2023 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature AWD review
The CX-5 is a near-perfect size for urban adventures on crumbling city streets, yet it’s a delight on the highway too. That’s because it’s fairly light and agile, and at its upper trim levels, it’s speedy due to its turbocharged engine.
Only a year separated me from my last review of Mazda’s top-seller, the CX-5, a snazzy looking compact crossover. But only a week separated me from testing its new stablemate, the CX-50.
There will be confusion in the marketplace with such similar names, er numbers, but maybe that’s Mazda’s plan. Confusing the newer CX-50 with the lineup’s hit may be marketing genius. Maybe!
Yet to me, the CX-5 is simply a near-perfect size for urban adventures on crumbling city streets, and yet it's a delight on the highway too. That's because it's fairly light, agile and at its upper trim levels, it's speedy due to its turbocharged engine.
And—this is no small thing—the Mazda CX-5 simply looks better than most of the competition — a sporty aggressive snout, slick looking tail and the best color available on a mainstream car today: Soul Red Crystal Metallic. That’s a bright metallic red reminiscent of the Candy Apple Red of my youth. It lights up the car and makes it shine in any parking lot, even on the dreariest of days.
Soul Red costs $595 extra and I can think of no better value for an option these days, at least visually. No fancy wheels or blacked out grille even comes close.
But crossovers are a dime a dozen. So why, beyond looks, do I love this compact crossover like it’s my grandkid?
Add performance and value to looks, plus an interior that leans heavily toward luxury with a quiet and soft leathery feel from the steering wheel to the seats to the dash and you have your answer. CX-5 also packs plenty of comfort and safety equipment and nearly drives like a sports sedan.
Value sometimes seems like a dirty word in today's auto market that favors luxury makes and sizes over affordable monthly payments. But Mazda wins here with a base price (including delivery) of $27,975 for the 2.5 S model. Note, too, that all CX-5s come standard with AWD.
At that entry level you’ll get a standard non-turbo 2.5-liter I4 with 187 horsepower, but that’s better than much of the competition’s base models. Move up to the 2.5 Turbo though and the CX-5 will scamper up to highway speeds. All models use a fine 6-speed automatic with a Sport mode, and Off-Road setting too if you take the fishing boat or camper into a county or state park
That boosted engine creates 227 horses on regular fuel and if you can afford premium, well, it’ll pound out 256 horses. Torque is 310 lb.-ft. on regular gas and 320 with premium. Zero lag as that turbo kicks in quickly, such as entering a highway at 70+ mph. Top speed is rated at 130 in this top-level Signature model and Car and Driver magazine says this will do 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds. That’s plenty quick for a family hauler!
Gas mileage is nothing special, rated at 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway by the EPA. I got just 22 mpg in about 60% city driving and some aggressive highway ramp runs. That’s what I’d managed in the same basic vehicle a year earlier.
Handling is precise and sporty as this crossover is easy to push into tight turns and feels as stable as many sport sedans. AWD helps of course, but balance in the Mazda is excellent.
Engineers worked to further smooth the ride in last year’s model and that remains the same for 2023 delivering a composed ride that actually felt better than the longer wheelbase CX-30 that’s tuned more for off-roading. Braking is strong with vented front discs and solid rear discs.
Mazda delivers plenty of standard safety equipment too, including smart cruise control, blind-spot monitor and lane keeping assist and warning along with the 360-degree camera and cross-traffic alert. And a major plus, the lane departure can be turned off via a button on the lower left dash, meaning you don’t need to fight the system when in construction zones or dodging potholes that require you to straddle a lane marker.
Mazda also touts something it calls G-Vectoring Control Plus that helps put power to the appropriate wheel in cornering to aid control. You’ll never notice, but as stated earlier, the CX-5 corners particularly well.
Inside this Mazda continues the car maker’s ways of creating quiet and luxurious feeling materials that seem to hit beyond their weight. For instance, the fake leather seats have a softer feel than some real leather, plus the dash and door armrests feel soft. They are not the typical textured plastic found in lesser crossovers.
There’s also chrome trim on the air vents and along the doors and dash. The console is trimmed in gloss black and the lower steering wheel hub is chrome.
The turbo model also comes with a sunroof, heated steering wheel along with heated and cooled front seats, heated outer rear seats, plus dual climate controls, and a Bose stereo with 10 speakers. A wireless phone charger under the center stack is also standard and a much better location than in the newer CX-50, which was awkwardly located partially beneath the center armrest/storage box lid.
Again, there’s a 10.3-inch screen as in the CX-50. It’s wide and easy to see but not so tall as to block visibility out the windshield. Sadly, as in the CX-50, it’s not a touchscreen, but is controlled via a dial on the console. Not a fan as it’s clunky to adjust while driving. There is a volume knob on the console though, which is handy, plus volume buttons on the steering wheel hub. That wheel needs to be a flat-bottom design though!
I like the seats as they are supportive, and the driver’s is powered. Nice lower back and hip support here. Rear seat room is fine for two, but tight for three and the CX-5 has a tad more headroom than the longer CX-50, although that model has more legroom. Know your rear seat passengers’ body styles for proper fit. Those rear seats also partially recline, which could help quiet rowdy family members on a long trip as they could easily nap.
The hatch is powered and there’s reasonable storage space behind the rear seat, just not quite as much as some others in this class offer. Still, it’ll hold suitcase for four and if there are just two or three on the trip, those rear seats fold flat to create a larger cargo area.
While pricing starts at roughly $28 grand this top tier Turbo Signature model listed at $40,925, plus the cool red paint job to end at $41,520. That’s well below the average new car price of $45 grand.
For comparison’s sake, Subaru’s Forester starts at a bit lower price, as do the Kia Sportage (tested recently) and its cousin, the Hyundai Tucson. Tthe market leading Toyota RAV-4 and Honda CR-V begin about the same price as this snazzy Mazda. Those later two offer hybrid models too, while the Mazda does not yet.
Crossover intenders really need to drive a CX-5 with the turbo to remind themselves what driving fun feels like.
FAST STATS: 2023 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature AWD
Hits: Stylish inside and out, excellent turbo power, responsive handling, composed ride, plus AWD standard. Spectacular color, interior feels luxurious, wide screen, sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, dual climate controls, 360-camera, smart cruise and safety systems, Bose stereo, comfy supportive seats, power hatch, and wireless charger. High-value, fun drive.
Misses: Still not a fan of console-controlled info screen. Could use flat-bottom steering wheel.
Made in: Hiroshima, Japan
Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4, turbo, 227 hp (256 hp/310 torque w/premium gas)
Transmission: SkyActiv-drive 6-speed, automatic w/Sport mode
Weight: 3,867 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.2 in.
Length: 179.1 in.
Cargo: 31-59.3 cu.ft.
MPG: 22 (tested)
Base Price: $40,925 (includes delivery)
Soul Red Crystal paint, $595
Test vehicle: $41,520
Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com