The Mazda CX-5 supplies a powerful presence among small utility vehicles.

2018 Mazda CX-5
The 2018 Mazda CX-5 in Grand Touring guise.

Mazda may be a small player in the automotive sphere, but not one model fails to garner the attention it deserves. Credit goes to Mazda designers for delivering a fetching design across its entire model line.

That model line now includes three cars (Mazda3, Mazda6 and MX-5 Miata) and three utility vehicles (CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9). Every model comes with a four-cylinder engine; Mazda offers nothing smaller or larger. No electric cars, no hybrids and no diesels (at least not yet).

2018 Mazda CX-5 Overview

My most recent Mazda model was none other than its compact CX-5 utility vehicle. This one comes in three trims: Sport ($24,150), Touring ($26,215) and Grand Touring ($29,645). Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available. Add $1,300 for all-wheel drive and another $975 for the destination fee.

Mazda introduced the CX-5 in 2013, replacing the previous Tribute. At that time, the new SUV represented a fresh break for Mazda, which previously shared its compact SUV platform with the Ford Escape (and the earlier Mercury Mariner). In 2017, the second-generation model rolled out, retaining the basic footprint of the original, while delivering a new nose and updated equipment.

For 2018, Mazda drops the Grand Select trim. Its lone engine now features cylinder deactivation technology for a slight boost in fuel economy. The standard features list now includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel along with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

2018 Mazda CX-5

Exterior Highlights

Is it a raised hatchback or an SUV? No, the CX-5 doesn’t confuse with its design aspiration, at least not entirely. Mazda designers essentially applied the beautiful curves, sharp edges and gaping grille of its car models to this SUV. It looks great and offers proof that a crossover can be beautiful.

Standard features include LED lights, 17-inch alloy wheels and a roofline spoiler. Among the list of options you will find automatic leveling headlights, LED fog lights, heated side mirrors, 19-inch alloy wheels, a power-sliding moonroof and a power rear liftgate.

Interior Highlights

Do you want a roomy interior? The 2018 CX-5 does not disappoint. It is most comfortable for four, but you can fit five in a pinch. Its standard cargo space comes in slightly below competitors such as the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape at 30.9 cubic feet or 59.6 cubic feet with the second-row seat folded.

The CX-5’s front seats are comfortable, supportive and look extra special when wrapped in leather. The cabin is fairly quiet, although at highway speeds some wind noise intrudes. The climate control system on my Grand Touring tester worked quite well. The heated seats and heated steering wheel were also useful and most welcome on chilly mornings. The CX-5 doesn’t match the storage compartments of the top models, although I appreciated the large open storage compartment at the base of the center console.

Standard features include power windows, power door locks, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and cloth seats. Available features include imitation or real leather seats, power front seats with driver lumbar support, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, heated outboard rear seats and dual-zone climate control.

2018 Mazda CX-5

Safety & Technology Features

Kudos to Mazda for delivering a model that is a 2018 Top Safety Pick award recipient from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS gave the CX-5 top marks in every crashworthiness category and also recognized this Mazda for its front crash prevention technology.

Speaking of safety technology, the 2018 CX-5 comes with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera and brake support. Shoppers may also opt for Mazda’s I-Activsense Package with high beam control, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, radar cruise control with stop and go, and brake support. The top-trim model also offers something called Active Driving Display with Traffic Sign Recognition.

Mazda equips the Sport model with a four-speaker audio system, supplies six speakers with the Touring edition and blesses the top-of-the-line Grand Touring edition with a 10-speaker Centerpoint audio system. Bluetooth, an auxiliary audio input jack and two USB ports come standard. Mazda also includes a 7-inch color display, HD Radio and Aha, Pandora and Stitcher radio integration.

Beginning on the Touring level, you’ll find a pair of rear USB ports. HomeLink and a trial satellite radio subscription accompany the Grand Touring model. All models comes with keyless entry and push-button start. Navigation is extra. Sorry, Mazda doesn’t supply Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration. At least not yet.

2018 Mazda CX-5

On the Road: 2018 Mazda CX-5

Who knew a small SUV could be so fun? I found myself almost forgetting that I was behind the wheel of a utility vehicle whenever I drove the CX-5. This model comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, generating 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Mazda pairs this engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Step-off acceleration is not super fast, but it is no laggard either. This SUV picks up speed steadily and the transmission complies with its smooth shifting. Under hard acceleration, the transmission doesn’t hunt for gears — that’s the kind of drama you don’t want in any vehicle.

This SUV’s chassis features sporty car tuning, enabling it to carve corners or at least come close to doing so. Engaged steering and firm brakes are two of its top attributes. We found the ride comfortable, but the engine is noisy under full throttle. I like how the CX-5 handles better than our leased Toyota RAV4. Yes, I said it.

The CX-5’s fuel economy is competitive, coming in at 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive. Those numbers drop by 1 mpg each with all-wheel drive. When properly equipped, this SUV has a tow rating of up to 2,000 pounds.

One important footnote to add: a second engine, this one a turbo-diesel, will also join the CX-5 engine family. Expected to arrive last fall, it has yet to appear. Figure that Mazda is working diligently to garner the approval of the EPA and CARB, before its official debut.

2018 Mazda CX-5

Parting Thoughts: Mazda CX-5

The 2018 CX-5 demonstrates Mazda has what it takes, delivering a level of sportiness not common to the segment. Notwithstanding its smaller than average storage compartment, the CX-5 acquits itself by delivering a premium and sporty offering in the top-trim Grand Touring edition.

Perhaps your most significant dilemma is where to start your search. I believe the Touring edition delivers what most people want. Opt for the Preferred Equipment Package ($1,250, Bose 10-speaker audio system, navigation, power moonroof, power liftgate and HomeLink) and you’ll come away with a well-equipped front-wheel drive model for under $29,000.

Of course, all this is before you strike your best deal, as discounts and other special deals await.

2018 Mazda CX-5

2018 Mazda CX-5 Specifications

Mazda 2018 CX-5
Segment Compact SUV
Base Sticker Price $24,150 ( plus $975 destination charge)
Price as tested $34,865
Standard Engine 2.5-liter, inline-four
Horsepower 187 @ 6,000 RPMs
Torque (lb.-ft.) 186 @ 4,000 RPMs
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 3,563 to 3,693
Wheelbase (inches) 106.2
Length (inches) 179.1
Width (inches) 72.5
Height (inches) 65.4
Head room (f,r…inches) 39.7; 39.0
Leg room (f,r…inches) 41.0, 39.6
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 57.1; 54.8
Hip room (f,r…inches) 55.2, 55.3
Storage (cubic feet) 30.9; 59.6
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) NR
Towing (pounds) 2,000
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel Regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 14.8, 15.3
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway) 25/31 (FWD); 24/30 (AWD)
Manufacturing Plant Hiroshima, Japan

This article was originally published by Auto Trends Magazine.