2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature - Inching Ever Closer to Perfection

Fast Facts

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD

2.5-liter turbocharged I4 (227 hp @ 5000 rpm, 310 lb/ft. @ 2000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
22 city / 27 highway / 24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
10.8 city / 8.7 highway / 9.8 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
22.9 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $37,885 US / $42,976 CAD
As Tested: $39,330 / $45,280 CAD
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2026 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 mazda cx 5 signature inching ever closer to perfection

Does a crossover really need to be good to drive, or is mere competence good enough to win buyers? Most carmakers settle for “good enough,” and yet they keep selling.

Mazda, of course, doesn’t settle. Performance is baked into everything it offers. I’m certain that if Mazda offered a panel van, some fool out there would start racing a Mazda Los Pollos Hermanos truck.

Thus, I had high hopes when a turbocharged crossover was announced. Already the best-driving crossover available, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature adds power and class to family hauling perfection.

I could likely cut and paste my review of the naturally-aspirated CX-5 from a year ago, using find-and-replace to amend any mention of power. The CX-5 remains the best-looking small crossover by far, with just a few plush touches to justify the Signature label. Few details on the exterior betray this Signature from lesser models – only a tailgate badge.

As an aside, while the Snowflake White Pearl finish on this CX-5 Signature is quite attractive, I’d like to publicly request to Mazda’s public relations team to start stocking press fleets with cars painted something other than white or a variation on Soul Red. This is the ninth Hiroshima product I’ve had the privilege of testing on these fine digital pages, and they’ve all been white or red.

The interior has a few new touches – the heated front seats now add ventilation for my sweaty tail, a lovely shade of dark brown for the Nappa leather seats, and handsome wood trim on the dash all add a touch of class. The rear seats now have heat, as well.

Most notably, Mazda finally adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity to the familiar infotainment system. The touch/click/spin wheel mounted on the console is growing on me; with the familiarity a new-car buyer would gain within a few weeks, it seems to be a more precise and less-distracting method of adjusting audio and navigation controls.

The big change is the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine. Adding (at least) forty horsepower over the naturally aspirated base engine, a whopping 310 lb-ft of torque is available barely off tickover at 2,000 rpm. Should the 227 hp not be adequate, spring for 93 octane unleaded and the full potential of 250 hp will make itself known.

Your cheapskate author did not spring for premium fuel. If we had facilities for instrumented testing, I might – but few are buying a CX-5 Signature for drag racing. The extra power is nice when merging into traffic, and especially when making a pass on a country two-lane.

Mazda sticks with a six-speed automatic transmission, while most of the competition has moved on to eight or more forward cogs. No matter, really – the powerband keeps the shifting to a minimum, making for more pleasant cruising compared to eight- or nine-speed ‘boxes that constantly hunt for the ideal gear.

That’s where the CX-5 is simply brilliant. It’s elegant to look at, great to drive, and easy to live with. Mazda has been steadily moving upmarket with its entire lineup – where it was once a mainstream brand chasing a volume it could never quite manage, Mazda has shown with impressive cars like this CX-5 Signature that it’s worthy of a “premium” brand label.

I can’t think of a compact crossover, no matter the price tag, that I’d rather live with.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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2 of 67 comments
  • Ashy Larry Ashy Larry on May 01, 2019

    Maybe the only thing keeping me from considering this car is the pretty stark lack of rear legroom. Currently have a Golf R and when the driver's seat is adjusted for where I like it, rear legroom in both cars is about the same.

  • MorrisGray MorrisGray on Oct 30, 2019

    Larry what year is your Golf and would you consider it reliable? I wanted to buy a Mazda sedan this year with manual transmission to replace my 2006 Mazda3 5sp 2.0L sedan but they no longer offer a manual in the 3 or 6 sedan. So now I am shopping for something else and not sure if I like the Mazda3 hatchback enough to buy it instead.

  • 2ACL What tickles me is that the Bronco looks the business with virtually none of the black plastic cladding many less capable crossovers use.
  • IBx1 For all this time with the hellcat engine, everything they made was pathetic automatic scum save for the Challenger. A manual Durango, Grand Cherokee, Charger, 300C, et al would have been the real last gasp for driving enthusiasts. As it is, the party is long over.
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.