Test Drive:2017 Mazda CX-5

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Mar 15, 2017


Aiming for premium territory with the 2017 CX-5, Mazda has redesigned its popular compact crossover SUV. Styling and size are similar to the outgoing model, but the new CX-5 boasts a lengthy list of upgrades that add up to significant improvement over the model it replaces.

The new Mazda CX-5 continues in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim levels, the latter expected to generate nearly half of sales. Mazda says CX-5 buyers earn more money and are better educated, which is why the Grand Touring version is so popular.

2017 Mazda CX-5 front quarter left photoPrices range from just under $25,000 to just over $34,000, which means that while Mazda is aiming for entry-luxury levels of refinement with the new CX-5, pricing remains aligned with mainstream competitors.

Styling and Design

Witness the evolution of Mazda's "Kodo" design language. With the CX-5, Mazda claims to have employed a "less is more" aesthetic, a simpler approach dependent upon bold primary forms and close attention to detail. The result is an appealing small crossover SUV, one exuding style and refinement. In my opinion, Mazda fumbled the Grand Touring's delicate wheel design, but got everything else just right.

The Grand Touring trim level also imparts an upscale look and feel on the inside, especially when optioned with the off-white Parchment leather. So equipped, the bold contrast between the black dashboard, gloss black trim, and silver accents is both stark and premium. Materials, textures, and gloss levels make the CX-5 Grand Touring look and feel more expensive than it is.

Mazda painstakingly tracked down sources of noise within the cabin, and the result is an unexpectedly quiet interior. Among the many solutions, Mazda fully carpeted the cargo area, which is a little bit larger than before but still trails direct competitors in terms of total volume.

Behind the rear seat, the CX-5 supplies 30.9 cu. ft. of cargo space. Fold the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat down to obtain 59.6 cu. ft. A power rear liftgate is new for 2017.

Features and Controls

Conservatively sized, the 2017 CX-5 makes the best of what passenger space exists within its rather small interior. For example, the company says it paid close attention to how the controls are arranged in relationship to the driver–from the steering wheel and pedals to the instrumentation–in order to maximize satisfaction levels.

For the most part, this effort is successful. The driver's seat is comfortable, and cushion height adjustment for the front passenger ensures he or she can share in that assessment. A heated steering wheel and heated front seats are available, but you can't get ventilated front seats at any price.

2017 Mazda CX-5 interior photoRear-seat comfort is improved from the 2016 model, and Mazda has revised the rear doors so that they open wider to facilitate entry and exit. The space remains tight for larger adults, though. Fortunately, softly padded front seat backs prove kind to knees and shins.

Mazda did miss a handful of opportunities to further ensure comfort and ease of use. A sliding and height-adjustable center console armrest would be appreciated, as would primary radio controls located on the dashboard, where plenty of space exists to accommodate them. And while Mazda says it focused on aligning cabin elements to the driver, the Mazda Connect controls located on the center console remain awkwardly placed.

Safety and Technology

Mazda Connect is the automaker's infotainment system, used to access the radio and available navigation system, and to program the vehicle's various features and safety technologies.

Patterned after designs from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, Mazda Connect uses a tablet-style screen at the top of the dashboard combined with primary controls on the center console, ancillary controls on the steering wheel, voice activation, and touch-screen input. When the vehicle is underway, however, the touch screen is unavailable and Mazda won't allow for adjustment of some aspects of the system. After all, driving matters, and the company wants you to focus on it.

In any case, once you've gone through the owner's manual and set everything up to personal preferences, Mazda Connect is fairly easy to use. It really could benefit from separate stereo controls located on the dashboard, though, especially given the new-and-improved Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system.

As you move up the trim level ladder, a wider variety of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies are available for the new CX-5. All versions include Mazda's Smart City Brake Support system, which uses automatic emergency braking at lower speeds to prevent accidents. It can also identify pedestrians who have stepped in front of the SUV, and in turn take immediate braking action.

The CX-5 Touring adds blind-spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert system, while Grand Touring versions include adaptive headlights that help the driver to see around dark corners. Both of these trim levels also offer adaptive cruise control, upgraded automatic emergency braking system that works at higher speeds, lane-departure warning system, automatic high-beam headlights, and more.

Structurally, the CX-5's re-engineered architecture includes a little more high-strength steel than it did before, which may help to improve the SUV's crash-test ratings when the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) makes its assessments. Mazda says that torsional rigidity is up, too, helping to refine the CX-5's ride and handling.

Driving Impressions

Mazda did not set out to reinvent the wheel with regard to the new CX-5's dynamic qualities. Rather, the goal was to refine the SUV's acceleration, ride, and handling characteristics.

Initially, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 will have a standard 187-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive (AWD). After launch, a 2.2-liter, diesel 4-cylinder engine arrives, generating plenty of torque while meeting emissions standards and delivering what Mazda predicts will be among the highest fuel-economy ratings in the segment.

Another new standard feature is Mazda's G-Vectoring Control, a sophisticated technology that performs a simple but important improvement in the CX-5's handling capabilities. In short, it automatically puts extra weight over the front wheels when the driver steers, helping the SUV to respond more naturally and grip better in corners.

Revised suspension settings provide a suppler ride than the previous CX-5, and in combination with G-Vectoring Control the changes make this Mazda more agreeable to drive no matter the situation. Unfortunately, brake pedal feel doesn't always reflect Mazda at the top of its game, but the brakes themselves work well.

2017 Mazda CX-5 rear quarter right photoThanks to closer attention to engineering detail, the drivetrain responds more naturally and with greater enthusiasm than in the old CX-5, especially when the SUV is placed in the Sport driving mode. Climbing in elevation, though, it is clear that the turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that is standard in the larger CX-9 would be a nice addition to the CX-5. Paddle shifters, too.

As far as fuel economy is concerned, during a 150-mile round trip from downtown San Diego to the mountains east of town and back, the CX-5 averaged 25.3 mpg. That's a bit less than the official EPA combined-driving estimate for a CX-5 with AWD (26 mpg), but keep in mind that we enjoyed exploring the SUV's dynamic traits during this short test, so you can likely expect a better return.


With this redesign, Mazda wanted to refine the CX-5's styling, interior, and driving dynamics. Consider the effort a success on all fronts, and to a degree that credibly positions the CX-5 Grand Touring as a genuine value when compared to entry-luxury crossovers from companies like Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, and Mercedes-Benz.

When lined up against mainstream compact crossover SUVs, that same level of sophistication and dynamism is strongly appealing, but the Mazda CX-5 remains a rather small choice in a segment that offers alternatives with greater comfort and utility.

Therefore, you've got a choice to make. Based on this initial drive of Mazda's new 2017 CX-5, we're confident that people who decide the trade-off in size is a worthy one will be quite happy with their selection.

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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