2020 Mazda CX-5 Review
By Jakob Hansen, 6/14/2021
Mazda brings a lot to the table with the CX-5, is it enough to keep a grey-haired platform relevant?
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The CX-5 has been around for several years now, and the 2020 model year hasn’t brought on any changes overall. New for this year are standard advanced safety features, improved noise reduction, and not much else.
That being said, we still enjoyed the 2020 Mazda CX-5 just as much as we did back in 2016 when we first got behind the wheel of the updated model. There are some parts of the sporty SUV that could definitely use some improvements, but overall it remains one of our favorite SUVs in an extremely competitive class.
When Mazda updated the brand’s persona to an upscale, affordable luxury class, they put themselves into a unique one-of-a-kind class. With high-quality interiors than their Japanese brothers and sisters, but prices lower than the Germans, Mazda held a unique place in the market.
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature still holds true to this identity. As the top trim level for the CX-5, it comes adequately equipped with advanced safety features, a potentate drivetrain, an upscale interior, and the best looking exterior of any economy class SUV.
First, let’s focus on the good, and there is a lot of good. The first thing you notice on the CX-5 is the styling. The exterior of the CX-5 is stark and attractive.
The front end is the most attractive in the class. The chrome lip starting under the headlights and following the bottom of the grille opening protrudes just enough to stand out against the black grille insert. The gap formed on the inside edge of the headlights is reminiscent of a BMW styling cue that was highly regarded, and the CX-5 wears it well.
Following along the side of the vehicle, the A-line starts on the top of the hood and swoops down the doors running into the rear fender, giving the side fo the CX-5 a sculpted high-cheek-bone look, like a young Johnny Depp.
Just above the rear wheel arch starts the B-line, which draws the eyes back toward the squinted taillights and high-waisted rear end.
Around the back, the Mazda designers have done a magnificent job of hiding the large structural D-pillar and small rear window and made the best out of a difficult shape. The tailgate of SUVs is the most difficult part to design, and still to this day, no one has completely gotten the look right.
Overall the exterior is handsome, even upscale looking, and the gorgeous Mazda Soul Red Metalic paint just accentuates the body lines and curves.
Inside, the CX-5 continues its excellent design. The simplistic interior looks very German and clearly aims at customers accustomed to high-quality design rather than utilitarian thoughtlessness. The Caturra Brown leather seats are so subtle, you barely notice that they’re not black, but still appreciate the beauty of them. The dash is simple and attractive, with quality trim inserts, soft-touch materials, and a style that far outshines Japanese competitors.
The drivetrain is also glorious. The Skyactiv-G 2.5T makes a stout 227 horsepower and an impressive 310 lb-ft of torque. That torque is transmitted through the Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed Sport Mode transmission, I-Active all-wheel drive, and G-Vectoring Control Plus, and while that all sounds like a marketing mumbo-jumbo, which it is, what it really means is you have an engine that pulls hard that’s able to put the power down evenly and all through a true-blue old school 6 speed. And it feels great.
The throttle response is quick for a global engine such as this, and the torque curves is even all the way up to about 200 RPM before redline. From a performance standpoint, at this price point, this drive train rules the road.
Efficiency isn’t terrible either, as long as you keep the 2.5l out of boost. EPA estimates you can get around 22 mpg city and 27 highway with a combined rating of 24. We were able to keep the efficiency around similar figures, though the 27 highway seems a bit ambitious when cruising at normal highway speeds.
The entire vehicle seems to be a Japanese take on German sport luxury. The Mazda CX-5 seems to have its sights set high, with a mentality that’s aimed at brands such as Audi, BMW, and even Porsche, but a price tag aimed at Toyotas and Hondas. While the quality is nowhere near that of its German idols, its clear that vehicles such as the Q5, X5, and Macan were benchmarked to find a different focus than other Japanese brands. If you were to ask us what the CX-5 is, we would say it’s 7/10th of a Porsche at 3/10th of the cost.
So the question is, what’s important to you?
As much as we absolutely loved the 2020 Mazda CX-5, there are some bad points that have to be covered. The first, and most glaring, is the infotainment system.
Unfortunately, there is a lot to be covered here. The screen itself is too small, too old, and terribly placed. The tacked-on screen look has been tried, and has been proven to be a failure. Seeing as the current CX-5 has been in rotation since 2017, we are not surprised to see the interior following 2017 trends, but the placement is severely out of date.
As is the system itself. The entire system looks like the old Audi MMI system from 2006, and that is not an exaggeration. The system looks dated, feels dated, and operates dated. The lag between screens is terrible, the lack of touchscreen is an oversight, and the dated appearance is unmistakable.
The infotainment system is by far the weakest point of the CX-5, and is in desperate need of an update.
Other than the infotainment, there are other quibbles we had with the interior. While Mazda did an excellent job of incorporating upscale design and materials, there is clear cost-cutting. We have to admit, Mazda did a great job of hiding it, but there are some switches, dials, and surfaces that feel like they belong in the economy SUV that the Mazda at heart truly is.
Much of this can be attributed to the fact that the 2020 CX-5 is riding on a five-year-old platform, and when held against 2020 redesigned vehicles, these quirks start to show their age.
Overall, we loved the Mazda. The upscale interior, the high-quality ride and car control, powerful drivetrain, and beautiful exterior all stuck in our head long after we gave the SUV back to Mazda.
For the 2017 model year, the Mazda CX-5 was an unprecedented vehicle, and outshined everything in its class. In 2020, the lines have been blurred, and the once up-scale CX-5 has started to fall to the wayside of its economy class brothers.
Even though it has started to show its age and lost some of what once separated it from the competition, the CX-5 is still a one-of-a-kind SUV in its
class. When faced with the question of what sub-$40,000 SUV we would buy, the CX-5 would still make the shortlist.