2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test

The new Mazda CX-5 was the last 2017 model I tested and will be the final 2017 review I’ll write. I wasn’t actually sure if I was
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Mazda’s new CX-5 is one stylish looking compact SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
going to cover it at all, being that one of my freelance journalists did the honours earlier and his review is still available for your perusal, but nevertheless the new CX-5 impressed me so much I couldn’t leave it alone.

I know I’m not alone in my accolades, with most every auto industry pundit praising its virtues. Before I delve into all that’s great about the 2017, as well as its two minor disappointments, take note that the outgoing first-generation CX-5 was already a very impressive compact SUV, so therefore moving up to this second-generation model isn’t a night and day experience. Yet if styling is important to you, and it is for most of us when it comes to our cars, this 2017 CX-5 is a big step forward.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Redesigned from front to back, the CX-5 is attractive from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Again, there was nothing wrong with the previous 2016 model’s design, other than five years of continual availability combined with better than average popularity making it look a bit tired. The 2013 CX-5 replaced Mazda’s much-lauded CX-7 and Ford Escape-sourced Tribute in February of 2012, and Canadian sales responded from 10,461 compact Mazda SUVs in 2011 to 14,847 that year, while after a full year of the CX-5 solely occupying the Japanese brand’s compact SUV offensive sales jumped to 17,648 in 2013, and then 19,920 in 2014, 22,281 in 2015, and 25,123 in 2016, for what has been a meteoric rise. The numbers just came in for 2017 and while not as big of an improvement, especially during a year that saw a completely new model arrive on the scene, 25,404 were sold for a 1.1 percent gain over last year.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
These gorgeous LED headlights are standard across the CX-5 line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
While improving sales is good, rival Hyundai pushed Tucson sales upward by more than 30 percent last year and thus stole sixth place on the sales chart from the CX-5, but in better news (for Mazda), Jeep’s Cherokee fell out of favour by 27 percent and therefore dropped two places behind both the Tucson and new CX-5.

While this is more about corporate bragging rights than anything that will directly affect your life with any of these SUVs, and can’t be used for boasting purposes when compared to the bestselling Toyota RAV4’s 50,894 sales (up 3.6 percent), runner-up Honda CR-V’s 50,443 deliveries (up 12.6 percent), or even the third-
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Top-line GT trim gets a tiny set of LED fog lamps as well as these 19-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
place Nissan Rogue’s 43,418 unit total (up 8.4 percent), it’s a sign a brand and vehicle is on the right track, and therefore it’s safe to say Mazda and its CX-5 are steadily making progress in this hard fought category.

One thing common amongst all of the top sellers is the appearance of making a play for premium status, this especially true of the new CX-5. It starts with a larger more prominent grille that’s already changed the face of the entire Mazda lineup, while sleek, narrow LED headlights grace each new CX-5 model from the least expensive $26,920 GX to the priciest $36,720 GT reviewed here.

Those headlights get adaptive cornering capability with the GT, while additional standard GT gear includes front and rear LED signature lights, LED fog lamps, and 19-inch
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The LED taillights pull design cues from Mazda’s MX-5 sports car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
alloys with dark painted pockets on the outside, whereas moving inside shows metal and woodgrain inlays, fabric-wrapped A-pillars with integrated stereo tweeters that come as part of an upgraded 10-speaker Bose audio system, navigation with detailed mapping, leather upholstery, three-way heatable rear seats, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with powered lumbar support and two-way memory, a six-way powered front passenger’s seat, dual-zone auto HVAC, and more.

All of the items you might see in the gallery photos yet have yet to be mentioned are
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The luxurious CX-5 GT gets the no-cost option of cream Pure White Leather upholstery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
pulled up from lesser trims, including the auto on/off headlight control, automatic headlight leveling, heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-clad shift knob, heatable front seats, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink garage door opener, rear centre armrest with integrated storage and cupholders, dual USB ports within that rear armrest, powered tailgate with programmable lift height, Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), advanced blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and more from the mid-range GX model, and LED daytime running lights, noise-isolating windshield, body-coloured power-actuated heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, electromechanical parking brake with Autohold, multifunction steering wheel controls, air conditioning, 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment interface, wide-angle rearview camera, HMI Commander Switch
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5 GT is truly a step up from most other mainstream compact SUVs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
rotating controller on the lower console, dual USB ports and auxiliary input jack, rear seat recline, and more from the base GS.

The bottom two trims don’t offer any packages, but my GT tester was upgraded with a comprehensive $1,600 Technology package that added a colour multi-information display, a head-up display style Active Driving Display that projects key info onto the windshield, auto high beams, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control with Stop and Go, Smart Brake Support autonomous braking, Distance Recognition Support, Forward Obstruction Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-keep Assist, and satellite radio. Remember what I was saying about nudging up toward premium?

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Filled with plush padded leatherettes, woodgrain, metals, and high-tech features, the GT nudges up against the premium class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
By the way, my tester’s Soul Red Crystal Metallic is a $450 option, while other paint options include $300 Machine Grey Metallic and $200 Snowflake White Pearl, leaving Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Titanium Flash Mica, and Sonic Silver Metallic as no-cost base colours. Additionally, in place of the standard wheels you can upgrade to a $1,239 set of 19-inch split five-spoke gloss gunmetal machined alloys, the same rims in gloss black for $1,249, or alternatively you can pay $1,249 for a set of 19-inch gloss black alloys with milled trim. Mazda offers a host of CX-5 accessories too, such as remote engine start for $717, alloy pedals for $267, an engine block heater for $260, premium front floor liners for $188, all-weather floor mats for $220, and a cargo tray for $148.

It’s not merely the sum of its parts that makes this SUV special, but rather the way everything is put together and quality of materials used. The CX-5 GT interior is superb. In fact, it goes further than many premium-branded compact SUVs as far as creature comforts are concerned, including soft
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
A colour multi-info display is integrated within the rightmost dial. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
padded French-stitched leatherette across the entire instrument panel and all door uppers front to back, which extend farther down the doors than most rivals, an even plusher stitched leatherette used for the side and centre armrests plus the sides of the lower console, these all done in a beautiful no-cost optional cream colour to match the identical Pure White Leather seat upholstery. Rich? Like I said, the CX-5 GT is finished better than many premium players.

What’s more, the woodgrain mentioned earlier sits atop a dense, expensive feeling composite that really makes it seem authentic, while the tastefully applied satin-silver trim looks and feels like genuine aluminum, as is the case for much of the
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The CX-5’s touchscreen is loaded with features and easy to use. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
brushed metal accents throughout the cabin. In fact, the CX-5’s interior is so good I’d go so far as to question whether the brand is making a play for premium status.

Mazda has yet to include a fully configurable gauge cluster, but instead features the brand’s classic three-dial design incorporating a tachometer on the left, speedometer at centre, and a bright, clear colour multi-information display in the rightmost position. It includes a fuel gauge in the lowest portion and a readout showing various functions just above that.

The infotainment touchscreen is the premium sector’s usual fixed tablet-style monitor sitting atop the dash, and while it’s a bit small compared to others in this class, it features smartphone/tablet-like tap,
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The parking camera is clear and therefore very helpful when backing up. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
swipe, and pinch functions for easy operation, while the aforementioned rotating dial selector, which is surrounded by buttons for the home screen, audio interface, navigation, favourites, as well as going back, allows infotainment system access functions within easier reach. Consider this a best of both world’s scenario, and a lot more useful than most premium brands that only offer the dial type selector, and most mainstream brands that only include a touchscreen.

I should also mention the HMI Commander Switch dial is beautifully finished in knurled metal, as is the audio system volume knob right next to it, the power mirror toggle over on the driver’s door, and the two dials on each side of the dual-zone auto HVAC interface. This brings up another point, the quality of switchgear. There’s
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
The six-speed automatic provides smooth yet quick shifts. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
a generous yet still tasteful dose of metal detailing used on much of the various buttons, knobs, toggles and rocker switches, while composite density is very good, as is fit, finish and damping.

I can’t bring up damping without inelegantly seguing into ride quality and handling prowess, both of which are Mazda fortes. Again, performance is normally a key element separating mainstream and premium brands, and the CX-5 moves into 2017 as one of the most manoeuvrable compact SUVs through tight city traffic, one of the most agile through high-speed curves, and equally up to pace with its peers on the highway. It’s amply smooth riding too, delivering one of the best speed/comfort compromises in its class.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Knurled metal detailing adds to the CX-5’s premium appeal. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
again, even its most powerful top-line engine can’t be considered a fire breather. The CX-5 comes standard with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder featuring 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque when equipped with its entry-level five-speed manual, albeit only in base GX trim, but when opting for its Skyactiv six-speed automatic transmission the engine grows to 2.5 litres and output climbs to 187 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, which is certainly potent enough to take on the likes of Toyota’s RAV4, Honda’s CR-V and Nissan’s Rogue, but not Ford’s top-line Escape Titanium that hits the road running with 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque.

But does anyone care about ultimate power in a compact SUV? Only in the premium
2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
They not only look great, the front seats are plenty comfortable too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
sector, and at the CX-5’s price point it’s certainly not competing against equally featured Audis, Acuras, BMWs, Mercedes, and the like. The brushed metal rocker switch used for employing Sport mode will make you feel like you’re in one of those pricier brands, mind you, this allowing for a bit more punch from the engine, slightly quicker shifts from the transmission, and more revs before gear change, although I recommend leaving it in default mode and going easier on the throttle if you want to achieve the claimed 10.2 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.2 combined fuel economy. Incidentally, the larger engine/auto/FWD combination does a bit better at an estimated 9.8 city, 7.7 highway and 8.6 combined, while the base engine/5M/FWD combination manages a 9.4 city, 7.4 highway and 8.5 rating.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Rear seat roominess is good and rear seat support is excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I only wish this GT had a panoramic sunroof, that’s it. Again, at its price point and premium level of finishing it’s difficult to harp on Mazda for not offering every feature some of its key rivals dole out, so consider my panoramic sunroof complaint a wish list issue.

The missing panoramic roof would be closer to everyone inside, by the way, being that the new CX-5’s roofline is a bit lower than the outgoing model, as well as marginally longer and wider, and while all of these parameter shifts enhance aforementioned handling they don’t benefit cargo volume that’s reduced by 91 litres (3.2 cubic feet) aft of the rear seats to a new total of 875 litres (30.9 cubic feet), whereas laying the 60/40-split rear seatbacks flat results in 148 fewer litres (5.2 fewer cubic feet) for a max capacity of 1,687 litres (59.6 cubic feet).

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Cargo space is down from last year, but still should be roomy enough for most. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
you don’t mind hauling slightly less gear and your kids are ok without a view to the sky, you can’t go wrong by choosing Mazda’s new CX-5 GT. It delivers big on style, quality, performance and expected reliability, and if all the 2017s are gone by the time you read this review, take comfort in knowing the 2018 CX-5 makes the automatic transmission standard kit, gets a more fuel-efficient powertrain with cylinder-deactivation that shuts off two of its four cylinders under lighter loads like cruising. Either way, owning one of the best compact SUVs in the class will mean you’re well cared for.
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