- What’s Good: Beautiful styling, new features and new power.
- What’s Bad: Capable six-speed transmission but dated in comparison to eight- or nine-speed competitors.
WHISTLER, B.C. – Be careful what you wish for . . .
Mazda had proposed a winter test of the new and updated CX-5. And that’s exactly what they got, as a thick blanket of snow descended on the resort town for our testing session.
Pretty, picturesque and potentially problematic.
But nothing to worry about for the capable CX-5, one of Mazda’s best-sellers in Canada, a compact crossover perched confidently in the middle of the lineup between the equally capable CX-3 and CX-9.
First introduced in 2012 and thoroughly revised as recently as 2017, the second-generation CX-5 has been further updated with new refinements, new equipment and new techs for its 2019 model.
The CX-5, traditionally offered in GX, GS and GT models, now adds a new Signature trim at the top of a lineup that ranges in price from $27,850 – $40,950.
All models benefit from suspension, stability and steering improvements with revisions to bushings, ball joints, dampers and stabilizer bars.
Traction Control and Dynamic Stability Control have always been ably complemented by Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control (GVC), a steering assist system that shifts engine torque during cornering for a more accurate steering turn-in. Taking that one step further, a new enhanced G-Vectoring Plus system now also drags a brake ever so slightly on the outside wheel through the turn for even more precise piloting and corner control.
Debuting on the CX-5 this year, along with the Mazda3 and Mazda6, the G-Vectoring Plus system will also be added to the CX-3 and CX-9 in the next 2020 model year.
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Other changes to note – the base GX manual transmission model has been dropped due to low demand but new additions across the board include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, new wheel patterns, heated seats now standard in all models and the finishing touch of a new LED licence plate light.
The CX-5 has been powered by a naturally-aspirated 187 hp 2.5-litre four cylinder engine, with upper trim levels getting a slightly more fuel-efficient version of the same engine featuring cylinder deactivation under light load conditions between 40-80 km/h.
But, new for the 2019 model year, the CX-5 also inherits the more powerful Skyactiv-G 2.5T turbocharged engine, previously restricted to flagship Mazda6 and CX-9 models. This more powerful motor is available as an option on GT trim ($2,000) and comes standard in the top-of-the-line new Signature.
It makes 227 hp on regular fuel (87 octane) and 250 hp on premium (93 octane) while providing 310 lb/ft of torque and offering a reasonable return on fuel efficiency with a rating of 10.8/8.7L/100km (city/hwy).
Frankly, given the weather conditions, what with bouncing and rutting over snow and slush, it was difficult to delineate some of the finer driveline, steering and suspension tweaks.
But the more muscular 2.5-litre turbo engine’s uptick in bottom end oomph and acceleration was pretty obvious, with a strong initial surge, a wider power band and less dancing through the lower gears on uphill pulls and passing ploys.
Top end upgrades in both GT and Signature models include new 19-inch wheel designs, new power-folding mirrors, new ventilated seats and a SiriusXM 5 Year Traffic Plus program with Travel Link Subscription.
A host of other upgrades to the new Signature trim models we were testing included a new reconfigurable 7.0-inch TFT gauge display, a new auto-dimming frameless rearview mirror with Homelink, new Cocoa Nappa leather seats, new Abachi wood trim and other interior accents – a black headliner, satin chrome trim pieces. LED ambient lighting and a uniquely stitched, leather-wrapped Signature steering wheel.
There are plenty of new pluses listed here, enhancing one of the prettier crossovers in its class, one that is equally capable with a comfortable cabin, roomy seating, good second row access and a usable luggage area with 875 litres of cargo space expanding to 1,687 litres with folding rear seat versatility.
And, building on a background of over two million worldwide sales and last year’s win as AJAC’s Best Small Utility Vehicle for 2018, the revised 2019 CX-5 is a serious contender in the compact crossover utility market, hot on the heels of category leaders like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Hyundai Tucson.
With new class-leading power numbers, new technologies and a new emphasis bridging a top trim shift into premium positioning against worthies like Audi and BMW, the CX-5 refines its relevance for today’s customer while promising further refinement for the future.