Driving Joy: 2020 Mazda CX-5 Compact Crossover

If you’re looking for an affordable family car with room five, ample utility space, and available towing capacity, then the compact crossover SUV segment is a great place to start.

Small and affordable, most models start in the low 20s and top out in the mid-30s when loaded to the hilt. The sweet spot is in the upper 20s range, where value, amenities, and comfort intersect.

The Mazda CX-5 is one such model in a crowded segment. It stands out for its design as well as its features and value. It is one of four Mazda SUVs, beginning with the CX-3 and CX-30, then followed by the midsize, three-row Mazda CX-9. Its price point is higher than most competitors as we’ll soon see.

2020 Mazda CX-5 Review

Mazda offers the 2020 CX-5 in Sport ($25,190), Touring ($26,830), Grand Touring ($30,310), Grand Touring Reserve ($35,135), and Signature ($37,155) trims.

The first three trims come with standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive, a $1,400 upgrade. The two top trims are all-wheel-drive only. Add $1,100 for the destination fee in the contiguous states ($1,045 in Hawaii; $1,145 in Alaska).


We’re biased when it comes to Mazda, as we find its vehicles typically are the most handsome of the lot. Mazda may be a mainstream brand, but it takes aim at the premium segment with its higher trim models.

Mazda makes a big deal about its KODO (soul of motion) design language and for good reason. Beyond its gaping grille and LED accent lighting, beautiful character lines and carefully crafted body sculpting impart elegance.

Choice wheel options, a rising beltline with a rapidly rising end (which reminds us of the Volvo XC-40) and a sculpted rear deck round out the look.

LED lights, alloy wheels, and rain-sensing wipers are standard. Move up through the trims and Mazda adds such features as automatic-leveling headlights, adaptive front lighting, additional LED lighting including fog lights, larger wheels, and heated and power-folding side mirrors.


The beautiful lines of the exterior have their match inside the vehicle. The lines are clean and the surfaces detailed. We appreciate the dashboard layout as it offers superior frontal vision. In the middle of it all is the infotainment screen, which sits on top of the dashboard. Some prefer an integrated look, but Mazda chose a different path.

Most of the interior has soft-touch materials, brightwork trim, and limited use of plastic. Cloth seats give way to leather as you move up through the trim ranks. Standard air conditioning gives way to dual-zone climate control.

You’ll also find heated and ventilated front seats on some trims along with heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, and LED lighting.

As with nearly every model in this segment, the CX-5 is ideal for four, but fits five in a pinch. The front seats are comfortable and supply good support. Likewise, the rear split-fold bench seat offers similar comfort. Access and egress requires only a slight tilt of the head, especially when entering the cabin.


All CX-5 trims come with standard keyless entry and push-button start. Mazda includes a 7-inch touch-screen display, HD Radio, USB input, and a four-speaker audio system.

Beginning with the Touring trim, the CX-5 gains a six-speaker audio system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility. The middle Grand Touring trim brings in satellite radio and a 10-speaker Bose audio system.

The Touring Reserve has an 8-inch touch-screen display. A navigation system is standard with the top-trim Signature edition.


For 2020, Mazda made some changes to safety equipment and its all good. Before this year, Mazda charged extra for active safety tech; this year, so much is included and reflected in the price.

Here, you’ll find such features as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitoring, and special equipment designed to prevent impacts with pedestrians and other cars.

On higher-trim models, you’ll find a few extra-spend items, including a surround-view monitor, parking sensors, and a head-up display.


Mazda offers two powertrain combinations with the 2020 CX-5. The first three trims are motivated by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed to the wheels utilizing a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The engine is very familiar to Auto Trends and is found in many Mazda applications, including the CX-30 and Mazda6. In some forms, such as in the two top trims of the CX-5 (including our test Signature edition) and in the CX-9, it is turbocharged. In this case, the engine makes 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque (or 250 hp and 320 lb.-ft. with premium fuel).

Even in non-aspirated form, it is an appropriate engine for the CX-5, as it delivers ample step-off power and sufficient passing power. It doesn’t have the oomph of turbocharged competitors from Ford and Volkswagen, but it keeps up with the pack where it matters. Expect to earn about 25 mpg in combined city/highway driving with an all-wheel-drive version.

Our CX-5 Signature edition changes the driving dynamic considerably, thanks to turbocharging. The added power up front and on the open road is welcome. Just expect some turbo-lag to rear its head under hard acceleration – Mazda uses a single turbo, thus the slight delay when flooring it.

Steering is light to the touch and this SUV handles reasonably well on twisty roads and when pulling out of corners. Flick the switch to sport mode and it holds each gear longer. By no means is the CX-5 a corner carver, but it certainly isn’t a laggard, especially in turbo guise.

Competitive Set

Every manufacturer has at least one entry in the compact crossover utility segment. Indeed, there are more than one dozen models to choose from. Most have standard front-wheel drive; all offer all-wheel drive.

Other models to consider include the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and the Nissan Rogue. Also, the Ford Escape, Dodge Journey, Chevrolet Equinox, and GMC Terrain must be given consideration.

Other models in this segment include the Mitsubishi Outlander, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, and the Subaru Forester.

Our Recommendation

Start your search with the middle Grand Touring trim and you’ll find leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, power-controlled front seats, and a power liftgate.

An available Premium Package ($1,625) adds automatic power-folding side mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer, a heated steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats, ventilated front seats, and an active driving display (head-up display).

With the package, your cost is $33,325, and that’s high. However, with the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis raging, dealers should have more wiggle room to negotiate.

2020 Mazda CX-5 Specifications

Mazda 2020 CX-5
Segment Compact SUV
Price Range 25,190 to $37,155
Destination Charge $1,100
Engine No. 1 2.5-liter, I4
Horsepower 187 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 186 @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Engine No. 2 2.5-liter, I4
Horsepower 227/250 @ 2,000 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 310/320 @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 3,679
Wheelbase (inches) 106.2
Length (inches) 179.1
Width (inches) 72.5
Height (inches) 66.1
Headroom (f,r…inches) 39.7, 39.0
Legroom (f,r…inches) 41.0, 39.6  
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 57.1, 54.8
Hip room (f,r…inches) 55.2, 55.3
Storage (cubic feet) 30.9, 59.6
Gross vehicle weight rating (pounds) 4,724
Towing (pounds) 2,000
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 15.3
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 24/30/26
Manufacturing Plant Japan

Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.

See Also – Premium Utility: 2020 Mazda CX-30

Photo copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Matthew Keegan

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