2020 Mazda CX-5: The Go-to Compact SUV

Strong points
  • Solid powertrains
  • Pleasant ride (17-inch wheels)
  • Versatile and practical enough
Weak points
  • Limited rearward visibility
  • Fuel-thirsty turbo
Full report

There’s no need to change a winning recipe. The 2020 Mazda CX-5 returns as a right-sized compact SUV with many available configurations and options designed to meet the needs of a large number of people.

Since launching in Canada eight years ago, the exceptionally skilled and refined CX-5 has risen to the top of the pyramid where it continues to look down on other challengers. In terms of sales, it’s always among the 10 most popular models in the segment, just behind the Hyundai Tucson and well ahead of the Volkswagen Tiguan.

In order to remain attractive in a market dominated by the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, Mazda had to bless the CX-5 with can’t-miss attributes and features while offering a little something for everyone. The 2020 lineup includes FWD and AWD models, four different trim levels (GX, GS, GT, Signature) and two solid engines—all that with a competitive price range of $27,950-$41,900.

Introduced last year, the top-line CX-5 Signature stands out with Nappa leather, abachi wood, a 360-degree camera system and more. Similar to the GT below it, AWD comes standard. If you want that option on your base GX or GS model, prepare to pay a premium of $2,000.

Performance and Efficiency

The 155-horsepower, 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G engine and six-speed manual transmission were both dropped for 2019. The standard powertrain now consists of a 187-horsepower, 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G and six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, the latter doing a perfectly fine job and even delivering fuel economy numbers similar to those of the old manual gearbox. Who needs a stick, really?

In GS and GT trim, class-exclusive cylinder deactivation technology allows the CX-5 to operate on just two cylinders under light load to save gas. According to Mazda, the system is particularly useful in low-speed city driving. For example, efficiency is improved by around 20 percent at 40 km/h and 5 percent at 80 km/h. Overall, based on Natural Resources Canada ratings, the difference with the standard CX-5 GX is just 3 percent.

Turbo Engine is the Best

Keeping up with the rest of the industry, Mazda last year added a turbocharged variant of the 2.5-litre engine. Standard in Signature trim and optional in GT trim ($2,000), it produces 227 horsepower with regular gasoline or 250 horsepower with premium gasoline. More importantly, torque amounts to 310 or 320 pound-feet, respectively.

While the base engine is a decent performer, the turbo makes the CX-5 surprisingly quick and responsive. In fact, 0-100 km/h acceleration times drop from 8.5 seconds to just 6.5 seconds. Do you remember Mazda’s old “Zoom-Zoom” mantra? This unit totally fits the bill.

Beautifully Crafted Interior

Despite its smallish body, the Mazda CX-5 comfortably accommodates four adults on long trips. Fit and finish, material selection and noise insulation are all outstanding. For 2020, upgraded construction between the headliner and roof result in an even quieter cabin. It really starts to feel and sound like a Mercedes-Benz in there!

Trunk capacity is slightly below that of the segment-leading RAV4 and CR-V. However, the CX-5 is versatile and practical enough.

And what about the drive? Steering is nicely calibrated, the brakes are powerful and easy to modulate, and the suspension effectively masks road imperfections without being too soft. The GT and Signature models have a firmer ride due to their 19-inch wheels, so go with a GX or GS (17 inches) if you prefer something smoother.

Impressive Standard Content

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 is generously equipped even in base trim. Standard content includes a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push-button start, a pollen filter, heated front buckets, a 40/20/40-split rear bench, plus advanced safety features such as Smart City Brake Support, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

All in all, the CX-5 doesn’t lack arguments to convince potential customers. It’s no wonder it remains a favourite of Canadians.

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