$12,469 - $15,770

2015 Mazda CX-5 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2015 Mazda CX-5 was new.


Performance: 8.3

Test drivers write that the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is one of the most fun and engaging vehicles to drive in the class, with nimble handling and good steering and brake pedal feel. With the larger four-cylinder engine, reviewers report that the CX-5 delivers ample power, as most say the base engine is not powerful enough to propel the CX-5 with any haste. The CX-5 also gets good fuel economy for the class.

  • "If you venture out of town for the weekend, you'll find that the CX-5's smooth ride, generally quiet cabin and comfortable seating make it a great road trip vehicle as well. Finally, compared with other small crossovers you might consider, this Mazda is actually kind of fun to drive, thanks to its precise steering and sporty handling." -- Edmunds
  • "By swapping in the peppy 2.5-liter four for the anemic 2.0-liter unit, Mazda has given the CX-5's nimble chassis and communicative steering the powerplant they have been crying out for; one that successfully turns the CX-5 into the Mazda of crossovers." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "If the Mazda CX-5 is a sign of what's to come from the SKYACTIV philosophy, the future of the brand appears quite bright. The ultimate benefit of merging all the SKYACTIV elements in the CX-5 is that when the stiff, lightweight frame is combined with either the 155-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine or the more powerful 184-hp 2.5-liter unit and efficient transmissions the car returns some incredibly good mileage while remaining very fun to drive." -- AutoTrader (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The base Mazda CX-5 Sport is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 155 horsepower. With this engine, a six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. Touring and Grand Touring trims feature a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower and is paired with the six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available. A front-wheel drive CX-5 with the base engine and automatic transmission returns an EPA-estimated 26/32 mpg city/highway, and fuel economy with the larger engine is nearly the same, at 25/32 mpg. The CX-5's fuel economy is good for the class.

Auto writers largely agree that the CX-5's base engine isn't especially powerful and that there isn't much pull for passing on the highway. Most prefer the larger engine in the upper CX-5 trims, saying its added muscle gives the CX-5 better all-around acceleration. Critics say that the automatic transmission is responsive and makes crisp shifts.

  • With the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 offers up barely adequate performance, hardly what Mazda's 'Zoom-Zoom' tagline suggests. Step up to the Touring or Grand Touring models though, and you'll get the more powerful 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine. While it doesn't outperform competitors like the Kia Sportage turbo or Subaru Forester turbo, it's at least in line with competitors like the Honda CR-V, with good acceleration." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • Equipped with the base 2.0-liter engine, the Mazda CX-5 offers competitive power on paper, but out in the real world, it just doesn't feel that strong during merging and passing maneuvers. For the majority of small crossover shoppers, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder (which is standard on most trims) is a much better choice given its superior power and minuscule fuel economy penalty." -- Edmunds
  • While we generally rave about the CX-5's styling, fuel economy and road manners, its standard 2.0-liter engine wouldn't be our first choice, although it's the only way to achieve the advertised 35-mpg fuel economy figure. Less anemic and only slightly less fuel-efficient is Mazda's 2.5-liter SKYACTIV engine and 6-speed automatic transmission found in the Touring and Grand Touring trims. Supplying 29 more horsepower than the stock 2.0-liter, this engine is a much better fit and helps the CX-5 expand upon its zoom-zoom credentials." -- AutoTrader
  • "A responsive six-speed automatic transmission makes the most of the CX-5's newfound power. Part-throttle kickdowns happen immediately, and the transmission's refinement - especially its shift quality - is top notch." -- Cars.com (2014)

Handling and Braking

According to test drivers, sporty handling is the 2015 CX-5's forte, as they say it has controlled body motions in turns, feels glued to the road and has direct, crisp steering. They add that its brakes have better pedal feel than most competing SUVs and that overall ride quality is comfortable and composed.

  • "We found the CX-5 to be the best-handling small crossover currently on the market. The steering is light and direct but not too twitchy for everyday driving. It feels planted during hard cornering and seems to follow the driver's will accurately. The CX-5 is comparable to many smaller and more-tuned sports cars in overall feel, which is quite an accomplishment for a vehicle of its size and stature." -- AutoTrader
  • "Easily the most striking thing about the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is its athletic character. Even if you're just looking for a small crossover to drive to work every day, you'll notice that its brakes, suspension and steering are uncommonly capable for a vehicle in this class. It's an enjoyable vehicle to run errands in, and if you happen to turn onto a road with twists and turns, the CX-5 can be downright fun. On the highway, the Mazda rides just as comfortably as most other crossovers." -- Edmunds
  • "On the road, the CX-5's handling impresses, with sharp reflexes and an ability to carve corners that's rare in the compact-SUV market." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "As before, steering feel, handling balance, ride control, and braking feel are all beyond the norms for this class." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)
  • "Chief among it charms is its chassis. The CX-5 has a lively, on-it-toes feeling that is unique in this segment, and most welcome. There's a section of New York's Taconic State Parkway in Putnam County that has a long, decreasing-radius, downhill curve and a passing lane that is particularly narrow, with the white line just inches from the rusty, banged-up center guardrail. Passing someone on that stretch is a white-knuckle affair, unless you're in a car with superb steering. The CX-5 aced that test, and we expect it would be the only compact SUV to do so." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)

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