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2020 Mazda CX-5 Review

LIKES
  • Looks good inside and out
  • Taut ride and handling
  • Available turbo power
  • Decent value in most trims
DISLIKES
  • Turbo lag
  • Inferior infotainment
  • Cramped back seat
  • Average cargo space
BUYING TIP
  • The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Touring is satisfyingly equipped and still fun to drive.


The 2020 Mazda CX-5 trades family-ready space for fine handling and good power.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 would like to let you know that it is the sportiest small crossover SUV on the market. Subtle, occasional reminders, such as the high-effort steering, taut suspension, and bolstered seats are welcome. The powertrain rumble, cramped cargo utility, and tight back seat, all hallmarks of performance cars? Maybe not so much.

There’s a lot to like about the 2020 CX-5, but it occasionally tries too hard to be something we’re not sure too many shoppers actually want. It’s hampered by its lousy infotainment software and utility-lite interior but otherwise shines, prompting a 6.7 out of 10 score here. 

Base CX-5s make use of an adequate inline-4 rated at 187 horsepower, while a turbo-4 standard on higher-trim versions delivers more grunt but less refinement. A turbodiesel is due out sometime in 2020, though its launch has been many years in the making.

A 6-speed automatic transmission delivers power forward or to all four wheels. Its limited ratios hold back the engines a little when it comes to passing power, but it fires off quick shifts most of the time. 

Crisp handling and a good ride are among the CX-5’s best selling points. Interior quietness is improved for 2020, though the engines make their presence known. 

Front-seat occupants have comfortable thrones that offer a good range of adjustment on most trims. Rear-seat riders have OK leg room, but that’s about it, as the bench is flat and the diminutive CX-5 isn’t wide enough for three passengers to sit abreast. Cargo space is not great for a crossover, either. 

The interior is well-finished, especially on the range-topping Signature trim. Mazda’s infotainment system is at its best in the CX-5 thanks to its touchscreen, but we still think the system is far too menu-intensive. 

Active safety tech comes standard for 2020, enhancing its superlative crash-test record. The CX-5 is among the safest crossovers on the market. 

Fuel economy is just so-so, hampered in part by the 6-speed automatic gearbox. Popular versions come in at 26 mpg combined, which is off the pace of top competitors.

Styling
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 has a sophisticated look that should age well.

Mazda didn’t go to Italy to design its 2020 CX-5, but the automaker could have fooled us. The crossover’s clean lines look good in any color or trim level both inside and out, which earns an 8 out of 10 on our scale.

The long-hood profile gives the 2020 Mazda CX-5 a rear-wheel-drive appearance more like German crossovers, even though power primarily heads forward. The flat front fascia satisfies European pedestrian crash test standards while looking cohesive and clean, especially the fine detailing around the broad grille and narrow taillights that sweep into the fenders. 

Mazda swaps the standard 17-inch alloy wheels for 19-inchers on higher-trim versions, but even the base wheels have an intricate design that helps make the CX-5 look far more costly than it is.

That trend continues inside, with clean lines and good surface detailing. The low dash affords good outward vision. The infotainment screen pops up inelegantly from the dash, looking more like an afterthought than a well-integrated display. We also wish Mazda would be more creative in its interior hues on most trims — unless you like coal-bin black or easy-stain parchment, that is. A warm brown or even a neutral tan would be a nice middle ground, though the top Signature’s interior is adorned in soft mocha-hue leather.

Performance
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 boasts a fine balance between ride and handling, but we’re not impressed with what’s underhood.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 offers intriguing turbo power on upper trims, but a few minutes behind the wheel will convince many to stick with the base engine. This crossover’s best attributes are its ride and handling, while its engines could use a dollop of refinement. We rate the 2020 CX-5 at 6 for its performance.

The base inline-4 is a 2.5-liter unit with a 6-speed automatic transmission rated at a 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, which is sent forward or to all four wheels. The inline-4 is big but not especially powerful or quiet. Acceleration is acceptable, and the transmission works well to deliver quick downshifts for highway passing. Mazda quotes 0-60 mph sprints in the high 8-second range, which is about average for a crossover of this size. 

Higher-trim CX-5s swap in a turbocharged 2.5-liter that ups the ante to 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque (250 hp and 320 lb-ft with 93 octane fuel). These Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims come standard with AWD; otherwise it's a $1,400 upcharge. Performance is better, but not as much as the hefty torque rating might suggest. Sixty mph comes in the mid 7-second range. Passing power is decent, helped out by the sport mode for that holds gears longer.
A turbodiesel CX-5 is due later in 2020. We have not tested this model yet. 

Mazda’s available all-wheel-drive system responds quickly to slippery terrain. It’s among the more confidence-inspiring systems on the market in our experience. Don’t look to take the CX-5 off-road, though. It sits low to the ground and the tires don’t have the beefier sidewalls of its Toyota and Subaru rivals. 

The CX-5 has a thick-rimmed steering wheel that hints at this crossover’s curvy-road adeptness. Effort is high for a crossover, and the rack itself gives a good idea of what’s going on up front. Pushed down a curvy road, the crossover holds its line well and doesn’t need the constant corrections of some competitors. 

Ride quality is on the firm side, but still quite comfortable. The standard 17-inch wheels furnish a softer ride due to their taller sidewalls, but the optional 19-inchers are fine for roads that don’t look like Siberia.

Comfort & Quality
The driver-focused 2020 Mazda CX-5 leaves passengers and their gear wanting more.

Mazda boasts that it builds driver’s cars. Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than in the 2020 CX-5, which skips out on the spacious cargo holds and roomy back seats of rivals for a relatively narrow cabin that gives the driver excellent outward vision and a well-bolstered seat. 

We rate this reluctant crossover at 7 out of 10, heaping on points for the comfortable driver’s seat, the good materials, and the inevitable utility offered by a high-roof vehicle (though nearly every rival is better here). The CX-5 loses a point for its cramped rear seat. 

Stretching a hair under 180 inches between its bumpers, the CX-5 is on the small side for a compact crossover SUV. Up front, that’s not an issue. The CX-5 has supportive seats with a good amount of adjustment and decent head room, even with the optional sunroof. Higher-trim versions heap on soft leather as well as heated and cooled seats, putting luxury brands on notice. 

Rear-seat riders have nearly 40 inches of leg room on paper, but in reality the narrow door openings reveal a flat bench and no real ability to accommodate three abreast. 

Cargo space is just OK at 31 cubic feet behind the second row and a maximum of around 60 cubes with the rear seat flat. Subaru, Toyota, and Honda all offer crossovers that can carry more.

Small-item space isn’t great, either. The front doors have deep pockets, but the center console features a big control knob that eats up space where cell phones, sunglasses, pens, pencils, mugs, hairbrushes, electric razors, toaster ovens, and whatever else your fellow commuters might store in their RAV4s and CR-Vs. 

On the flip side, the CX-5 has nice materials at any trim level, while the range-topping Signature is adorned in soft Nappa leather and genuine wood trim. Engineers focused on reducing intrusive road noise for 2020, making the engine noise less noticeable. 

Safety
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 comes with standard active safety tech and top-rated safety scores.

Mazda no longer charges extra for active safety tech in its 2020 CX-5, something we heartily applaud. Combine its standard fare with excellent crash-test results, and we wind up with 8 out of 10 points here. 

This year, Mazda made standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and other gear designed to prevent impacts with pedestrians and other cars. Spend-up options for high-trim versions include a surround-view monitor, parking sensors, and a head-up display.

The NHTSA awarded the crossover five stars overall, including four stars in the calculated rollover test. That’s as good as any crossover gets in the feds’ eyes. 
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The IIHS says that the CX-5 aced its crash tests and that its headlights in most configurations rate “Good,” earning the small crossover a Top Safety Pick+ award.

Features
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 is a good value, but its infotainment system can be frustrating.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 comes in a wide array of trim levels that are well-equipped for the price, but none includes an infotainment system worth writing home about. 

We score the lineup at 6 out of 10, awarding it points for value and high-end features but docking one for the subpar interface. 

Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trims make use of the base inline-4, while Grand Touring Reserve and Signature versions swap in the more powerful turbo-4 and come standard with AWD. 

The lineup begins at $26,135 for the base CX-5 Sport, which hits the basics with its alloy wheels, power-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, active safety gear, and 7.0-inch screen with Bluetooth and two USB ports.

The Sport’s lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility would automatically make us step up to the CX-5 Touring for about $1,600 more. It adds synthetic leather upholstery, more seat adjustments, an upgraded audio system, automatic climate control, keyless entry and ignition, and heated front seats. A $1,700 option package with a power moonroof, power liftgate, Bose speakers, and a couple of other goodies may be a necessary extravagance for some buyers.

At about $38,200, the range-topping CX-5 Signature is priced near some luxury crossover SUVs. Luckily for you, it’s equipped like one. The interior is trimmed out in real Nappa leather and wood, while additional goodies include a surround-view monitor, a head-up display, cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, and 19-inch wheels. 

The CX-5 makes use of a 7.0-inch touchscreen that boasts a crisp display, but that’s about where our praise ends. Its menus are unnecessarily complex, while the control knob in the center console is the only means of operation other than the fussy steering wheel controls and haphazard voice commands. It's supposedly safer than a touchscreen, once you figure out how to use it. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration help but are still tedious with the center console knob.

Fuel Economy
A new turbodiesel could give the 2020 Mazda CX-5 more competitive fuel economy.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 delivers average fuel economy versus its rivals, though the upcoming turbodiesel could (hopefully) change that. 

For now, we score the lineup at 5 out of 10 based on the non-turbo with all-wheel drive. That version is rated at 24 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined, which is just OK among its rivals. 

Stick with front-wheel drive and those figures climb slightly to 25/31/28 mpg. Non-turbo CX-5s can run on just two cylinders to save fuel, and a new display on their dashboards this year indicates when they’re operating in half mode. 

Turbos are rated at 22/27/24 mpg with all-wheel drive.


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About Udara Madusanka

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