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In this ongoing series, Boston.com talks with automotive authorities about why you should consider driving — or avoiding — a specific model.
2017 Mazda CX-5
Comfortable, fun to drive, and five figures cheaper than a luxury crossover, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 compact SUV cuts an enviable alternative to premium rivals.
Mazda’s bestselling vehicle in the U.S. has been redesigned for the 2017 model year, adding more horsepower and dynamics. The five-passenger crossover comes in three trims — Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring — but one powertrain: a 187-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but buyers can upgrade to all-wheel drive for an additional $1,300. The CX-5 offers car-like, dynamic handling and an agile, fun-to-drive ride, especially when the gearshift is toggled to Sport mode. However, if you want your crossover with a V6 or a turbocharged engine, you’ll have to look to the competition.
The cloth-upholstered base model does not offer many standard amenities besides Bluetooth, a split-folding rear seat, and an infotainment system with a 7-inch color touchscreen. However, the upper trims, clad in leather and soft-touch materials, feel as refined as any competing crossover from Lincoln or Acura. The Touring trim gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle, a reclining rear bench seat, and four USB ports. Upgrade to Grand Touring for heated seats, satellite radio, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The $780 Preferred Equipment Package includes navigation, a moon roof, a power lift gate, and a 10-speaker Bose audio system. Note that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not yet available on the CX-5.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the CX-5 a Top Safety Pick+ in July, making Mazda the only major car company to win the agency’s top designation for every 2017 model tested in its portfolio. All models are equipped with a rearview camera and low-speed automatic braking. Upper trims come with rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring. Add the Touring i-ACTIVSENSE Package for lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and other advanced driver assistance features.
The CX-5 delivers 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Efficiency drops to 23/29 mpg city/highway for all-wheel-drive models.
The 2017 Mazda CX-5 starts at $24,045 for the Sport trim and $25,915 for the Touring trim. The Grand Select trim begins at $29,395.
What the experts are saying
Fun to drive
“The Mazda CX-5 stands apart from rivals with what we’ll call its Mazda-ness. That is, it has surprising spunk and sporty handling. Among compact crossover SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 is the most fun to drive. As with other Mazdas, the CX-5 isn’t especially powerful, but it does more with less thanks to its Skyactiv technology that encompasses a responsive engine, lightweight body, and dynamically tuned suspension. It adds up to invigorating driving manners and admirable fuel efficiency. The CX-5 slightly trails the RAV4 and CR-V in cargo capacity, but shines with its athleticism and value.” – Matt Degen, senior associate editor, KBB.com
“Mazda is listening. We actually thought they might’ve had microphones in the showroom because the new changes on the 2017 were all answers to customer feedback items on the previous model. Things like a power lift gate, reclining middle seats, and a quieter cabin were all implemented in the 2017. The design has hit a chord with customers, too. The CX-5 is being shopped against many cars that have $10,000 to $15,000 higher MSRPs. One customer even questioned how Mazda was able to sell that much car for such a good price. Mazda’s focus on engineering an alternative to a premium crossover is really working.” – Joe Shaker, owner of Wellesley Mazda and North Shore Mazda
Stellar safety ratings
“The 2017 Mazda CX-5 is one of our top-rated small SUVs, earning the Institute’s Top Safety Pick+ award. It has good ratings across the board in all five of the institute’s crashworthiness tests. The CX-5 is a standout because it has a front crash prevention system that comes standard. This important safety technology is still an extra-cost option on most of the Mazda’s competitors. If you do a lot of night driving, you’ll want to look at the Grand Touring and Sport trim lines, which earn acceptable ratings for headlight performance. The Grand Touring trim’s headlights include a feature we recommend called high beam assist. This feature automatically switches between high beams and low beams, depending on the presence of other vehicles.” –Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety