim level, which comes with all-wheel drive, a new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and lots of premium features, including Nappa leather upholstery.

Other trim levels are the Sport all-wheel drive ($25,750); Touring ($26,615, front drive; $28,015, AWD); Grand Touring ($30,045, front drive; $31,445, AWD); and Grand Touring Reserve ($34,870, AWD standard), also new this year.

The CX-5 chassis features new G-Vectoring Control Plus technologies for improved handling befitting of a Mazda-engineered vehicle. This automaker is sometimes referred to as the BMW of Japan because of its emphasis on creating a superb driving experience on all of its vehicles.

The new turbo engine, included along with a six-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and manual-shift feature on our Signature tester, produces 227 horsepower and an impressive 310 foot-pounds of torque using regular unleaded gasoline, or 250 horsepower with 93-octane or above premium fuel. This combination gave our CX-5 the feel of a V-6, and there was no noticeable lag as the turbocharger spooled up during hard acceleration.

Standard on other trims is a normally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower and 186 foot-pounds of torque, also connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard on the Touring trim level and above. Touring models and above also now come with a SiriusXM three-year Traffic and Travel Link subscription.

A reconfigurable seven-inch TFT gauge display is now included on the Grand Touring trim level and above, while the Signature model includes a new 360-degree view camera system with front and rear parking sensors

Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models have new heated and ventilated front bucket seats, along with standard heated rear seat.

Our tester came in the Snowflake White Pearl exterior color ($200), with the new Caturra Brown Nappa leather seats. Other available premium colors are Soul Red Crystal ($595) and Machine Gray Metallic ($300).

The Touring Preferred Package is offered on Touring models for $1,375; and the Grand Touring Premium Package on that trim level is $1,625.

Among the changes last year were a new cylinder-deactivation system for the base four-cylinder gasoline engine, which cuts out two of the cylinders during level cruising to conserve fuel.

New for the Sport model was a leather steering wheel and shift knob, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The i-ACTIVSENSE safety technology package is standard, bringing High Beam Control, Lane-Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, the radar cruise control, Smart Brake Support, rain-sensing windshield wipers and automatic on/off headlights.

Touring models also got new 19-inch alloy wheels, “leatherette” seats and advanced keyless entry. Our Signature model came with special 19-inch alloy wheels, fitted with P225/55R19 all-season tires.

This is the second generation of the CX-5, but it still looks much like its predecessor.

EPA ratings for the Signature’s turbo engine with all-wheel drive are 22 mpg city/27 highway/24 combined. Ratings for the base engine are 25 city/31 highway/28 combined with front drive, and 24/30/26 with all-wheel drive.

The CX-5 is built in Japan on a Mazda-designed chassis. It’s positioned in the lineup between the full-size, seven-passenger CX-9, and the smaller CX-3. Coming for 2020 is a new compact crossover called the CX-30, which was introduced recently at the Geneva auto show in Switzerland.

Originally introduced for 2013, the CX-5 replaced the compact Tribute, which was a clone of the previous-generation Ford Escape; and the CX-7, which was slightly larger outside than the CX-5, but with less interior space.

As with other current Mazda vehicles, the CX-5 features Mazda’s “SkyActiv” technology, with a variety of features that include engine, transmission and suspension components.

This newest CX-5’s dimensions are nearly identical to those of the previous model, and passenger capacity is still five – there is no third-row seat available. It’s 179.1 inches long, compared with 179.3 for the previous generation, but it has the same 106.3-inch wheelbase.

CX-5 is sold in more than 120 countries, and accounts for about one-fourth of Mazda’s global sales volume.

The Signature model has a two-tone instrument panel with the audio/navigation screen sticking up out of the center of the dash top.

Enhancements with the redesign helped to give the CX-5 a quieter and more comfortable ride. On a long weekend trip, we found the vehicle to be roomy enough for four adults and their luggage. There is 30.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row of seating; with that seat folded, space expands to 59.8 cubic feet.

The interior has an upscale look and feel, with premium materials throughout.

CX-5’s all-wheel-drive system got some improvements with the redesign, but it’s not intended for serious off-road use, as it does not include low-range gearing.

Among standard features, even on the base Sport, are a rearview camera, electronic parking brake; an upgraded center console, dash and armrest design; 17-inch alloy wheels; cloth upholstery; LED headlights and the Mazda Connect infotainment with a seven-inch screen and Bluetooth audio streaming and phone pairing.

Grand Touring models and above come with rain-sensing wipers, a power liftgate, navigation, Bose premium audio with 10 speakers, a power moon roof, adaptive headlights, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Smart Brake Support, automatic high beams, dual/heated outside mirrors, an eight-way power driver’s seat, LED front fog lights and LED taillights, keyless entry with pushbutton start, heated/power outside mirrors, heated front seats, automatic door locks and a rear roof rack.

Our Signature tester also came with the Active Driving Display (a head-up display showing at the bottom of the windshield) with Traffic Sign Recognition; heated steering wheel, and windshield-wiper de-icers.

The speed limit notification on the Active Driving Display changed as the system read the signs. Sometimes, though, it showed the wrong speed limit, apparently taking it from its navigation database instead of speed limit signs.

An interesting feature on the CX-5 is a warning message that comes on after a few seconds if the driver takes his hands off the steering wheel, telling the driver to take the wheel. This is tied to the Lane Keep Assist system to remind the driver that this is not a self-driving car.

The Touring Preferred Package adds the power moon roof, power liftgate, Bose audio and speakers, navigation, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, automatic headlights, and rain-sensing wipers to the Touring model.

Virtually all of those Touring package extras are already included on the Grand Touring and above trim levels.

Lane Keep Assist gently guides the vehicle back toward the lane it’s already in if it starts to drift into an adjacent lane and the driver has not activated the turn signal for a lane change.

Because this is a Mazda – which means it’s designed to be fun to drive -- the CX-5 handles more like a sport sedan than a utility vehicle.

The suspension easily handles twisty country roads, as well as the unpaved park roads in our home area. The all-wheel drive provided great traction on wet pavement and dirt/gravel road surfaces.

Our front seats were comfortable for long highway drives, and our rear-seat passenger said she was comfortable and had plenty of leg and knee room. The middle rear seating position is a bit tight for an adult. As always, that is the best place to put the child seat. When the middle position is not being used for a passenger, there is a pull-down armrest with two cupholders available for the rear passengers.

There were four USB ports in the cabin, with plenty of space in the center console for our phones.

Other standard safety features include electronic stability control with traction control, automatic high beams, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, hill-launch assist, front seat-mounted side air bags, and front/rear roof-mounted side-curtain air bags.

Towing capacity of the CX-5 is just 2,000 pounds, but that can accommodate a small pop-up camper, cargo trailer or fishing boat.

During our week in the CX-5 turbo AWD, we averaged 23.4 mpg with a mix of about 70/30 highway/city driving.

Options on our Signature tester included illuminated doorsill trim plates ($400), a retractable cargo cover ($250), rear bumper guard ($125), roof-rack side rails ($400), and a cargo mat ($70).

Total sticker price, including freight and options, was $39,330 for our 2019 CX-5 Signature AWD.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2019 Mazda CX-5

The package: Compact, five-passenger, five-door, front- or all-wheel-drive, four-cylinder powered, crossover utility vehicle.

Highlights: Mazda’s new compact crossover, which arrived for 2013, moved into its second generation with a redesign for 2017, and two new high-end trim levels have been added for 2019, featuring a new turbocharged engine. This vehicle is all Mazda, and has a large list of standard amenities even on the base model. It’s stylish, comfortable and fun to drive – a hallmark of Mazda vehicles.

Negatives: No third row of seating offered for increased capacity.

Engine: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, normally aspirated (base); 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, turbocharged (Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models).

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 187 HP./186 foot-pounds (base); 227 HP. (250 HP. with premium fuel)/310 foot-pounds (turbo).

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Length: 179.1 inches.

Curb weight: 3,541 pounds (front drive); 3,679 pounds (AWD).

Cargo volume: 30.9 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 59.6 cubic feet (rear seatback folded).

Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds.

EPA fuel economy: 25 mpg city/31 highway/28 combined (2WD, base engine); 24/30/26 (AWD, base engine); 22/27/24 (AWD turbo).

Fuel capacity/type: 14.8 gallons (2WD); 15.3 gallons (AWD)/regular unleaded.

Base price range: $24,350-$36,890, plus $995 freight.

Price as tested: $39,330, including freight and options (Signature model).

Major competitors: Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sportage, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Mitsubishi Outlander, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester.

On the Road rating: 9.1 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.

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