What makes the CX-5 immune to bad reviews? performance mostly. Followed by a semi-luxury cabin that defies its price. As for the former, the CX-5’s nimble maneuverability and ample horsepower caused JD Power to stray from simple slang calling it “fun.” This highlights what the CX-5 does differently from other vehicles in the segment, namely prioritizing driver-focused features over pure practicality.
Is the CX-5 still practical? Yeah. But most importantly, driving is a lot of fun. For 2022, all CX-5 models receive all-wheel drive as standard, making shopping more about engines and interior trim. This is a cross with category-defying features, yet it is still affordable for buyers on a budget. Mazda got it right with the CX-5, and that’s exactly why.
Reason #1 – It’s different
In a sea of cross-similarity, the 2022 Mazda CX-5 hints at a different formula. Your first clue is its robust design, with small deviations from the standard egg-shaped compact package to create a unique curb profile. Also, Mazda offers the CX-5 in eight models, which is on the high side, but there’s a good deal of logic behind the lineup. First, Mazda keeps the CX-5 affordable. This is important for the first time and for gaining market share.
The second generation CX-5 was launched only a few years ago as a 2017 model, and 2022 is an update for this generation. In addition to some minor design tweaks, Mazda has improved the CX-5’s suspension and frame, making the cabin quieter and the car less susceptible to road vibrations. Ride relief hasn’t come at the expense of driver-oriented handling, so the CX-5 retains its key point of difference: spirited performance.
Compare that to other competitors like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue. Both crossovers have the same value proposition: practicality, cargo capacity, and fuel economy. Will Buyers Find a CX-5 Hybrid? No, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find a look with competitive fuel economy ratings. Same thing for safety. IIHS has given it a Top Safety Pick+ rating on the 2022 Mazda CX-5, thanks in part to the robust suite of driver assistance technologies available on all models.
The car and driver call the 2022 CX-5 “transcendent” and make no attempt to hide their strong conviction that Mazda’s iconic compact crossover “simply surpasses[s] all his classmates.” It even made the magazine’s prestigious 2022 Editor’s Choice list. Given the eight-piece lineup, affordable starting price of $20,000, and the CX-5’s agile handling and performance features, to say it’s a Caramel Dulce de Leche Luxury in a sea of vanilla alternatives is an understatement.
Reason #2 – It’s strong
The following marketing slogan for Mazda’s CX-5 should read, don’t worry…the boring practical stuff is there: You can’t see it, because this car runs so well and is so affordable that buyers may wonder what the catch is. Well, no catch, other than a lower cargo volume than some of its competitors. Most buyers won’t really notice because they’ll be too busy crunching CR-Vs and RAV4s out of the line.
Performance comes with two available engine combinations – a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 187 horsepower and a powerful turbocharged version of the same engine capable of up to 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. The latter gives drivers access to tons of lower torque, which translates into quick acceleration while providing more ponies. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly, and since all trims receive standard AWD, driving in bad weather is a breeze.
For 2022, Mazda is adding the Mazda Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive), a series of selectable driving modes that subtly alter driving dynamics to tailor the ride. Three modes — normal, sport and off-road — dial in modified torque and throttle responses but do so subtly, so shifting is smoother. After all, the driving modes should improve the ride, not transform it. Available towing mode starts only if the system senses that a trailer is attached.
An integral part of a well-designed performance car is a solid frame and track-inspired suspension tuned to provide adequate protection from uneven road surfaces but not too much control relief. Somehow, Mazda engineers made it all happen in the 2022 CX-5. Combined with the standard AWD system and the new selectable Mi-Drive system, these upgrades lead to marked improvements in ride handling. In short, the CX-5 is more fun to drive than 99.9% of its competitors.
Reason #3 – It’s luxurious
The best way to understand the level of luxury of the 2022 CX-5 is to take a deep dive into the design of the sophisticated 2.5 Turbo Signature. This version has it all, from a more powerful engine to a few high-end luxury cabin equipment and even some unexpected goodies that buyers will love. You won’t find many compact crossovers with LED-illuminated vanity mirrors, but the CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature has it—as well as the roof and cargo area lighting.
Also standard on the high-end CX-5 are Caturra Brown Nappa leather seats, a feature not usually seen outside of the premium luxury class. The original wood trim adorns the dashboard, further contributing to the refined cabin ambiance. Audio comes via a 10-speaker Bose system with surround sound, and Mazda simplifies smartphone integration with a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless charging pad, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
In contrast, the high-end Honda CR-V Touring sticks to basic leather seats and wood accents, a nameless 9-speaker audio system, and a paltry 7-inch touchscreen. The latter is particularly perplexing. Honda’s decision to stick with a smaller screen appears to run counter to consumer preference for next-generation technology. Honda gave the redesigned 2022 Civic an optional 9-inch screen, which makes the CR-V’s rendering even more bewildering.
The surest path to affordable luxury lies in the CX-5 lineup. While other compact crossovers could offer more cargo space and slightly less expensive base models, the 2022 Mazda CX-5 stands alone as a more elegant semi-luxury option. Not only that, but it’s much more powerful than its competitors and gets praise for subtle, agile handling not usually seen in a crossover that didn’t come from a luxury German brand.
Change the compact crossover formula
What is the secret to the success of the Mazda CX-5? It’s a re-arrangement of the genre, with Mazda prioritizing handling and performance over the more discreet and practical features crossover buyers have come to expect. Not that the CX-5 isn’t practical—it’s practical from all angles, whether it’s safety, fuel economy or passenger size; They are only packaged with more fit and finish – discerning buyers will recognize a certain thing.
In short, here’s what’s different: It gave the Mazda CX-5 personality. It is sophisticated yet graceful. It poised in an unexpected way for any crossover, let alone one in this size class and at this price point. The diverse lineup means it’s the buyer’s choice for fit, finish, powertrain and technology. Budget permitting, there is no better option than the luxurious and powerful CX-5 to eliminate the boredom of trying out crossover ownership.