I guess that’s the idea with Mazda’s “Signature” line of vehicles, which in my view are edging ever closer to entry-level luxury, and maybe beyond.
“Top tier,” says Mazda like a proud parent.
That’s one way to put it!
This mainstream brand’s rapidly proliferating “Signature” trim level is already available on the Mazda6 sedan and the midsize CX-9 SUV. Now it’s an option for buyers of the 2019 CX-5 compact SUV (although compacts aren’t as compact as they used to be, it has to be said). Yes, it looks to me like the line represents Mazda’s foothold on the luxury ladder. Who knows where that goes?
I’m already on record as liking the CX-5 a lot, finding its size, fuel economy and driving dynamics just right. I drove the CX-5 GT version (priced at $39,476 for the 2019 model) a couple of years ago and thought it had everything you could possibly want in this class of vehicle, even a Head-Up Display!
But because Mazda is elevating its game, so to speak, we have the $42,975 2019 CX-5 Signature and it’s definitely “fully loaded.” Top of the list of enhancements is a new turbocharged engine, which I’ll get to shortly.
But first of all, CX-5 exterior styling is very appealing, especially from the side and rear. I’d give a nod to the front, too, but that grille is getting a bit large for my taste. Maybe it’s Mazda symbolically devouring its competition, but I say: “point taken… enough already.”
The paint is deep and rich (Mazda’s pretty good at this), although the Signature colour palette is very limited to very conservative choices. We’re talking black, white or grey tones, with Mazda’s Soul Red costing an extra $450, white an extra $200, and grey $300. Black and silver are courtesy choices: no extra charge.
Inside the CX-5 Signature you get exclusive Cocoa (dark brown) Nappa leather upholstery and genuine Abachi wood trim, a nice frameless auto-dimming rear-view mirror, satin chrome accents, black headliner, special ambient interior LED lighting and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with special stitching.
It all looks very plush and well-presented, this interior. Mazda uses the words, “elegant,” “sophisticated,” and “refined” to describe its intent, and I reckon they’ve succeeded. Everything is nicely put-together, stylishly designed and precisely executed (heated/ventilated seats, too!). Plus you get all the latest Mazda electronic safety systems, rain-sensing windshield wipers (that work well!), power liftgate, Bose premium audio, auto folding mirrors and a long list of additional desirable features.
The Signature also gets “gunmetal” 19-inch wheels that contribute to its formidable presence and give it a sinister, “I mean business,” flourish.
The big news for the CX-5 Signature, though, is the introduction of that turbocharged Skyactiv 2.5-litre engine — the 2.5 T — making 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. (That’s using premium grade fuel; it’ll give you 227 hp with regular grade). Either way, these are very healthy numbers.
Also new is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus, which is standard across all 2019 CX-5 models. This software enhancement is designed to provide a more precise steering response that results in better stability when cornering and when encountering uneven road surfaces. The steering geometry and suspension is also retuned, although no weight is added.
On the road, the CX-5 is noticeably nimble in the corners and stable on the straights (really, this is a brand characteristic I find in all Mazdas). Braking is powerful and even, the six-speed automatic transmission is smooth, the all-wheel drive system very competent, and the whole experience is one of comfort combined with a sporty but practical ride. I drove in some foul winter weather, I’ve got to tell you, and the CX-5 was remarkably unfazed. You’ll feel secure behind the wheel.
At highway speeds I particularly liked the radar cruise control (I used it on dry roads, don’t use cruise on ice and snow covered surfaces), which matches the CX-5’s speed to that of the vehicle immediately ahead, and resumes your set speed when you change lanes to pass. The system was precise, controlled and predictable, and both my partner and I were very impressed with the operation of this feature. Coupled with the automatic lane keeping system, you could almost allow the CX-5 to drive itself (in fact, it will alert you to keep both hands on the wheel if it senses you’re using too light a touch). This is a taste of an autonomous or at least semi-autonomous vehicles to come.
The CX-5 Signature also gets the Head Up Display, which gives you speed, cruise settings, audio, navigation, road signage icons including speed limit, and blind spot alerts. A fine system; all vehicles should have this. It keeps your eyes on the road ahead, where they should be, and is not at all distracting. Additionally, the new gauge cluster with its old-school instruments is configurable and easy to read.
The centre-console located Mazda Connect infotainment control manages climate, audio, navigation, communication and vehicle settings. It’s easy to use and, I think, one of the simplest and best systems of its type. You shouldn’t have any trouble operating the amenities in this vehicle. Furthermore, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces are now standard for CX-5.
But about that new engine… Personally, I don’t see the point. On paper the numbers are impressive, but it didn’t feel that powerful to me (although I grant you, I didn’t “floor it”). In everyday driving the CX-5 2.5 T felt much the same as the perfectly sufficient (in my opinion), and lighter by 91 kilograms, less expensive non-turbocharged 2.5 version. Furthermore, when highway driving at 115 km/h I was seeing 10.2 L/100, which I thought was too high (it’s rated at 10.8/8.7 L/100km, city/highway).
In comparison, the standard engine produces 186 hp/187 lb.ft torque and returns 9.8/7.9 L/100km, city/highway, and I actually surpassed those numbers in the 2017 2.5 CX-5 GT (it’s now optional with the 2.5 T engine, by the way). Finally, the CX-5 towing capacity of 2,000 pounds is unchanged by the presence of the higher-specification 2.5 T engine.
Another “signature” item in this model is the Cocoa Nappa leather interior. Well, it’s so dark that much of the time it looks black, matching the surrounding plastic panels and black headliner. Not sure I see the point here, either. Maybe if there was some contrast.
So all to say, I enjoyed the CX-5 Signature, found the driving experience and the i-Activsense suite of standard electronic amenities and safety features first rate, appreciated the roomy interior and cargo area, but wouldn’t spend the extra for the turbocharged engine and enhanced trim. Personally, I’d recommend one of the non-turbocharged models, but when it comes to compact SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 should be on any short list.
2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature: $42,976