• CX-5 adds an upscale Signature version for 2019
  • Turbocharged Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter makes up to 250 horsepower, 310 lb-ft of torque
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available
  • Fuel economy 22/27/24 mpg
  • Price starts at $36,890


Although one of the smaller Japanese automakers, Mazda is a much-beloved niche brand that commands an avid following by virtue of its design and engineering. The company emphasizes aesthetic flourishes inside and out, and takes a technically sophisticated approach to the driving experience.

Based on the second-generation CX-5 compact crossover introduced in the U.S. in 2017, Mazda takes the next step with a high-quality interior in its new top-tier Signature trim level. A livelier powertrain debuts for 2019, with the addition of the optional turbocharged Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Changes also focus on the chassis, which features new G-Vectoring Control Plus.

What’s New Inside

The CX-5 Signature's cabin is upholstered in Caturra Brown Nappa leather seats with an instrument panel trimmed in wood, which appeals to what Mazda describes as “mature sensibilities.” For 2019, the CX-5’s 7-inch full color touchscreen display adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to its infotainment suite. Mazda engineers have tweaked the screen position and the navigation control knob to discourage the driver from touching the screen (as opposed to using the knob) during the vehicle’s operation. Mazda says testing has shown that a driver’s attempt to touch the correct icon is dangerously distracting.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

Powerplant details

The Skyactiv-G 2.5T engine, available in Mazda’s CX-9 midsize crossover and the refreshed Mazda6 sedan, is a technologically refined powerplant producing 310 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 RPM and 250 horsepower when using 93-octane fuel (227 horsepower with 87-octane fuel). Mazda explained that the new engine, mated to a 6-speed automatic, is designed to deliver maximum torque and acceleration at relatively low engine rpms to help during low-speed driving conditions that are typical for the average driver. 

The long-awaited CX-5 Diesel finally arrives, too! 

To improve steering response, Mazda equips all trim levels of the new CX-5 with G-Vectoring Control Plus. As the name suggests, this is an enhanced version of G-Vectoring Control, which improves steering response by making it more precise and consistent using small changes in engine speed to shift weight to the front tires when the steering wheel is turned. In the latest version of GVC, steering response is further improved when the driver straightens the wheel with the addition of a bit of braking to the outside front wheel.

2019 Car Reviews: First takes on new models

Driving the CX-5 Signature

When the second-generation CX-5 was introduced two years ago, insufficient power was a common criticism of the 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine – still available on less pricey CX-5 trim levels – resulting in a sense that the SUV was struggling during quick acceleration. With the addition of the turbocharger, along with tweaked valve timing, torque and acceleration are remarkably improved. The penalty of slightly less torque at higher engine speed won’t bother most drivers. The new engine also isn’t as fuel-efficient as the naturally aspirated version, though lower octane fuel will drop power output slightly and improve fuel economy.

A heavy snowfall on the roads near Whistler, British Columbia provided an excellent opportunity to test the new CX-5’s handling and stability on a combination of pavement conditions that ranged from merely wet to slushy to dangerously icy – with plenty of curves and elevation changes as well. 

The Mazda CX-5, with enhanced GVC Plus, performed confidently. The vehicle’s quiet, comfortable cabin adds to a sense of security as well as control. The Signature edition’s rich upholstery, genuine wood trim, power-folding mirrors, 19-inch alloy wheels, 360-degree monitor with front and rear parking sensors, and array of safety and infotainment features are likely to please its owners, who will be purchasing what amounts to a vehicle that delivers a sporty and rich feel for not more than the average price of a mainstream compact crossover

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