Mazda’s best seller has received some upgrades for the 2022 model year. There is more visual differentiation between the trim levels. There are new wheel designs and both head and taillights have a new look as do the bumpers and grill.
There are numerous changes beneath the skin as well.
The base front-wheel-drive version has been dropped due to lack of interest and sales. AWD is now standard across the board. The chassis has been stiffened in the area where the shock absorbers are mounted, to further reduce NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness).
The structure of the front seats has also been stiffened.
The automatic transmission has been reprogrammed for improved response and the turbocharged engine tweaked, putting six additional ponies in the corral when you chose premium gasoline.
A CX-5 for everyone
There is also a new trim level – Sport Design. It slots into the lineup below the range-topping Signature model.
There are now six different trims: GX, $30,200; GS, $33,900; Kuro, $37,700; GT, $38,950; Sport Design, $40,150; and Signature, $43,350. The standard drivetrain arrangement is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system. A turbocharged version of that engine is a $2,200 option on the Sport Design model and standard on the Signature.
I tested the Sport Design version with the turbocharged engine.
It is identified by an extensive amount of gloss black – grill, mirrors, lower bumper, wheel arches, rocker mouldings and special 19-in wheels. Look closely and you’ll notice a little red accent in the upper right side of the grill – a nod to the first generation Miata, nee MX-5. That theme continues inside with black leather, and red stitching on the seats, instrument panel, door trim, steering wheel and shifter.
The upscale interior, improved seats and reduced sound levels are appreciated.
There is a premium feel, an attention to detail, about everything you see and touch. But if you prefer driving, rather than being driven, the CX-5 is a treat for the deeper senses. Every input results in a direct and linear response, whether it be to steering, throttle or brake.
A lot of work has gone into ensuring the CX-5 is the class of the field, in how it combines performance with refinement.
Allow me to dwell on the engine.
The spec sheet says it produces 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 310 lb. ft. of torque at 2,00 rpm on regular fuel. Spring for high test and the numbers jump to 256 horsepower at 5,000 and 320 lb. ft. at 2,500. Impressive – on paper.
In real life conditions, very few will detect the difference. Horsepower is a marketing term, derived through a calculation based on torque, which is the actual measured output of an engine. Horsepower is what you read about, torque is what you feel when you press on the accelerator.
Put another way, horsepower determines top speed, torque dictates how soon you get there.
The engines used in everything from long-haul trucks to earth movers have very low horsepower numbers, but are big on torque.
The engine reaches actual, measured peak power at 2,000 rpm (regular fuel), 2,500 (premium). You have to wait for it to get to 5,000 before the horsepower peak is reached. If you want to spend the extra $5-$7 bucks a tank and frequently drive at sustained full throttle go for it. Otherwise save your money and enjoy very similar performance.
OK, enough of that rant.
The CX-5 offers slightly less rear seat legroom and cargo space than the competition.
But, as I said previously, if you are the type who enjoys driving, who seeks out a twisty road or an excuse to go for a drive, the Mazda CX-5 rewards with an unmatched balance of ride and handling.
Add to the positive side of the ledger a class-above level of refinement and a richly-finished interior, and you have a winner.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2022 Mazda CX-5 Sport Design
As tested: $44,750 including freight
Smart City brake support, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise control with stop and go, automatic high beams, lane keep assist and departure warning, 360-degree and rear-view cameras, pedestrian detection, forward obstruction warning, automatic high beams
26-cm colour display with Mazda Connect, HMI Commander, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, two front seat USB ports, rear seat center armrest with 2 USB ports, Bose® premium audio system with 10-speakers, SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link® services, Traffic Jam Assist, Homelink® wireless control system
19-in black metallic alloy wheels, auto levelling LED headlights, automatic power folding mirrors, wide-angle rear-view camera, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats (outboard), heated steering wheel, front wiper de-icer, power rear liftgate, power glass moonroof, automatic dual-zone climate control, advanced keyless entry (proximity and ignition), windshield-projected Active Driving Display, 18-cm digital LCD gauge display
Turbo engine, $2,200; Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, $450
Turbocharged 2.5 litre four-cylinder, 256-horsepower, 320 lb.-ft. of torque, premium fuel, 227-horsepower, 310 lb. ft. of torque, regular fuel, six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 10.8/8.7
Length, 4,575 mm; wheelbase, width, 2,115-MM; 2,698 mm; weight, 1,748 kg