If you’re shopping for a compact yet versatile car with a relatively affordable price tag, a small crossover SUV is one of the best options available. With its outstanding fuel economy, functional, well-built interior, stellar safety ratings and excellent overall driving experience, the stylish 2015 Mazda CX-5 is one of our favorites in this class. If there’s a small crossover in your future, this Mazda should be on your short list.
Although there are many reasons to like the 2015 CX-5, this Mazda is one of those vehicles that just makes your life easy. It’s very cozy to drive to work or run errands in with the kids, and you’ll have no problems seeing out of it or parking it. In addition, the 2.5-liter engine that’s standard on most trim levels offers strong acceleration while returning class-leading fuel economy. If you venture out of town for the weekend, you’ll find that the CX-5’s smooth ride, generally quiet cabin and cozy seating make it a great road trip car as well. Finally, compared with other small crossovers you might consider, this Mazda is actually kind of fun to drive, thanks to its precise steering and sporty handling.
Of course, no car is perfect, and one of our main complaints about the 2015 CX-5 involves its subpar electronics interface. Compared with the infotainment systems in rivals, the CX-5’s system has mediocre graphics, poorly organized menus and, with navigation equipped, no scrolling feature for its map screen. Similarly, sound quality is nothing to write home about, even with the available Bose sound system. And while the base 2.0-liter engine on the Sport trim level is quite fuel-efficient, it’s also pretty low on power. If extended highway travel or full passenger loads are in your plans, we certainly recommend the available 2.5-liter engine.
There are a lot of choices in the small crossover class, so it’s worthwhile to check out a few competitors before making your decision. Another top pick is the Honda CR-V, which has lots of space, high-quality interior materials and an easygoing driving demeanor that most shoppers will like. It’s not as athletic as the CX-5, but it’s an equally desirable choice. Others you may want to consider include the Ford Escape, which has top-notch interior materials and a powerful, optional turbocharged engine, and the Toyota RAV4, which is also quite roomy and especially cozy on the highway. For shoppers interested in a small crossover SUV that can handle the occasional off-road excursion, we recommend looking at the Jeep Cherokee and Subaru Forester.
While each of these competitors has certain advantages, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is one of the best all-around vehicles in the small crossover segment and deserves strong consideration.
Equipped with the base 2.0-liter engine, the Mazda CX-5 offers competitive power on paper, but out in the real world, it just doesn’t feel that strong during merging and passing maneuvers. For the majority of small crossover shoppers, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder (which is standard on most trims) is a much better choice given its superior power and minuscule fuel economy penalty. Either way, the 6-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly and is one of the most responsive transmissions in this class. Mazda still offers a very good manual transmission, too, but given that it’s only available on CX-5s with the 2.0-liter engine, its appeal is limited.
Easily the most striking thing about the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is its athletic character. Even if you’re just looking for a small crossover to drive to work every day, you’ll notice that its brakes, suspension and steering are uncommonly capable for a car in this class. It’s an enjoyable car to run errands in, and if you happen to turn onto a road with twists and turns, the CX-5 can be downright fun. On the highway, the Mazda rides just as comfortably as most other crossovers. It isn’t the quietest choice available in this class, but as long as you get the 2.5-liter engine, noise levels are acceptable on road trips.
The 2015 Mazda CX-5 is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels.
The base Sport comes standard with 17-inch wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary sound jack and a USB/iPod interface. The optional Bluetooth Audio package adds Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, a touchscreen interface, HD radio, Pandora Internet radio, automatic crash notification, SMS text message reading and sound system voice controls. Stand-alone options include foglights, rear parking sensors and remote ignition (automatic-transmission models only).
The Touring includes all the Sport’s equipment and the contents of the Bluetooth Audio package. It also features a more powerful engine, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system, a six-way power driver seat, a 40/20/40-split-folding rear seat, a six-speaker sound system, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system. The Moonroof and Bose Audio option package adds a sunroof and an upgraded nine-speaker Bose sound system.
The Grand Touring includes all of the Touring’s equipment, plus 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, automatic windshield wipers, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and leather upholstery.
Available on both the Touring and Grand Touring, the Technology package tacks on the Smart City Brake Support System (see Safety section), automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, an auto-dimming mirror, satellite radio and a navigation system. The latter two items are available as stand-alone options. The Touring version of this package also includes automatic wipers.
Regardless of the trim level, the cockpit of the Mazda CX-5 is attractive, modern and functional. It’s a mature design, and it isn’t swathed in poorly rendered fake wood or highly reflective chrome trim. Instead, materials are simple and high in quality, and soft-touch surfaces are set off with limited use of satin-finish metallic details. The CX-5’s black gauges with white lettering are also highly legible.
On the other hand, the CX-5’s touchscreen electronics interface, which is available with or without navigation, is just OK. The screen is small, and the system is sometimes slow to process touch inputs. The TomTom-sourced navigation software will get you to your destination, but there’s no ability to scroll on the map screen and the navigation units in most competitors have better graphics.
Most Mazda CX-5 drivers will be able to find a good driving position, and front seat comfort is excellent on long road trips. The backseat is spacious and offers plenty of legroom for this class. Although the seat-bottom cushions might feel a bit flat to adults, they feature an innovative folding mechanism on the Touring and Grand Touring that lowers the seat bottom before folding the seatback on top to provide a near-flat load floor. With all seats occupied, there are 34 cubic feet of luggage space that grows to a competitive 65 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Every 2015 Mazda CX-5 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. An automatic crash notification feature is optional on the Sport and standard on the Touring and Grand Touring, which also get a blind-spot warning system.
Optional on the Touring and Grand Touring, the Smart City Brake Support system uses a laser sensor to detect stationary objects (such as stopped cars or pedestrians) in front of the car at speeds up to 19 mph. If the driver fails to respond to a warning, the CX-5 can automatically apply the brakes.
In SUVS brake testing, a CX-5 Grand Touring equipped with all-season tires came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 121 feet, which is a bit better than average for the class.
In government crash testing, the CX-5 received a perfect five stars for overall, front and side crash protection. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the CX-5 earned the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, small-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The front-wheel-drive 2015 Mazda CX-5 Sport comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a 6-speed automatic is optional. With AWD, the automatic is standard. Note that Mazda only built the CX-5 Sport with the 2.0-liter engine and AWD for a brief period before switching it over to the larger 2.5-liter engine (see below).
In SUVS performance testing, an all-wheel-drive CX-5 with the 2.0-liter engine went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 9.7 seconds, which is on the slow side for a small crossover. The EPA’s estimated fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon combined (26 city/32 highway) on automatic-transmission front-drive models; the manual version also rates 29 miles per gallon combined but gets a 35 miles per gallon highway estimate. With AWD and the automatic, estimates drop to 28 combined (25 city/31 highway).
The Sport AWD (built after May of 2014), Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s good for 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, and both front-wheel and all-wheel-drive versions are available for the Touring and Grand Touring.
In SUVS testing, a CX-5 with the 2.5-liter engine and AWD accelerated from zero to 60 miles per hour in 8.0 seconds, which is a very respectable performance for this class. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 27 miles per gallon combined (25 city/32 highway) with front-wheel drive and 26 combined (24/30) with AWD. Properly equipped, all 2015 Mazda CX-5s have a 2,000-pound haul rating, though we don’t recommend towing with the 2.0-liter engine.
Engaging driving experience; fuel-efficient engines; roomy, cozy seating; excellent crash test scores; sharp styling.
With its spacious, functional interior, extraordinary fuel economy and top safety scores, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is a top pick among small crossovers. The fact that it’s also fun to drive comes as a bonus.