I’ve driven the Mazda CX-5 crossover several times before—and thoroughly enjoyed it every time—but big news arrived for 2019 in the availability of a new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the first forced-induction mill in the model’s history. Suddenly, there’s up to 250 horsepower on tap. (That’s when using premium fuel; on regular gas, output is 227 horsepower. Both are a big jump from the base engine’s 187 horses.) Suddenly the CX-5 has moves it never had before.
You can get the turbo only on the top two CX-5 models, including the flagship Signature AWD edition I drove. Lavishly equipped, the Signature comes standard with everything from 19-inch wheels to ventilated and heated front seats; heated outboard rear seats; Nappa leather trim, keyless entry with pushbutton start, a power moonroof, and a 7.0-inch color multifunction display with navigation and a rearview camera. To this my test vehicle added only a few minor cosmetic extras, including roof-rack side rails ($400) and illuminated sill plates ($400). Fully loaded, the Signature checks in under $40K.
This is a highly engaging machine. The exterior may not push the design envelope very far, but it’s clean and chiseled and, unlike some vehicles in this class, it doesn’t look like a shoe. The cabin is flat-out beautiful, with an inviting driver interface with simple console controls; a big, legible primary gauge display; and the Signature’s rich materials and brushed-metal accents. The leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel feels great. Large swaths of glass make the interior airy while aiding visibility all around. The rear seats offer good legroom, while the rear cargo area (accessible via a power liftgate) offers decent luggage space. Others offer more room back there, but on the plus side, the load floor is entirely flat.
As I began driving the CX-5, immediately I noticed the cockpit’s abiding refinement. It’s quiet inside, well isolated from wind and tire noise (though the engine does make its presence clearly felt under heavy throttle). Steering feel, as we’ve come to expect from most Mazdas, is excellent, with plenty of confidence-inspiring weight and a clear stream of road info trickling through to your fingertips. The infotainment system—including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 10-speaker Bose audio system—works intuitively, but the navigation maps are overly simplistic, the screen is on the small side, and the whole system is slow in response. It’s simply not as seamless and snappy as better modern units. Moreover, while most subsystems can be accessed easily using the central rotary controller and the surrounding pushbutton tabs, some simple actions—such as changing SiriusXM radio stations—require too many clicks and jogs through various menu screens. Infotainment is the one and only facet of the CX-5 that merits a serious upgrade.