Compared to the major Japanese brands, Mazda is a very small automaker. That's a real head-scratcher for me, because Mazda offers a lot more in their SUVs and cars than the other manufacturers, and they offer it at a good price. The 2017 Mazda CX-5 is a great example. In the most basic trim, this compact two-row crossover starts at just $24,985, and in the top-level Grand Touring trim with AWD, it's $31,635.
The price is comparable with the competition, but Mazda offers a few features that no one else has. First, Mazda's i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system is so advanced, it actually predicts wheel slip before you can feel it and engages the AWD system to proactively give you traction.
Mazda's predictive AWD relies on over 20 different sensors looking at everything from the outside temperature to whether your windshield wipers are on, and engages all the wheels within a tiny fraction of a second. I've driven the CX-5 on snow and ice, and it's impressive. Where other brands were slipping and sliding, the CX-5 simply drives on. That's going to come in handy in a couple more months.
The next feature is something Mazda calls G-Vectoring Control. This is a crazy genius idea where the CX-5 reduces engine torque very slightly when you start to move the steering wheel to make a turn. The weight of the vehicle shifts forward to place more weight on the front tires, giving them more traction. You experience this as an SUV that responds to its steering wheel like a sports car.
The CX-5 is powered by an efficient and powerful 2.5-liter naturally aspirated SKYACTIV engine, and uses a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission. You can also get every new safety feature on the market, including a head-up display that projects your speed and navigation information onto the windshield. You can see this during the day, and it's wonderful at night. You can get adaptive cruise control, automatic forward braking, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The tech situation is good with the 7-inch Mazda Connect infotainment system. Navigation is optional, but you'll enjoy Bluetooth hands-free phone support and in the Grand Touring trim, a 10-speaker Bose surround sound system.
But the real reason to buy a Mazda CX-5 is for the driving experience. This is an SUV that will have you grinning from ear to ear. The CX-5 drives like a sport compact car, with plenty of acceleration and a great smooth and firm ride. If you haven't considered Mazda before, you really need to test drive the CX-5 before making any decisions.
Base price: $31,635
Price as tested: $33,785
Type: Compact crossover SUV
Engine: 2.5-liter inline 4 (187 hp, 185 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 23/30
Overall length: 179.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,655 pounds
Final assembly: Hiroshima, Japan