Please don’t hate me for saying so, but the Mazda CX-5 is one of the dullest cars on the road.
In terms of styling, performance and technology, it’s just … plain. No fireworks. No fanfare. No drama.
No one is going to slide up to you at a red light and say, “Hey, man, is that the new CX-5?” No one is going to stop you in the parking lot at Ralphs and said, “Wow. Is that yours?” If you dine at Catch or Bestia, the valet guys won’t park it out front with the hot cars.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Boring isn’t bad. No drama can mean no problems.
Though there may not be any reason to fall calamitously in love with this car, there’s also nothing not to like about it. The CX-5 works.
The 2017 CX-5, a second iteration of the successful SUV, is all new, Mazda says, and not just a simple makeover.
On sale since March, it features a reengineered and redesigned chassis, body, interior and exterior, and now comes with some fancy upgrades. Upper trim level vehicles can be had with a heated steering wheel, power liftgate, reclining rear seats and heated front and rear seats — not something you’d care about in California during the summer, but a relative rarity in affordable vehicles.
Upper trim levels also come with helpful safety technology, like lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and more sophisticated braking assist features.
(They’re part of the reason the Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2017 CX-5 its highest “Top Safety Pick+” rating this week.)
The Grand touring vehicle, with the premium options package, also includes a very good adaptive cruise control system — Mazda calls it “Radar Cruise Control” — and a head-up display that includes traffic sign recognition.
A rear-view camera is standard on all models, as is the head-up display without traffic sign recognition.
It’s fun — and easy — to drive. Around town, the 2.5-liter engine, which makes 187 horsepower and 185 pound feet of torque and is the same power plant found in the Mazda6 sedan, made the CX-5 scoot with confidence.
The front-wheel-drive system was nice and grabby — the car is also available in an all-wheel-drive configuration — and had a nice, planted feel.
The short wheel base and great visibility made it easy to park. The seats felt comfortable, and everything in the driver cockpit was sensibly placed and easy to reach.
On the freeway, though, I experienced more tire noise than I like, while the car tracked confidently and held its own in fast-moving traffic.
I didn’t do any long-distance driving, but the 60-cubic-foot storage capacity made me wish I was headed out of town. The back seats fold flat with the push of a button to create room for the mountain bike, cooler, tent and sleeping bag. Mammoth, anyone?
The upgrades and the refreshed design seem to be working.
Mazda reported recently that 57,077 CX-5s had been sold in North America this year through the end of June — up 10% over the same six-month period last year. That puts this SUV well ahead of the roughly 39,834 CX-3s sold during that time, and makes the CX-5 the company’s best-selling vehicle.
Those numbers aren’t massive when measured against comparable compact SUVs. Honda sold 187,256 CR-Vs during the same period, while Toyota sold 184,766 RAV4s.
But they’re important to Mazda. The company’s North American year-to-date car sales, at the end of June, were off almost 20%. But year-to-date SUV sales, led by the CX-5, were up 18.5%.
The CX-5, like all of Mazda’s vehicles, is priced to move. An entry-level model can be had for as little as $24,985. The Grand Touring trim level starts at $30,335, and the one I drove cost $32,785.
The low price, and the company’s current “Driving Matters” advertising campaign, won’t be enough to lure some car shoppers who are looking for more comfort, more styling or more horsepower.
But, really, how much of that stuff does a car need? If you’re not running hot laps at Willow Springs or trying to win a Best in Show ribbon at Pebble Beach, this is a practical and unpretentious people mover.
2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD
Times’ take: A bland but well-built practical car
Highs: Long on price and value
Lows: Short on looks and styling
Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger SUV
Base price: $30,33
Price as tested: $32,785
Powertrain: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, gasoline engine
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Torque: 185 pound feet
EPA fuel economy rating: 24 miles per gallon city / 31 highway / 27 combined