Amongst mainstream automakers, Mazda stands as something of an anomaly.
While some other brands are part of a larger umbrella (consider the sprawling Volkswagen Group, for instance), Mazda largely stands alone. This arguably puts it at a disadvantage in terms of cost and parts sharing, since large corporations can grab an engine from another project or spread the development costs of a new rig over several models. Changes in this structure loom, however, with Toyota taking a small stake in Mazda and the two entering a joint venture that includes a combined manufacturing facility in the United States.
However, not having a true corporate overlord can have its advantages. Mazda has been free to imbue its vehicles – all of them, from sedans to SUVs – with a level of sportiness generally not found in other machines with which it competes. Gearheads who are greying at the temples (*raises hand*) will remember this brand’s old zoom-zoom commercials, ones which used to imply there’s a hint of fun-loving youth in all of us – even if we need to buy an SUV for family reasons. That includes the 2022 Mazda CX-5 that manages to feel at least a little fun to drive, even with its entry-level engine.
Let’s get one thing clear from the start: this is a good-looking machine. I don’t just mean good for a crossover, either. Mazda as we know it today has for years managed to craft vehicles which look far more expensive than their price tags would suggest. Flared arches over the front wheels are visible from the driver’s seat and give an intentional nod to the MX-5, while the hood tapers down to a shark nose that looks as if it wishes to scythe through morning traffic. While this Polymetal Grey paint shade looks elegant, I would spring for the tremendous Soul Red Crystal Metallic for extra visual drama.
If I had never previously plunked my butt behind the wheel of a turbocharged CX-5, it’s likely this score would be higher. A grand total of 187 hp and a like amount of torque emanate from this naturally-aspirated four-cylinder, both of which are enough to keep up with most rivals’ base motors. Acceleration is reasonable but tepid, and it’s likely drivers will be frequently extending their right legs to the limit in passing scenarios.
On the flip side, the available turbocharged engine makes 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque on 93-octane gas. That engine is much more suited to the CX-5’s personality and always seems to have power in reserve both around town and on the highway.
Driving Feel: 8/10
This brings us neatly to the subject of handling. While it would be a bridge too far to describe the CX-5 as an MX-5 with a backpack, Mazda engineers have done a tremendous job of lowering the centre of gravity and tuning the dampers to do more than simply ferry kids to hockey practice in comfort. Don’t get me wrong – the basic laws of physics preclude any supposition of kart-like handling, but the CX-5 does a great job of engaging the driver and feeling connected with the road. Zoom-zoom, remember?
Fuel Economy: 8/10
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has rated the naturally-aspirated CX-5 at 9.9 L/100 km in city driving and 7.9 on the highway when fitted with all-wheel drive. (The vast majority of CX-5s in this country are so equipped, by the way.) This boils down to a combined fuel economy rating of 9.0 L/100 km.
It is generally accepted that SUVs of this ilk will include the likes of heated seats and a raft of convenient USB ports at this price range, and Mazda doesn’t disappoint. A front wiper de-icer is handy in Canadian winters, while the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel feels expensive to the touch. The Kuro trim tested here includes power seat adjustments for those up front and a couple of memory settings so multiple drivers can return to comfort after someone else has been behind the wheel. For the sake of a few bucks, it wouldn’t kill Mazda to toss a wireless device charger in that handy cubby just ahead of the gear selector.
User Friendliness: 6/10
Mazda’s laser focus on driving experience pays dividends – in most places. Its team is adamant that one’s attention should be on the road in front of you, not divided between the path ahead and poking at an infotainment touchscreen. To this end, the centre screen’s touch functionality in all but a sliver of occasions has been disabled, forcing the driver (or passenger) to route commands through a control knob mounted low on the centre console.
The screen has also been moved far enough away that it discourages people trying to poke an index finger at the thing in the first place. In theory, this should work fine, but in practice it can be a tad frustrating – especially when trying to use Apple CarPlay, whose interface was literally designed for haptic touch.
Garnet Red upholstery is a delightful surprise as standard equipment in the CX-5 Kuro, marking a good departure from the generally dour black and grey that dominates this segment. Why anyone would pay the extra $200 to substitute black leather in here is beyond comprehension. Seats are comfortable if a bit short in the seat for those of us reaching NBA stature.
The CX-5’s pert dimensions are reflected in its official carrying capacities. Storage space behind the rear seat is listed at 871 L which, on paper, is less than competitors like the Hyundai Tucson which advertises a yawning 1,096 L in the cargo hold. However, know that companies can sometimes get creative with the measuring tapes, so the deficit may not be as dreadful as it may seem. Take your hockey bags and camping gear on the test drive to make sure everything fits.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) presented the 2022 Mazda CX-5 with a coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating thanks to stellar crash test performance and headlights. Improvements could be made to the tone of its seatbelt reminder, said the IIHS, and the LATCH child seat system can be a bear to use for those of us with big hands.
Priced at a hair over $40,000 when including the non-negotiable freight fee, the CX-5 Kuro is loaded to the gunwales with value for customers who prize either cabin quality or handling. However, just an extra $1,500 permits entry to the GT trim that includes heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, an upgraded stereo, wireless charging, and satellite radio. It does lose the tasty red leather, though.
It’s tough to think of another crossover in the $40,000 price bracket that brings this amount of jazz to its interior or sharp style to its body work. The 2022 CX-5 has always looked and felt more expensive than it actually is, and that sensation has not departed even after all these years. Zoom-zoom, indeed.
|Peak Horsepower||187 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.4 / 8.3 / 10.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||872 / 1,679 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2022 Mazda CX-5 Kuro AWD|
|Price as Tested||$40,250|
$200 – Polymetal Grey Metallic, $200