Thoughts on the CX-5

Okay, I’m almost done with my car shopping here, I swear! I did decide to give my new car its own post, so here are my thoughts on the only car I test drove that I haven’t mini-reviewed, the Mazda CX-5.

Unfortunately, I decided to head into the local VW + Mazda + Volvo (+ really Audi although they’re across the street and “standalone”) dealer thinking I could test drive the CX-5, new Mazda3, and Golf R all in one go. Well that was a pipe dream. Even though I emailed ahead to schedule, the dealer was a mess when I arrived and any Mazda3 I wanted to drive was like 10 cars deep in the tiny Mazda side of the showroom. I should have known. The guy I had emailed with ended up ditching me for a young couple with a baby (fair) so I ended up going out in this white CX-5 Signature with a young VW sales guy (probably for the best).

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Anyway, thoughts:

  • Quality is not as nice as I expected. With many reviews making the top trim CX-5 out to be some sort of luxury competitor, I was expecting the interior to be at A3, XC 40 et al levels. It’s definitely a cut below (GLA?). While I think Mazda may have been there design-wise, I don’t think the feel was there for this gen of the CX-5. I didn’t even end up sitting in a Mazda3 but I believe that is supposed to be better.
  • It’s got a lot of features for the price. Between adaptive cruise and ventilated seats, you’re already looking at a few packages on the Germans. Considering the CX-5 tops out well below where an X3 starts, you can hardly compare them. The integration of the features may be a smidge rough in some places (proximity entry buttons instead of touch sensors), overall you don’t get that overly-loaded-economy-car feel. I have minimal experience with the CX-5's competition but I can’t imagine they’re as good.
  • Speaking of ventilated seats, I happened to test drive on one of those SF days when the mercury reads 60 but it feels like 80 in the sun and car interiors get toasty. I turned them to full as soon as I got in and they were... neither here nor there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a sweaty back on leather seats and wished something was moving air back there. But it seems the current crop of ventilated seats just don’t do it. The effect on even my perception of coolness felt negligible.
  • Mazda’s “Deep Crystal Blue Mica” failed to wow me. It’s actually kinda drab in person. I love blue cars and Mazda already makes some awesome colors so something is definitely off there. Where are their blues?
  • On a similar note, the Caturra Brown interior is way too subtle. Again, I love brown interiors, but this one is more like a dark gray under most light. Even in direct sunlight, I did not find it attractive.
Uh...

On to the driving:

  • Feels way higher and less sporty than the X3. Given the CX-5's smaller size and Mazda’s “soul of a sports car” ethos, this was kind of surprising. Like I said, the X3 is very good!
  • Noticeably weaker brakes than the Germans, too. One place you’ve always been able to feel the money.
  • The 2.5T is actually punchier off the line than X3 30i, but falls off after the mid range. The X3 ends up being way quicker and more fun to rev out.
  • Overall, I would not want this as my only car, despite the ridiculously good value. It’s too slow and unsporty. Anybody with a family and not a massive budget should be running to the Mazda dealer or maybe waiting for the next gen.
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So where did that leave me? It didn’t seem like I had found the one, so I just kinda sat around for a couple of months. In the meantime, the Model 3 got a $5,000 (!!) price cut (since been raised back by $1,500 I think), and the X3 received a minor LCI bringing the 3-series’ digital dash as well as the M340i’s more powerful engine. Stay tuned to see how I ended up!

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