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On the Road With 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD

This is our 3rd year behind the wheel of Mazda CX-5, this time turbocharged and fully optioned. Priced at close to $40K, what sets this Signature Edition AWD above the competition? Read what we do and do not like about this near premium sport crossover.

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Our latest Mazda CX-5 drive experience is punctuated by turbocharged torque and refinement of ride. But can it compete against the likes of Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV 4? Zoom, zoom.

Well, yes, and no. For reasons known only to Mazda engineering and design, the time tested Japanese automaker is locked in a time warp, as to updating its functional yet minimalist looking cabin theme. There too we find one of, if not, the smallest dash top mounted monitors in the segment. It too works, but could use an upgrade as to ease of operation and connectivity.

However, that may be my only criticism of the fun to drive, highly maneuverable and torque happy 2-row SUV. What Mazda engineering achieves through this turbocharged small displacement gasoline engine, and what I believe to be a no nonsense perfect automatic transmission pairing is impressive by any measure.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD out powers the competition

The Skyactiv G 2.5L T (HP 250/LB-FT Torque 310) engine develops a freight train’s worth of torque in the low to mid RPM range, right where you want it. Dial 2019 Mazda CX-5 into Sport + mode, and hold on. Quick is an understatement. The turbocharged gasoline engine is paired perfectly to an exceptionally smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. Mazda keeps it simple, you won’t find a 9 or 10 speed transmission here. And frankly I like it.

Despite Mazda’s retention of a 6-speed automatic, while the competition turns to CV-T, 9, and 10 speed automatics, thanks to ‘Dynamic Turbo Pressure’ induction technology, we experience no lag, or drop-off in engine torque.

CX-5 is a driving enthusiasts crossover, and is suspension tuned accordingly. Sure, CX-5 is a bit stiff while traveling over rough country 2-lanes, but smooths out like butter on the highway. On the sport performance side, while you won’t find steering wheel mounted paddle shifting here, Mazda engineering does integrate a manual shifting mode. Flip the center console mounted shift lever to the left, and engage select shifting. You won’t miss the paddles.

Without question, Mazda CX-5 as driven in our Soul Red Crystal Metallic painted compact SUV test vehicle is an exhilarating daily drive and ride experience with the advantage of hatchback utility. Although not as nimble as a like sized sports sedan, CX-5 capitalizes on Mazda’s “one with the car” philosophy -- it’s fun to drive, and handles in kind.

2019 Mazda CX-5 presents top of compact SUV class seating comfort

On first sitting I discover a very comfortable no break in required power adjusted lumbar support equipped leather drivers seat. Drivers and passengers discover ample adjust-ability, shoulder and head height for the taller driver, and ease of entry for the shorter enthusiast. I like the snug cockpit feel of CX-5’s design -- everything in its place, and within perfect reach and eye-shot.

Row 2 provides enough leg, head, and shoulder room for 3 adults. It too is comfortable, with descent visibility afforded to the outdoors from every seat. Entry and egress is easy, and although not the largest by volume cabin in the segment, we discover plenty of hauling deck behind row 2 with a 40/60 2nd row fold down option affording easy transport of longer items. Looking for a compact crossover. This may be your answer.

Perhaps just a bit cushier and quieter for 2019

I give a tip of the hat to Mazda engineering and design for quieting 2019 CX-5’s cabin. While the ride dynamic remains on the sportier side, tire to road and wind noise is minimal. And the highway ride dynamic is greatly improved over past generations.

Dare I say, one of the best overall rides in the class. Taking a closer look to the interior fit, finish, and quality of materials, I find no fault. CX-5 appears to be built to last, with styling rivaling all competitors in the sub premium compact SUV and crossover segment..

Sitting behind Mazda CX-5’s near intuitive padded smart-wheel, I recognize the Mazda signature 2-dial dash with center i-Mid. I like the red instrumentation at night. As well as foot well and entry accent lighting.

For those who prefer analog controls, several key functions including application selection on the monitor is controlled by knob, as is the stereo volume. Of course several function can be directed via smart wheel, with a heads up display reflected on the windshield, reporting speed limits, road signs, your speed, and more. Voice command? Yes, that too is available on CX-5.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD body styling

Stubby overhangs, and a fat well grounded stance add to the sporty good looks of our test vehicle. Mazda’ signature in your face grill dominates the body design -- with aerodynamic integrated head and tail light assemblies, wind noise is reduced within the cabin to a whisper, while increasing overall fuel economy. (22 mpg city/27 mpg highway)

Completing the edgy look of our 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD (all-wheel-drive) comes 19 inch powder coated alloy wheels, and P225/ 55R/19 all weather performance tires.

The combination proves to be sticky, yet not tread noisy, while driven under variable road surface and weather conditions. Thanks to a relatively narrow sidewall, minimal drift and wobble was noted during high speed maneuvering. And yes, the wheel and tire set adds a bit of sport to Mazda’s best selling compact SUV.

Pushing 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD to the limits on Oregon’s back roads proves to be a well orchestrated dance between driving performance and touring car comfort. Although notably minimalist as to interior design and finish, this well appointed SUV scores high for notable drive train performance and edgy good looks. I recommend a comparison test drive between 2019 Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4 and Kia Sorento.

Price as tested: $39,325.00

Likes: Ease of maneuverability, exterior styling, quiet cabin

What I’d change: Let’s update the monitor. Stylize the dash, and tighten up the handling just a touch. Other than that, an exceptional compact SUV drive and ride experience.

Photo attribution Parks McCants 2019

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Ewen MacDonald (not verified)    March 25, 2019 - 6:25PM

Great review! Well detailed and comprehensive. I would mildly disagree regarding the interior. I find it to be impressive and understated in a very classy way. No gimmicks here at all, just high quality. Really, it is more tasteful than a number of luxury SUVs. Hey, wait a second. Maybe the CX 5 is now one of those too!