by Matt Wenger
I tested and drove the Mazda CX-5 through the first 6 weeks of our Over the Hump season. I’ve driven a couple of Mazda models (Mazda CX-9 and Mazda MX-5), but this was the first time I had the wheel as my everyday driver and gave it my version of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 real world review test.
The Mazda CX-5 arrived at the season opener to take it’s place center stage. Red and shiny she was all dressed up for the first dance, but found her home right in the middle of our dirty venue. Tons of eyes turned to the sleek lines and sporty trim.
Eye catching; a well-finished machine. While some of the exquisite detail and focused finish of the Japanese design team might be lost on me, a tone deaf Regular Joe Car Consumer, the fit and finish of this very capable and sexy 4 wheel sled begs to be driven.
Since it was a “work” night for me, I was pretty pumped to drive it home, after the race. Admittedly a little bummed that I had to send it home with Charity and our 3 girls end of night, because all my tools and gear were still sitting in the back of my dirty old Ford Econoline work van. My loss; their gain.
It was like my date showed up and danced with everyone else. My turn would have to wait for Wednesday morning. More often than car reviews, I get to write bike and gear reviews; but one thing is similar there’s a first impression when you take delivery of the products. Underwhelm or excitement accompanies my first impressions. Taking a look at the Mazda CX-5 I was pumped to drive her.
First: I’m more of a fan of muted grays and neutral colors than the standard red cars on the road. But Mazda’s SOUL RED CRYSTAL is not your standard red car. Red has a long history in Japan. And it’s a catchy color.
To borrow some details from Mazda’s website on the color red used for the Mazda CX-5, “Red has deep roots in the Japanese culture, as it denotes strength, passion and is even used to depict the sun in the Japanese national flag. Believing paint color is one of the key elements of form, Mazda was determined to create the world’s most beautiful red when developing the new Soul Red Crystal.”
Finished with a honeycomb grill, perfect sized tires and wheels the CX-5 is very tightly connected with all its bits and pieces. Mazda doesn’t offer unlimited customizing out of the box, like som manufacturers. Rather each trim package comes with their “standard”. But don’t let “standard” fool you.
Wheels are nicely chromed, along with perfectly tinted windows. A sleek roof rail system plays nice on a work-day appearance, but allows for the evening race to Over the Hump with roof racks or the summer shot to the beach without giving up either form or function.
The Mazda CX-5 Signature series dials in all the bells and whistles that will make you consider the fit and finish of a luxury Italian sports car. Of course you can save over the Maserati if you grab a CX-5 and still get all fit and finish you can imagine.
Hand stitched steering wheel, genuine leather seats, wood laden trim, and a full infotainment / navigation screen all boast the quality Japanese engineering Mazda is known for. The steering wheel has all your controls for cruise, sound and communication. I loved the “Head’s up” display allowing you to see all that’s coming ahead on the road, and still have visibility of your speed, lane and cruise status, stop sign indication, and legal speed limit all clearly projected on the window projected digital screen.
With all the finish of this car, Mazda has designed it to make driving a joy. Though I’d rather drive it, the few times I sat shotgun to my wife driving, I really enjoyed being a passenger too. One thing our 3 girls really got excited about was the back seat having the same heated seat features as the front.
And while I’m on heated seats, my favorite feature of the interior was the cooling feature of the driver and passenger seats. You know those sticky Southern California days, where you get out of the shower, head to the wedding, and get there with your back soaked…those days are gone, thanks to the seat cooling feature where cool air literally flows out of the seat and onto your back…leaving you cool and dry. (I sweat a lot, so I love this feature…maybe it’s just me, but it’s an awesome add).
How does it drive? Awesome!
This is where the Mazda thrives, on the road. As any car should but few do. Mazda CX-5 is impeccably designed.
Why? Because Mazda has a philosophy that drives them. Jimba Ittai.
Mazda’s website explains the philosophy: “During the Kamakura period in Japan, mounted archers believed that the key to mastering their skill was to “achieve a oneness” between horse and rider. In Japanese, this is known as Jinba Ittai, (jin-ba ee-tie) or “horse and rider as one.” Oneness is only achieved when the vehicle becomes a natural extension of the driver. From the throttle-response, to the driver-centered cockpit to the agile steering.”
The dynamic pressure turbo makes for immediate response from the throttle. No lag. Fast start, turn and stop. Going when I want, where I want, without a thought of wrestling with the car. That’s what driving is supposed to be. Seamless, fun, efficient, responsive.
Another really cool feature that automatically makes parking and “unparking” safe and easy is the dashboard overhead view of the car. Shift into reverse and a 360 degree camera generated view of the car and surrounding obstacles show clearly, along with digital parking guides. Cars in front, side and rear are visible, and the audible warning makes the driver aware of approaching cars, and adjacent lane cars when changing lanes. No more wondering if you have room to turn out of the parallel spot on Coast Highway. Just take a look at the screen and cleanly steer out.
The weather this year in Southern California has been unpredictable: wet for a while, dry, and wet again…with no warning. So as I pulled into the slimy top coat of mud at Irvine lake on a prep day I accidentally experienced the traction of the All Wheel Drive. Where my rear wheel drive van slips and slides, even with All Terrain Tires, the Mazda picked a line and stayed solid. I felt a little initial slide, but was able to navigate through the field and get a solid connection with the dirt to pull right up to our trailer, get some trail work done and get out.
I put the Mazda through its cargo accessory test in real world applications.
I tell people I’m a professional bike rider because if it justifies my midweek field trip to the local trail, but truth be told I am a a jack of all trades master of none.
One day my car is filled with my wife and 3 girls. The next I’m headed to the trail with my ride bag and bike on the roof. The next I fill my car to the brim with race supplies, or 3 weeks supply of 540 pint glasses for racers. With the back seat down the CX-5 has all the space you’d imagine from a small SUV Crossover and then some. The Mazda took all I had to throw at it and in it.
The Roof mounted rack and Thule UpRide rack made it easy to take two bikes up top and one inside in the cargo bay with back seat down. You could cary more adding the hitch mount Thule T2 Rack.
With a car like the CX-5 you might expect the powerful engine to chug rather than sip fuel. Not this one. I regularly got 21-22 gallons for the six weeks I drove. In and out of traffic, the rolling hills of Orange County, and that’s a welcome win in a 4.00+ per gallon California fuel market.
The final decision is yours, but I like my cars like a like my bikes and this one passes the test of igniting my passion. My wife puts my bikes in the category of “The other woman in his life”. The Mazda CX-5 joins the passion category.
The Mazda CX-5 is: Fun. Fast. Responsive. Versatile. Sleek. Sexy. Solid. Efficient. Playful.
Treat yourself- give it a demo at your local Mazda Dealer.