Behind the Wheel

2022 Mazda CX-5 — Sporty and Practical

2022 Mazda CX5Model tested: 2022 Mazda CX-5 AWD Signature

Engine: Skyactive 2.5-liter turbo

Transmission: Skyactive Drive 6-speed automatic

Horsepower: 227

Torque: 310 lb.-ft.

EPA rating: 22/city, 27/highway, 24/combined

Base price: $38,650

As tested: $40,270

Overview: The Mazda CX-5 is arguably the sportiest in the highly competitive compact crossover class. Its power and nimble handling are the answers for those needing something practical — but refuse giving up driving for fun. There are three engine choices but our Signature model test-driver had the 2.5-liter turbo, and this review focuses on only that vehicle.

Walkaround: The CX-5 is stylish, with smooth, flowing lines that eschew the boring, boxy SUV look. Narrow headlights slant downward — and combined with Mazda’s signature shark-like grille and just enough chrome, create a very aggressive appearance. Bluntly put, the CX-5 is more luxurious and stylish than practically anything else in this market segment.

2022 Mazda CX5Interior: The Signature and Grand Touring Reserve models feature honest luxury trappings like real wood and nappa leather. The comfortable front seats are bolstered well enough to facilitate sportier driving. The rear seats are narrow and three adults could become uncomfortable on a trip. However, they do recline. The 10.25-inch infotainment screen is operated via a console-mounted dial, steering wheel buttons or voice control. The Bose premium audio sounds are great, but the Mazda system itself is inconvenient to use at best. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help; however, if you get or make a phone call, you often have to retune the radio, which defaults to the phone’s audio setting. The cargo area reveals 31 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 60 with them folded.

Behind the wheel: The sporty CX-5 is the fun one in this congested pack of unexciting compact crossovers. The chassis utilizes four-wheel independent suspension and a rigid steel unibody design, coupled with torque-vectoring that adjusts to deliver great cornering and a stable, road-holding ride. Steering is firm but not heavy. The turbocharged version of the basic 2.5-liter powerplant — standard on the top two trims — justifies the upcharge for those models. We road-tripped the CX-5 to Skamania Lodge and back and were pleasantly surprised by the lack of cabin noise.

Bottom line: The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Signature is a driver’s crossover thanks to its powerful engine and great chassis. It’s somewhat smaller than competitors and has complicated infotainment, but it’s the class champion for driving fun.