2022 Mazda CX-5 Review Update

Jack R. Nerad, Independent Expert | Mar 31, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Mazda deals!

Amid one of the hottest-selling segments in the American automotive marketplace, the 2022 Mazda CX-5 crossover SUV stands out for its frisky, fun-to-drive nature. Pleasant but bland offerings like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 that provide excellent cargo space and versatility dominate the compact SUV category. Renewed for the 2022 model year, the 5-passenger Mazda CX-5 gives up a bit in cargo space but makes up for it with even better handling, sophisticated exterior design, and an interior that could grace a luxury crossover.

The CX-5 has used the same basic platform for several years, but for 2022, Mazda has improved the vehicle both outside and beneath the skin. The exterior alterations involve a refinement of the Kodo design philosophy, while the mechanical improvements enhance the vehicle's already strong "driver's car" reputation.

Substantial changes for the 2022 model year include:

  • New front and rear exterior styling
  • Additional distinction for Turbo models
  • New 2.5 Turbo trim
  • Revision of drive modes
  • Suspension changes
  • Interior upgrades
  • All-wheel drive (AWD) standard across the lineup

Mazda offers the 2022 Mazda CX-5 in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants. The naturally aspirated trims are 2.5 S base, 2.5 S Carbon Edition, 2.5 S Preferred Package, 2.5 S Premium Package, 2.5 S Premium Plus Package, and 2.5 S Select Package. All share the same engine and drivetrain, so the differences are in equipment level. The turbocharged lineup is more straightforward: the new 2.5 Turbo model (replacing the Grand Touring Reserve) and the line-topping 2.5 Turbo Signature. For 2022, Mazda made a special effort to give the Turbo trims unique exterior and interior treatments.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2020 Mazda CX-5. This review focuses on the CX-5's updates for 2022 and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Mazda CX-5 - Find the best Mazda deals!

2022 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature White Front Quarter View

The Mazda CX-5 competes in the Compact SUV market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 55 percent of new Mazda CX-5 buyers are male (vs. 50 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new CX-5 buyer is 57 years (vs. 60).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the CX-5 in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you'll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety
  • Getting in and out
  • Interior design
  • Setting up and starting
  • Powertrain
  • Driving comfort
  • Infotainment system
  • Fuel economy

In the 2021 APEAL Study, the CX-5 ranks third out of 14 Compact SUV models.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Mazda CX-5 - Find the best Mazda deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert analyzes a CX-5 Turbo Signature equipped with the following options:

  • Special exterior paint
  • Illuminated door sill trim plates
  • Carpeted cargo mat
  • Retractable cargo cover

The price of the test vehicle came to $41,120, including the $1,225 destination charge.

Exterior Styling Differences

2022 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature White Profile Action

The most noticeable changes to the exterior of the CX-5 are the revised front fascia and grille. The fascia now features a wing that extends outward from the grille, echoing the now-familiar "winged-M" Mazda logo. That logo is still very prominent in the grille, but the grille now has a 3-dimensional texture replacing the former mesh surface. The lower half of the grille is surrounded by a U-shaped chrome bar, while the top of the grille is now body color. Flanking the grille on each side are two rectangular LED headlights. The rear of the CX-5 features redesigned LED taillights.

Mazda put forth extra effort to distinguish the Turbo models from the non-turbo trims. The top-level CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature features 19-inch alloy wheels and body-colored lower bumper and wheel arches. The new (and less expensive) 2.5 Turbo trim has a gloss black grille with red accents, a chrome black signature wing, and 19-inch black alloy wheels. All CX-5 trims get new aluminum alloy wheels to complement the exterior revisions for the 2022 model year.

Chassis and Driving Mode Changes

To enhance interior comfort and stability, Mazda engineers increased the CX-5's unibody rigidity for 2022. This helps to eliminate some unpleasant vibrations while tuning out others. Improved rigidity helps limit ride harshness and road noise to provide a quieter cabin and better ride comfort, factors that were noticeable in the test of the CX-5 Turbo Signature. An added benefit is improved handling, which was already a CX-5 strong suit.

Complementing the improved body rigidity is the introduction of Mazda intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive). Mazda designed the system to enable the driver to select the most appropriate drive mode to optimize driving capability to match the surface and conditions. Like similar drive-mode selectors in competitive models, Mi-Drive operates with the flick of a switch, but the philosophy behind the system is different than other systems.

For example, while other systems might have settings for Mud, Snow, and Sand, the Mazda system engineers suggest leaving the system in Normal and letting it compensate for the surface friction on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis. Sport mode changes the tip-in and overall throttle response and requires the transmission to hold gears longer. The Mi-Drive Towing mode is only available when the vehicle senses a trailer is attached.

Rather than having the driver experience a significant difference in handling and response from mode to mode, Mazda engineers say their goal is a very similar feel in each setting while the system does the heavy lifting of figuring out how to accomplish that through the levers the technology can pull—gear selection, torque split, throttle response, etc. This makes the system easier for the driver and endows the CX-5 with a consistent driving feel no matter the surface.

Interior Design and Equipment Changes

2022 Mazda CX-5 Interior Front Seats

The most significant changes inside the CX-5's cabin involve redesigning the seats. Citing their "human-centric philosophy," Mazda designers and engineers reworked the vehicle's seats to provide greater stability for the driver and the vehicle's occupants. Thus, the seats are wider with subtle bolstering that provides security in hard cornering but doesn't interfere with getting in and out of the vehicle.

The designers also took the opportunity to revise the upholstery and stitching on several CX-5 trims. Mazda equipped the top-of-the-line 2.5 Turbo Signature with Caturra Brown Nappa leather-trimmed seats. The front seats are heated and ventilated, and the rear seats are also heated.

The new, sporty 2.5 Turbo trim has a black leather interior with red stitching on the seats and trim. The S Select trim gets leatherette seats with faux-suede inserts. The 2.5 S Carbon Edition features revised leather-trimmed seats, a leather-wrapped gear selector with red stitching, and an accompanying accompaniment leather-wrapped steering wheel also with red stitching.

The turbo models receive other interior upgrades to differentiate them from non-turbos. For example, the 2.5 Turbo Signature trim has layered genuine wood accents. The 2.5 Turbo has red stitching and red trim to emphasize its performance orientation.

All-Wheel Drive and Suspension Changes

A significant change for the 2022 model year is the decision to make AWD standard across the Mazda CX-5 lineup. Previously, several trims offered front-wheel drive, and the front-drive versions delivered Mazda-quality handling. But the move to standardizing Mazda's i-Activ AWD system is a big step forward in enhancing the driving experience. It is also an expression that Mazda is increasingly interested in playing in the premium/luxury categories against brands like Audi and Volvo.

While the i-Activ AWD system gives the CX-5 respectable off-road capabilities, its most important benefits come on the pavement. The system continuously monitors vehicle weight transfer based on acceleration and cornering forces and shifts power to the appropriate wheels in milliseconds. Mazda says this enables the CX-5 to respond more quickly to driver inputs and to changes in the surface friction even under just one wheel.

On the road, it has noticeable benefits in vehicle turn-in, helping maintain the desired line based on vehicle speed and turning angle. The goal is to provide a vehicle response that matches driver input instead of requiring the driver to correct the steering angle constantly. This provides a much more relaxed driving situation during highway cruising and improves the vehicle's predictability and fun-to-drive factor on challenging two-lanes.

Updates to the CX-5 suspension are good complements to the standard i-Activ AWD. The improvements to the damping control structure ensure that the suspension works in concert with the sophisticated AWD and the Mi-Drive mode selection system.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Mazda deals!

2022 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo Red Front Quarter View Action

Vehicle testers universally love the Mazda CX-5 compact crossover because it brings driving enjoyment to a segment that is almost religiously utilitarian and mundane. The great news is that all the changes that Mazda has wrought on the 2022 version of the CX-5 do nothing but enhance the vehicle's fun-to-drive nature.

While not an off-road champ, the CX-5 has all the versatility the typical compact crossover buyer needs to fulfill the everyday tasks required of it. On top of that, the plus-level handling exceeds expectations, and the slightly tweaked 256-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine provides smooth acceleration.

While many models in the segment offer more speeds in their automatic transmissions—or they have continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) that are the bane to vehicle testers around the globe—Mazda engineers continue to specify a 6-speed automatic transmission in the CX-5 for its better response when at part-throttle. That is another instance of how Mazda's thinking differs from the norm.

After driving the 2022 CX-5 extensively, we came away highly impressed with the combination of Mi-Drive mode selection, i-Activ AWD, and the turbocharged engine. While the non-turbo Mazda CX-5 models also offer more than their share of driving fun, this sophisticated chassis comes alive with the added horsepower. At some $40,000, the Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature is flirting with luxury-brand territory. The good news is that it has all it needs to compete in that heady company.

Jack R. Nerad has been reviewing cars, trucks, vans, and sport utilities for more than three decades. He managed the editorial efforts of Motor Trend magazine and Kelley Blue Book and currently is the host of the SportsMap Radio Network program America on the Road, which is available on Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, and other outlets.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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