DETROIT — The Mazda CX-5 has been a big hit for the automaker. It is the second-fastest Mazda to reach 1 million units sold and the compact crossover has been restyled for the 2017 model year.
Powered by a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine that made 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, we found this engine capable of moving the CX-5 with authority. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, shifts were smooth and decisive.
We had the all-wheel-drive version. Branded i-Active AWD, it can recognize road conditions and adjust torque distribution. It used sensors to read ambient temperature, steering wheel angle, longitudinal grip, brake fluid pressure and even windshield wiper movement. Mazda said in the press material that in all, i-ACTIV brings sensors calculating 27 different factors together to paint a picture of road conditions and directs torque to the rear wheels as necessary.
Implicit in that statement is that under normal or dry road conditions the CX-5 is front-wheel-drive. Since it was relatively warm during our test drive the system never kicked in. That was okay with us. And even with all-wheel-drive, the CX-5 had an EPA rating of 23 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined.
The CX-5 was the first full SkyActiv Mazda. The automaker made this CX-5 15 percent stiffer. That allowed the suspension to be revised to benefit G-Vectoring. They used more ultra-high strength steel which improved body strength. The sheet metal and more sound suppression material reduced road and tire noise. The CX-5 was quiet and the recalibrated suspension rendered more body control and handling was great.
Seals, gaps drivers could see like the doors jambs and spots below the body panels and beneath the B pillars were all improved. And the CX-5’s ride, handling and cabin environment have all been improved. With just a little more oomph under the hood, it would seem to cost a lot more than its $33,785 sticker.
The CX-5 was also the first application of the Mazda’s Kodo design. Strong character lines along the body and what Mazda called reflection-based surfacing. What it means is that Mazdas have long snouts and short rumps. Their lines seem to rise up around the front and rear wheel wells and deep down when they meet at the doors, sort of like a Coke bottle. It’s a sleek curved look and the CX-5 wore it well.
The A-pillars have been pulled back slightly to reduce forward blind spots. It worked well. We were never diverted from driving because our view was obstructed. Also added were a 10 speaker audio system, three way split second row seats and second row reclining seats depending on trim level. Second row passengers also got two USB plugs.
The interior had a horizontal layout that seemed to cover the lower half of the dashboard. It was an uncluttered look. It was a clean and required fit and finish to be really tight. Most of the features were controlled on the infotainment screen, via mouse on the center console, or from the steering wheel.
The only dials were for the climate controls and they were beneath the infotainment screen just above a small storage trough that also held a 12 volt plug. There was one more 12V plug as well as two USB jacks and auxiliary jack inside the center armrest.
Our test vehicle had heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. This 2017 Mazda CX-5 had smart cruise control, a smart key and a heads up display capable of showing what traffic sign you were coming up on. It would also alert you to a vehicle ahead and warn that you were traveling too fast behind it to stop safely.
We climbed into the backseat and found it comfortable. There was plenty of headroom and three people could sit back there in relative comfort. What was pleasantly surprising was the size of the storage space behind the second row seat when it was upright, 30.9 cu. ft.
There are three trim lines of the Mazda CX-5: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. We had the latter and all three came in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.
We had a moonroof, Bluetooth, a navigation system, voice controls, satellite radio, blind side alert and land departure warning. There were 19-inch wheels and we had a sport driving mode.
The 2017 Mazda CX-5 was a competent crossover that looked and felt like it cost a lot more than it did. It was nicely done.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.