The Cadillac XTS is a luxury vehicle. The Mazda CX-5 on the other hand is not. The XTS is also a sedan, where as the CX-5 is a CUV. Yet, some how the Mazda’s compact crossover still manages to impress using a refreshingly simple layout that Cadillac has been remiss in delivering. Sure, from a comparison perspective it’s a stretch. A ludicrous ploy even to reel you in the hopes that you keep on reading.
Before driving the CX-5 I spent 7 days with Cadillac’s XTS. You can read the full XTS review here. And believe me, I’m well aware that the two vehicles couldn’t be any more different. That in mind, I still found myself drawing comparison. The XTS’ CUE system left a rather sour taste in my mouth, where as the Mazda CX-5′s infotainment system, while devoid of frills, was easy to palate.
Sure, the Caddy drives far smoother, includes a heads up display, a driver’s seat that vibrates when a car is detected in your blind spot – all things the Mazda CX-5 lacks. But get into the CX-5 and its straight forward, simple, yet smart approach to design won’t require the same acclimation that the XTS demands. The interior is well laid out, albeit rather sparse. The buttons and knobs are your simple plastic affair. Climate control is reminiscent, if not stolen from a BMW. But you know what? It works, flat out.
Much like the Evoque, the CX-5 can zip through corners and seems to be bred from sports car pedigree. The suspension is tight, which satiated my need for reactive feedback, and is furthered by the rack and pinion EPS assisted steering, which sends the appropriate nuances back to the steering wheel all without leaving one’s hands shaking like jelly. I didn’t get a chance to complete too much long distance driving, let alone much driving as the CX-5 suffered a nail-in-tire scenario just a few days into my review, but the drive and handling of the CX-5 is on par with the car’s exterior language.
Accelerator feel is quickly overshadowed by the fantastic feedback from the brake pedal. It’s responsive and communicates where its stopping power is as you press through its range. Body roll is minimized and suspension is tight, but with that comes with the caveat of a harsher ride that doesn’t exude luxury or negate pot holes into the ether.
Interior stylings are on par with a $30,000 vehicle, which is to say they won’t leave passengers jaw dropped or stopped in their tracks as they crack open the CX-5′s door. But with that in mind the interior is rooted in practicality. The leather doesn’t scream high end cow hide, but nor should it since it costs under $30,000. Your passenger’s humanly parts won’t be basked in the soft glow of LED accent lighting, but when you’re zipping through the streets and traversing an off-road path to your country cabin, will it matter?
Pairing up a smartphone – in my case an iPhone 5 – was no problem. Calls to and from worked as did streaming and displaying tracks from Spotify, both things the Cadillac XTS had trouble with. The car’s 5.8″ screen, which sounds large, is just small enough to make it difficult to see on screen details while driving, so I would have liked to see a larger version in place for convenience’s sake as well as safety. Furthermore, the backup camera’s on screen warning lines we’re a bit difficult to distinguish between, making it less effective in circumventing an accident than some other cars.
Under the hood of this particular CX-5 is a 2.0l 4-cylinder engine coupled to a six speed transmission that produces 155 horsepower with 150 lb/ft of torque. Since I didn’t drive the car for more than a few days it’s difficult for me to say if it was lurchy, but the manumatic transmission seemed a bit like over kill for a car of this ilk, though its utility shouldn’t be overlooked in the event of a downhill decent.
Mazda’s SkyActiv tech (direct fuel injection) is designed and branded to suggest that you’re saving fuel, and with a 23/30 city/highway spec I’m not reluctant to agree. It’s far from a performance vehicle in a straight line, but nor would anyone getting into the Mazda CX-5 expect it to be.
My Mazda CX-5, as tested, cost $29,455. For this you’ll get the complete, fully loaded package, which includes the aforementioned features, along with a sun roof, 8-way electric driver’s seat, aux audio input, rain sensing wipers, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, leather, a 40/20/40 one touch split folding rear seat, a 36-month bumper-to-bumper warranty and more. However, to get into a 4WD drive version you’ll need to be willing to part with what will surely be more than $30,000.
2013 Mazda CX-5
Pros: Agile handling makes for great city driving, complemented by a simple yet elegant layout, and who doesn’t like leather.
Cons: With the agile ride comes some harsh feedback, and an interior that leave something to be desired.