As a relatively small automaker, Mazda doesn’t have the clout to challenge super-popular brands like Honda, Toyota, and Ford in sales numbers, so it has to find more creative ways to make its models stand out.
One of those techniques is designing its vehicles to look and feel more expensive than their competitors. Mazda took that approach in 2017 by giving its second-generation CX-5 compact SUV an upscale appearance. For 2019, the CX-5 moves further in that direction with a new Signature trim level and a 2.5L turbocharged engine.
Powerful new turbo engine
- The 2.5L turbocharged engine is a four-cylinder that makes 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. That’s a generous amount of torque for a relatively small engine, and it makes the CX-5 feel quick from a stop. Acceleration is less impressive — but still adequate — at highway speeds. Overall, this engine performs a lot like a diesel.
- Mazda promises fuel consumption of 10.8/8.7 L/100 km (city/highway), while our test car averaged a bit less than 10.0 L/100 km in mostly highway driving. Part of the blame for that lies with cold weather during the week of our test. Still, generally speaking, you can either enjoy good fuel economy or make good use of this engine’s torque, but not both.
- Mazda says the CX-5’s turbo engine requires premium fuel to make its 250 hp. You can fill it with cheaper regular-grade gas, but that reduces the engine’s power to 227 hp.
- In April, Mazda announced the CX-5 Signature will add a diesel engine option later in 2019 with 168 hp and 290 lb-ft. Performance will be less impressive than this turbo gasoline motor, but the diesel’s fuel economy should be much better.
- The CX-5 Signature uses a six-speed automatic transmission that’s smooth and responsive, but even Mazda’s strong turbo engine would benefit from the more closely-spaced ratios the latest Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 boast in their eight-speed transmissions.
- The turbo engine’s extra power is a good fit with the CX-5’s sharp handling, which comes with a ride that’s firm but comfortable.
More interior luxury
Mazda CX-5 Signature models get Nappa leather upholstery and dashboard and door trim made of real wood and satin chrome.
The Signature trim’s functional additions are LED interior lighting and a digital gauge cluster. Items like power-adjustable front seats with ventilation, a heated steering wheel, navigation and a 10-speaker stereo are carried over from the GT trim.
The Signature’s nicer leather is a step up from the GT, but this new top-end trim’s additions are more about appearances than improving the CX-5’s already-comfortable interior.
Standard safety features
Signature trim includes all the safety features that are standard or optional elsewhere in the CX-5 range. There’s a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, collision detection with automatic braking, lane-departure warning and prevention, automatic high beams, and radar cruise control. The LED headlights also have a steering function to improve visibility in turns. We found the blind-spot warning system to be overly cautious, warning of vehicles in adjacent lanes long after we had passed them.
Interior space and design
- The CX-5 is a comfortable vehicle with usable space for four adults (five in a pinch) and good cargo space, but many of Mazda’s competitors are roomier.
- The CX-5’s climate controls are placed low on the dash, so you have to reach to use them and look way down — and away from the road — to see them.
- On paper, the 7.0-inch infotainment screen sounds average, but in practice, it looks a lot smaller than the 8.0-inch displays that have become common.
The 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature costs $40,950, a $3,500 premium over the GT model. That makes it one of the most expensive models in its class. The Toyota RAV4 Limited ($40,690), Volkswagen Tiguan Highline ($40,870) and Hyundai Tucscon Ultimate ($38,000) come close, with similar luxury and safety features.
A 2019 Ford Escape Titanium comes to more than $42,000 similarly equipped. It’s also the only one of the bunch we’ve listed here that can challenge the CX-5 Signature’s performance, with a 2.0L turbo that makes 245 hp and 275 lb-ft. As of this writing, Ford is getting ready to introduce a brand-new Escape for the 2020 model year.
A 2019 BMW X1 goes for $41,500, but optioning one to match the CX-5 Signature moves the price closer to about $45,000. The BMW is also less powerful, with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft from a 2.0L turbo. A Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class comes with a 208-hp engine for about $47,000 when equipped like our CX-5 Signature tester.
Acura sells its 272-hp RDX for $44,000 to start, and the Lexus NX is a little more expensive with its 235-hp engine. Both brands charge more for safety and tech features to match the CX-5 Signature’s list of equipment.
This new CX-5 variant is expensive for a mainstream compact SUV, but its powerful new engine and added upscale features and finishes turn it into an attractive alternative to vehicles from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, and Lexus. If Mazda wants to stand out, this is a good way to do it.
2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature
- Vehicle category: Compact SUV/crossover
- Engine: 2.5L four-cylinder, turbocharged; 250 hp, 310 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Notable standard features (GX trim; MSRP: $27,850):LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, electric parking brake, push-button start, heated front seats blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and city speed automatic braking.
- Notable standard features (Signature trim, as tested; MSRP: $40,950): Front wiper de-icer, heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, radar cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist and automatic high beams, automatic dual-zone climate control, passive keyless entry, power-folding side mirrors, 10-speaker stereo, navigation, passive keyless entry, leather upholstery, 10-way electric driver’s seat and six-way electric front passenger seat, adaptive headlights, traffic sign recognition, frameless rearview mirror, LED interior lighting, Nappa leather upholstery and a 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster display.
- Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 10.8/8.7