2018 Mazda CX-5

Favorite SUV so far?

Mazda’s SkyActiv technology has been around for a while now and the mix of power and fuel economy continues satisfy a lot of buyers in a class that is largely dominated by the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

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The 4-cylinder 176hp engine isn’t a rocket ship by any means, but 0-60 to 8.5 seconds is respectable for a SUV that’ll get 30mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.   The 6-speed automatic performed without a hitch under heavy acceleration or casual highway cruising.

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The fuel filler door was unusually large.  When refueling, the option is to put the cap on the what seemed to be a slightly magnetic black pad to the right or hanging it on the metal cradle on the filler door itself.  It seems like a setup for a possible alternative fuel port.  An electric outlet next to a gasoline filler door sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but maybe it could be for hydrogen or CNG.  More than likely I’m just reading too much into it and it’s just wasted space.

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The rear styling is obvious Mazda since the taillights have the same pointy cat-eye shape as the MX-5 Miata, 3, and 6 models.

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The cargo area swallowed the poinsettia bush (way too big to be called a single ‘plant’) that a friend gave to me after the 4th Sunday of Advent.  Her forever curious dog was at risk of eating some of it and I didn’t know poinsettias can make dogs really sick.  There was no cargo net in sight which is common in most SUVs now, but it is sold as a $60 dealer accessory.

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The front fascia, including the unmistakable grille, shares a lot of styling cues from the rest of the Mazda line.  On a positive note, how could the car overheat with a grille opening that huge?  The small headlights and the huge hood that nearly goes all the way to the fender corners really differentiates the CX-5 from everything else.

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The lane departure warning and traction control buttons are surrounded by. . . 4 blank nothings.  I looked on the Mazda website to see what these blank buttons could be, but what a disappointment to learn that they are also useless blanks on the [supposed] maxed out Grand Touring.  After a little more digging on other Mazda models, the $7,000 less expensive Mazda 3 has the same exact panel.  What’s the point of that since the CX-5 and 3 are manufactured in 2 different places?   I promise I’ll try not to beat a dead horse about blank buttons next year.

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The front seats were very comfortable and looked amazing.  The 2-tone leather and suede looked very expensive and if they age well years down the road, this particular feature should help immensely with future resale value.  My 2 weekend dinner buddies commented this was their favorite vehicle so far mainly attributed to seat comfort.  The rear seats were just as cozy and had the same suede inlay as the fronts.

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The center console was an odd combination of buttons (first Mazda rental so far), but very easy to learn.  The NAV button is misleading as it doesn’t have standard mapped navigation, just a digital compass display.  The sport setting next to the gear shifter just means that in ‘sport mode’ that the transmission only utilizes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gears.  I think that’d help on a steep incline to prevent the constant downshifts, but not much use otherwise.  The gear shifter in manual mode would nearly do the same thing.  The mute button on the lower right was useful when talking in the cabin.

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The climate control buttons were perfectly laid out and I wouldn’t change a thing.  Every button did exactly as expected.  The heated seats are a welcome addition to ANY car in December.  The passenger seat sensors were much less sensitive to where I could put a few bags on the seat without the need of a seatbelt to keep the warning chimes off.

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The dashboard display was also excellent.  The fixed speedometer and tachometer were clear and sharp in all lighting and the changeable display on the right was also easy to see in any configuration.  The windshield wiper and headlight stalks contained no surprises either.

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Is it odd to love a steering wheel design?  If so, so be it!  I loved the chrome Mazda logo and the polished aluminum inlay at the bottom.  The steering wheel thickness was confident and comfortable where ever my hands happened to land.  My employer will be relieved to know that I don’t use the horn on every rental, but a cell phone addicted guy in a Chevy Dually prompted me to honk at 55mph.  I had an Integra years ago that had rusted horns that became inoperable shortly after I bought it.  I replaced it with a 3-tone air horn that was so loud, 18-wheelers were confused at what was behind them.  The CX-5 didn’t need an air horn, but I’d prefer one with more volume.

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The CX-5 was all business from the side.  There’s nothing really polarizing about the style except the unusually wide hood, which is neither good or bad nowadays, but it’s difficult to differentiate it from the less expensive CX-3 from any distance.

Things of note:
Entry MSRP is $24,100 for the base sport version, this Touring starts at $2,000 more.
Achieved an impressive 29.9 mpg thanks in part to the 6-speed auto and lighter than normal acceleration.  EPA estimates seem too conservative at  24CITY/30HWY.
A maxed out Grand Touring with every option and accessory is $36,500.
Imagine the fun with a turbo.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
I don’t have the need or desire to buy a SUV, but this is undoubtedly one of my favorites I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in or driving – rental or otherwise.  This would be very comfortable for 4 people on a short in-town night out or a cross-country road trip. I’d be fine with being assigned a CX-5 again, although I want to try others in the class first.
Mazda if you’re listening . . .
It’s hard to mess with a good thing, especially since the RAV4 and CR-V engineers are always in the chase, but more than one powertrain should be available.
On a scale from 1-100: (1- never again / 100- every time)
Buy it now – 45
Buy it later at half the current price – 80
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 55
Oooh and ahhh factor – 45
Recommended to rent – 85

I’ll have one more review before the year end!  Within the next few weeks I’ll be adding “Unusual Cars of Iceland” plus my favorites from 2018.

 

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2 thoughts on “2018 Mazda CX-5

  1. Sounds like we have a pretty good winner here. I think the front end on this thing (even with its massive grille) is pretty attractive. Lol @ the dead buttons even being there on the highest trim model – what a waste! Mazda has some nice designs out right now. Totally agree with you on the steering wheel being nicely designed. Happy New Year!

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