No slogan needed: Mazda CX-5 competes in industry’s toughest segment

Mazda can certainly do slogans. The longstanding “Zoom-Zoom” has been joined by “Driving Matters.” When it comes to Mazdas, based on sales figures, none matter more in this country than the CX-5 compact crossover, which has been redesigned for 2017.

Touring in the CX-5 in grand style — you will get this in a bit — are former Wheels editors Jimmy Dinsmore and Dave Mikesell.

DAVE: Visually, few vehicles in this category stack up to the CX-5. A large mesh grille is new, the A pillars have been pulled back 1.4 inches to spotlight the hood’s size and steeply raked windshield, and the lines running front to back scream motion. This still has the elements of a small sport-utility vehicle, though, so that motion must be propelled by what is under the hood. So, how about it, Jimmy?

JIMMY: Size is important in the case of the CX-5 as the engine is doesn’t have impressive output numbers. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 187 horsepower. On paper that looks underwhelming, but mated with Mazda’s driver-focused engineering, and how this small crossover handles, the CX-5 has better-than-adequate overall performance. The six-speed automatic transmission serves it well, but feels inefficient at times. Perhaps a slightly more modern transmission would serve it better. All told, the CX-5, with all-wheel drive, corners well and handles beautifully on the road. It won’t exhilarate but it won’t disappoint, either.

DAVE: Our test vehicle had 19-inch wheels compared with standard 17-inch wheels. This didn’t keep the CX-5 from being composed even over rough pavement. Mazda does produce winners when it comes to handling, which here is nearly impeccable with the steering rack coupled to the front suspension and the wheels treated separately when called upon by Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control technology. Increasing the enjoyment of the ride is a quieter cabin.

JIMMY: The CX-5 is unspectacular inside, but again, there’s nothing inadequate either. Don’t mistake its safe, conservative interior for disappointment. All interior space is well used. The back seat has ample leg and head room so three passengers can sit comfortably. That’s not very common for this segment. The biggest letdown comes in the infotainment system. For anyone who’s read my other reviews of Mazdas, I’ll continue to beat this drum about how illogical Mazda’s infotainment system is. It’s frustrating and counterintuitive. Until it’s changed, I cannot ever fully sing the praises of one of their vehicles.

DAVE: There are four trims of the CX-5 — Sport ($24,045), Touring ($25,915), Grand Select ($28,895) and Grand Touring ($29,395). All-wheel drive tacks on $1,300 to each of those numbers. Jimmy and I each drove a Grand Touring model (remember near the beginning of this article?). For the premium price you get those 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery and an upgraded lighting system that includes adaptive headlight, LED fog lights and tail lights. The Grand Touring can also add on an $1,830 Premium Package that includes head rear seats, heated steering wheel, heads-up display, windshield wiper, memory driver’s seat and power front passenger seat. That’s some Grand Touring, indeed.

JIMMY: Crossovers are a peculiar segment. It’s ultra-competitive, but also ultra-boring. When a vehicle like the 2017 Mazda CX-5 offers some driving enthusiasm and a spacious, quality interior, you take note. It’s certainly not a flawless vehicle, but it’s also better than many of the crossovers on the road today.

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