2017 Mazda CX-5 GT Road Test

My road test of the redesigned 2017 Mazda CX-5 GT (AWD), which was to take place in Nova Scotia, started with a flight from
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT
The Mazda CX-5 gets a sharp new redesign for 2017. (Photo: Mazda)
Prince George, British Columbia, to Vancouver, one of my favourite short hauls. The turboprop aircraft fly low enough that, on a clear day, the passengers get a fantastic view of the Chilcotin Plateau and Coast Mountains. I usually spend my time staring out the window like an excited child thinking of previous adventures and adventures to come.

In the backcountry I prefer human power to motors, so don’t do much off-road bashing, but the drive to where a hike or snowshoe trek starts can be a bit tricky. For that matter, the same can be said of winter travel in much of Canada. All-wheel drive and a bit more ground clearance are therefore desirable features for any vehicle, and reason enough Canadians often opt for sport utilities. Many buyers also go for SUVs because of the higher seating position, versatile load-carrying
2017 Mazda CX-5
The CX-5 is now one of the most stylish SUVs in the compact class. (Photo: Mazda)
capacity, and easier entry and egress. Today’s SUVs are quite sophisticated vehicles, and can be luxurious as well. They look as good pulling up to a fine restaurant as on a backwoods trail.

One day after leaving Prince George, I walk up to my metallic grey Mazda CX-5 tester. Every manufacturer has a pet name for its styling philosophy. For Mazda it is Kodo, or soul of motion, and yes I did have to look that up. The results are hard to argue with, the CX-5 is a clean design, and looks more athletic than the competition.

After a walk-around, I get in and set my seating position. The Mazda’s interior looks upmarket and is nicely trimmed. Ergonomics are good, the steering wheel perfect for my 9 and 3 hand positioning. Still, nothing unique here. In the hotly contested compact SUV category all the top players,
2017 Mazda CX-5
Superb driving dynamics set the new CX-5 apart from its peers. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo)
such as the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson, have good ergonomics.

A few kilometres down the road I find myself smiling. Mazda, the “Driving Matters” company, has absolutely aced the CX-5’s driving dynamics, from chassis tuning to steering feel. Mazda seems to have moved into the territory once occupied by BMW, and still present in that company’s smaller vehicles. The CX-5 is a treat to drive for a skilled or enthusiastic motorist. It just feels right.

With my cousin, Croatia-based professional photographer Rino Gropuzzo, strapped into the passenger seat, we leave Dartmouth and head up Nova Scotia’s South Shore. The first leg is a highway with a 110-km/h speed limit and quite a bit of holiday traffic. Again, well-tuned dynamics make a difference. I use the six-speed automatic’s shifter-operated manual mode, in its Sport setting, to facilitate overtaking.
2017 Mazda CX-5
The CX-5 GT’s cabin approaches premium levels of quality. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo)
While decently quick, with 187 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, the CX-5 is no rocket ship, so planning is required. The upcoming diesel version might be a better pick for heavy loads or trailer towing, while it should also offer improvements in fuel economy, although my test vehicle did quite well with an average consumption of 8.0 L/100km.

Currently the CX-5 GT is Transport Canada rated at 10.2 L/100km city and 8.3 highway, whereas the same engine with front-wheel drive gets a claimed 9.8 city and 7.7 highway, and the less powerful base 2.0-litre 155-hp front-drive model achieves a rating of 9.4 and 7.4 respectively. Of note, Mazda labels the drivetrain efficiency technology that makes such fuel economy possible Skyactiv, which sounds like Star Wars lingo, but again produces excellent results.

The rest of our drive, not counting stops for seafood chowder and scallops, includes
2017 Mazda CX-5
The top-line GT doesn’t shortchange on features. (Photo: Mazda)
half an hour on weather-beaten, twisty blacktop, then a stretch on gravel. You can get Mazda’s quality of driving dynamics in compact luxury SUVs, such as a Volvo XC60 Polestar or a Porsche Macan. These vehicles are considerably more expensive. My CX-5 GT tester, with a massive list of standard equipment, retails for $34,700 plus freight and fees.

The only options on the GT include metallic paint at $300 and a Technology package priced at $1,600. Both are nice additions, the latter adding a colour multi-info display, dynamic cruise control, auto high beams, and a host of advanced electronic driver aids. You could go the other way, with a front-wheel drive, six-speed manual-equipped CX-5 GX at just $24,900. This version comes with a Skyactiv 2.0-litre, DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder engine with 155 horsepower
2017 Mazda CX-5
The details are beautifully done. (Photo: Mazda)
and 150 lb-ft of torque, LED headlights, heated power door mirrors, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen, and loads of other standard features, so it’s not a bare bones vehicle by any means. I would love to see the manual gearbox available on the higher end all-wheel drive versions, but apparently not enough other motorists share this sentiment.

On the gravel road section, my cousin took his camera equipment and positioned himself on the outside of a corner. My first run was with traction control engaged, which worked as it should, by unobtrusively intervening to keep things calm. When traction and stability control work as designed, they are an excellent combination of safety features for drivers of all abilities. For my second run I switched off the traction control for a bit of rally stage type action. Sliding sideways on corner entry, the CX-5 GT proved completely user-friendly and predictable. On the other side of the speed spectrum, the CX-5 incorporates a winter
2017 Mazda CX-5
Front and rear seating is comfortable and roomy. (Photo: Mazda)
mode that can be set to start the SUV off from standstill in second gear, making the best use of available traction.

At this point I understood the Mazda CX-5 is unquestionably the driver’s “car” in its compact SUV segment. I run an advanced driving school and am also a successful racing driver, which helps me to be a credible and critical test driver, especially where vehicle dynamics are concerned. While you may not have aspirations for performance driving, handling agility is also important for avoiding potential accidents. Drivers of any skill level should find the Mazda user-friendly and easy to drive well.  

The new 2017 CX-5 GT is one of the few mainstream vehicles I’ve driven this year that I would actually consider owning.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)