- 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

What is it?

It's the second-generation Mazda CX-5 compact crossover SUV. It's not the newest car in Mazda's stable and for the model since it launched in 2017. But upon reaching the market here in the U.S., it was only available with a seemingly gutless 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder with just 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque for an unremarkable yet adequate 0-60 time of 8.3 seconds.

Just last year in 2019, Mazda finally began offering the CX-5 with the turbocharged four-cylinder from its larger sibling, the CX-9. It too is a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder, but with an additional turbocharger to offer a greatly improved power output.

While the base CX-5 starts with the standard 184-horsepower engine at $24,450 for the base Sport model, then $26,615 for the Touring, and $30,045 for the Grand Touring, turbo power is only available on the two upper trims of the CX-5, the $34,870 Grand Touring Reserve and the range-topping $36,890 Signature.

Does the new turbocharged motor move the CX-5 more in line with Mazda's classic "zoom-zoom" mantra? Read on!

Why should you care?

- You're looking to spend no more than $37,000 on a vehicle

- You're interested in a practical crossover SUV that drives more like a car and less like an SUV

- You want all-wheel drive

- You like power

- You like great value

What are its competitors?

The Mazda CX-5 has always held its ground strongly in one of the most competitive segments in the entire automotive industry, the compact crossover SUV market. Because of its wide price range, it can be cross-shopped with many other types of vehicles, including some midsize sedans, and even some larger and more practical midsize crossover SUVs. It's main competitors however are:

- Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Cherokee, Lexus UX, Nissan Rogue

exterior

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

What I Liked

- Clean, elegant, handsome looks

- Not over- or under-styled

- More of a lifted wagon profile rather than a high-riding SUV

What I didn't like

- It might look a little better with roof-rails, but this is me nit-picking

In a nutshell...

There's nothing really to contest here. The Mazda CX-5 is hands down one of the best looking crossover SUVs in its segment, if not the best looking. And pretty much, all of my colleagues in the automotive writing and media space agree, especially when in this nook of the automotive world, most of the options all look the same, or they look like nothing at all.

interior

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

What I liked

- Clean, elegant, and handsome looks inside too

- Simple, fuss-free, and premium looks and touches

- Lots of space for five

What I didn't like

- Some of the plastics felt a bit budget-minded

- Black is the only color options for the Signature model and it's a bit dark and daft

In a nutshell...

Like the exterior, the insides of the top-spec CX-5 Signature feel rather upscale, well thought out, simple, and easy to use. It's free of any riff-raff without being too conservative or boring. But with black being the only color option for the Signature, it could use some brightening up or at least the option for a lighter-hue interior. Step down one trim to the Grand Touring Reserve, and you do get the option for beige "Parchment" leather seats, depending on the exterior color combination.

There's plenty of space for five adults and their things in the back, even with the front seats positioned for my 5'11 figure. But those looking to haul a lot of tall items might find the height of the rear-trunk space a bit limited.

Options & Equipment

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

What I liked

- Lots of standard equipment like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat-nav, all the passive and active safety gear as its competitors

- So well equipped that it has everything you really need to make a great daily driver

- A better than average premium Bose sound system

What I didn't like

- Mazda removed any touchscreen capabilities from its infotainment display

- I found Android Auto to be a bit glitchy, depending on the phone

- It takes some time to get used to accessing Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

- Some of the safety systems, like forward collision assist and lane departure, would sometimes think there was a hazard when there actually wasn't

In a nutshell...

Mazdas have always been known for great value and the CX-5 is no different. While the car I tested came with all the bells and whistles, even the base model isn't very modestly equipped. It just comes with cloth seats rather than leather, a standard radio, and some other less luxurious appointments. But with this top-spec Signature, the CX-5 further hints at Mazda's aspirations of moving more upmarket.

PERFORMANCE & DRIVING EXPERIENCE

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

Tested: The Top-Spec Signature with Turbo Power and AWD

- 2.5-liter turbocharged SKYACTIV-G DOHC inline-four with 227 hp and a 310 lb-ft of torque on 87-octane "regular" gas. Fill up with 93-octane "premium" and output jumps to 250 hp

- Six-Speed Automatic and All-Wheel Drive (front-wheel drive is available)

- 0-60 in 6.4 seconds (with premium)

- 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway (observed 18-21 mpg while testing around New York City Metro Area and New Jersey with mixed town and highway driving)

Alternative: the base engine, a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated SKYACTIV-G DOHC inline-four with 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque; 0-60 in 8.3 seconds; 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway

What I liked

- FINALLY! Much needed turbo power

- Plenty of low-end torque

- Clever turbo tech that makes lag imperceptible

- Handles like a lifted Mazda3 hatchback with excellent body control and grip without sacrificing a smooth ride

What I didn't like

- Steering a little bit too quick off center, making the need for more frequent corrections and turn-in a bit too abrupt, which takes some getting used to

- It won't suck you into the seat, but it makes up for it by making the speedo climb quickly thanks to that 310 lb-ft of torque

- Engine note isn't too inspiring

IN A NUTSHELL..

There's absolute no shortage of Mazda's "zoom-zoom" mantra here in the CX-5, and that's more of the case thanks to the addition of that turbocharged motor from the larger CX-9. The small Japanese company continues to prove its expertise and knowledge in driving and handling dynamics that don't disappoint while leveraging great everyday characteristics without compromising everyday usability. There's a reason why so many of us automotive journalists speak so highly of the way the CX-5 drives. For what it is, it's just that good, rivaling some of the on-road mannerisms of crossovers that cost thousands more.

Overall Verdict

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

The Mazda CX-5 has always been one of the best choices in its segment, if not the best choice, at least for those who love to drive and want something that offers an equal bit of fun factor and practicality. The turbo motor sweetens the deal even more thanks to offering much needed power to make it the number one choice not just for enthusiast-minded buyers, but those who also just want incredible value and don't want to be bored to death behind the wheel.

On top of excellent driving dynamics, it's wrapped up in a handsome suit inside and out and offers plenty of value equipment and options wise, while making the whole experience seem fluid and refined.

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Turbo AWD - © 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

That said, if someone were to ask me what they'd recommend in this segment, it would hands down be the Mazda CX-5 with the turbo engine, which of course means in Grand Touring Reserve or top Signature form.

Compared to its direct competitors, it outshines them all from just being the best at what it does and offers, all around. Others may be more practical or more economical and as of this writing, I still have yet to critique the new RAV4 and the Ford Escape, both of which according to my colleagues, offer a lot of promise. But if fun-to-drive factor, style, and value are your priorities, the CX-5 with the turbo-four is the one to get.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

© 2020 All Photos Copyright of Chris Chin/C-Squared Photography (C-SquaredPhoto.com)

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