2022 Mazda CX-5 Turbo First Test: A Small SUV Not Trying to Be Everything to Everybody
- Classic good looks
- Excellent safety ratings
- Fantastic to drive
- Poor efficiency,
- Short driving range
- Heavy steering
Don’t overlook the 2022 Mazda CX-5 simply because the design is six years old. The truth? Age hasn’t affected the CX-5 the way it does most cars on five- or six-year redesign cycles. It takes just one spirited drive to be reminded of how timeless good performance can be. And with the attractive CX-5, a backward glance in a parking lot has the same effect. As Mazda continues to iterate on a successful formula, we tested a turbocharged 2022 CX-5 Signature with a $40,595 price tag to see how the completely loaded compact SUV measures up, and what holds it back.
Wait, didn’t we do this just last year? Well, yes and no. The 2021 CX-5 introduced a new 10.3-inch screen that sits proudly at the top of the dash on every trim. For 2022, more changes are in store, but this time they’re more felt than seen. Sure, there are a handful of subtle exterior tweaks, but the more significant changes start with every CX-5 now coming with standard AWD. Mazda has also retuned—but not replaced—its six-speed automatic transmission and updated the suspension to make the ride more comfortable.
What didn’t change are the two engine options. Most 2022 CX-5s will be powered by a 187-hp 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I-4. But not the CX-5 Turbo Signature. At the top of the range, that flagship model is one of two trims with a turbocharged version of the same engine, good for 227 hp and 310 lb-ft if you stick with 87-octane fuel or 256 hp and 320 lb-ft on 93-octane fuel.
At the Track: Good, Not Great
Offering a non-hybrid engine upgrade puts the 2022 CX-5 against the trend in compact SUVs. We’ve seen competitors drop their non-hybrid go-faster engine options, but it’s no surprise to see Mazda still playing in this space. Accelerating to 60 mph took 6.8 seconds in our testing, which is good or meh depending on your chosen competitive set. At just over 40 grand, the 2022 CX-5 Turbo Signature nearly costs as much as a Genesis GV70 2.5T or Acura RDX, and both of those luxury SUVs outrun the Mazda (6.0 and 6.4 seconds, respectively). Against a Ford Escape 2.0T, however, the CX-5 regains a bit of its luster. The Ford reaches 60 in 6.9 seconds while the Toyota RAV4 XSE, a sporty 219-hp hybrid trim of that best-selling SUV, hits the same benchmark speed in 7.1 seconds.
Then there’s the CX-5 itself for comparison. A non-turbo CX-5 needs 8.3 seconds for the same sprint to 60, a 1.5-second difference that could help justify the thousands of dollars you’ll need jumping from 2.5 S Premium Plus to the 2.5 Turbo or 2.5 Turbo Signature trims.
Remarkably, the 2022 CX-5 Turbo Signature completes the MotorTrend figure-eight course in the exact same 27.7 seconds at an average of 0.61 g. The figure-eight test is the relatively compact way we evaluate acceleration, handling, and braking, as well as the transitions in between. In this case, the two turbocharged CX-5s are limited by a stability control system that’s proactive at the limit. Even so, the CX-5’s figure-eight performance is about even with the RAV4 XSE hybrid (27.6 seconds at 0.63 g average), Escape 2.0T (27.7 seconds at 0.64 g average), and the non-turbo CX-5 (27.8 seconds at 0.59 g average).
On the track, road test editor Chris Walton commented on the CX-5’s “good, not great” power and said there wasn’t a ton of grip from the tires under braking. Drive a little slower and the Mazda delivers more fun per mile than you might think possible on a sensible SUV. We appreciate the burbling engine sound, and the updated suspension feels like a real improvement. Also, the steering feel gives confidence in every drive; the overall package is good enough that it’ll remind you what it felt like to go out for a drive just because. On the other hand, we wish the SUV was more refined at idle, there’s occasionally a bit of torque steer, and we wouldn’t mind lighter-weight steering. The heavy steering sets the Mazda apart, but the automaker could still be the go-to brand for fun-to-drive cars without steering that can be tiring.
$40K For a Mazda? How Fancy Are These Pants?
The Mazda CX-5’s design has aged well. Its curves are vaguely premium, a description you could easily apply to the dash. A wide swath of leather-like material just above and below the central air vents frees the upper dashboard from clutter and reminds us of high-end clothing stores with more free space than actual clothes for sale. The design detail is honestly more impressive than the subtle genuine wood trim, which is unique to the Signature trim. Seat comfort was addressed for 2022 and we had no complaints, not something we could say about the 2021 model. The Caturra Brown Nappa leather is also Signature-exclusive, but the brown is so dark that you may not realize it isn’t black unless seen in the right light.
The CX-5 continues a Mazda tradition of excellent knee pads. We’re not kidding—whether you seek out every curved two-lane road or live your life one traffic-choked commute at a time, a soft knee pad on the Carbon Edition and higher trims is a premium feature many luxury cars don’t get right. Not everything is class-above inside. Not having a panoramic moonroof is one area (hello, CX-50!) and the instrument cluster’s central 7.0-inch display is the other. At $40,595, we’d like more functionality from that screen or a larger display, something we’re starting to see on some of the CX-5’s competitors. A 360-degree camera system with a front corner view is a good feature to have at this price point, as are heated and ventilated front seats—although we wish the ventilation was quieter and the low-positioned controls for heating/ventilation were easier to use.
A 10.3-inch screen is standard on every CX-5—and that’s great not just for its size but also its position at the top of the dash. Not everyone will like that it’s not a touchscreen while in motion, but with practice, the rotary dial works fine.
What Money Can’t Buy
Perhaps the most delightful surprise from this six-year-old vehicle are the superb safety ratings. With a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA (out of a possible five stars) and a 2022 Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Practicality is also mostly a CX-5 win. The rear doors open wide, a convenience you’ll appreciate over time if you regularly fill that space with a child seat, stuff, or friends. Putting the rear-seat USBs in the center console with room for a phone is a genius move that makes a ton of sense as long as you have only two passengers back there. Also, folding down the rear seats is no problem thanks to controls in the cargo area. As we’ve noted for years, however, the CX-5 isn’t as spacious in its rear seat or cargo area as the roomiest in the segment.
CX-5 2.5 S vs. 2.5 Turbo
So the CX-5 is attractive, practical, and vaguely premium. More so than with its dated instrument cluster screen, though, the CX-5 Turbo misses the mark in terms of efficiency and the effect it has on driving range. With EPA ratings at 22/27 mpg city/highway, that’s lower than the Escape 2.0T (22/31 mpg), RAV4 Hybrid (41/38 mpg), and even the new CX-50 with the same engine (23/29 mpg). With a combined city/highway driving range of 367 miles, the CX-5 Turbo will require a fill up more often than any of those SUVs. In case you’re wondering, the non-turbo CX-5 kicks in another 28 miles of range before needing more gas. If the ultimate luxury is time, we hope a future CX-5 will provide a larger gas tank, greater efficiency, or both to increase the time between visits to the gas station.
The CX-5 Turbo Signature is a tempting package. Somehow, Mazda has made an older entry feel fresh. Where the SUV stumbles is mpg, range, and a couple minor tech issues. We could get over the last disadvantage, but the first two give us pause. If that sounds like you, too, we strongly recommend saving nearly five grand and getting the most loaded non-turbo trim you can find. Even without a turbo, the Mazda CX-5’s magic is clearly evident—even after all these years.
2022 Mazda CX-5 Turbo First Test: Not Trying to Be Everything to Everybody
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