2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD followup review: On the road again

2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

The cupholders are too close together. Does that complaint about our test 2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD seem a little too much #firstworldproblem?

Well, perhaps, but not being able to fit two soft-drink cups in the adjoining cupholders is something that should not have happened.

If that’s a peculiar way to begin a review of the third year of the Mazda’s compact crossover, it’s more a way of saying how good overall the Mazda CX-5 really is.

The Mazda CX-5 is Mazda’s effective replacement for the slightly larger Mazda CX-7, which was a little too close in size to the Mazda CX-9, and not aligned with the rest of the crossover market. Is it any coincidence that the Mazda2 was released about the same time? Think about it. (OK, 5+2=7)

Anyway, we borrowed a 2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring for a roadtrip from northeastern Pennsylvania to eastern North Carolina, adroitly avoiding the trifecta of traffic trouble—Philadelphia, Baltimore and the infamous  Washington Beltway (and the more infamous Inside the Beltway)—by using Interstate 81 and Interstate 64 rather than I-95.

And therein lies another tale and the reason why maps should still be part of your travel kit because (a) you may have more intuitive knowledge than the Lady in the Dash and (b) she may have lost her direction in life…and yours too. We reported her. No doubt after returning to home base, our lady was promptly cashiered, as well she should have.

2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD interior

The cupholders of the 2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD are too close together. (click to enlarge)

It’s easy enough with the Mazda CX-5. The unit, which uses TomTom technology, plugs into a standard audio “double-DIN” socket in the dash, and although there are “hard buttons” flanking the screen, the screen is still small compared to some of those in The Competitive Set. The graphics of the TomTom systems aren’t as detailed, either, which doesn’t help the impression of the screen’s relative size, and the “soft buttons” on the screen itself are small and hard to use when driving.

On the other hand, the auxiliary controls on the steering wheel are well laid out and easy to use, and some of those, such as for jumping between preset stations on the radio, are easy, and because we’re easily bored by Interstate driving, that’s a good thing. Not that Interstates 81 and 64 aren’t scenic—and definitely more so than I-95 anywhere north of Richmond.

Seats are important on a long drive—made longer in our case by heavy fog on one end and heavy rain on the other—and after twelve hours in the saddle we didn’t have saddle sores. ‘Nuff said.

On the opposite end of the cupholder conundrum are the little rubber mats in the door pulls. I’m not sure what one would keep there—toll change?—but at least it wouldn’t rattle.

One peculiarity we noticed in Interstate highway driving was that the upward curve of the bottom of the D-pillar made it look like a car was in our blind spot whenever we gave that quick look over our right shoulder before changing lanes. Either that or we were staring in a new episode of The Twilight Zone.

Operationally: Acceleration doesn’t feel that strong off the bottom but the engine winds out nicely. It’s not melodious but has a clean mechanical sound.

The transmission shifts cleanly and although we didn’t feel it on the highway, we noticed on our local hilly roads that the transmission downshifted enough that we could actually feel engine braking. It does that, by the way, by its programming, it knew when we were driving downhill, braking but now slowing—

Our test 2015 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD was equipped with the Grand Touring Tech Package. Available only on Grand Touring trim level models—of course—the $1,485 package includes Smart City Brake Support, a laser-based system that monitors closing rates and applies the brakes if a driver does not respond to alerts, coming to a full stop at speeds under 19mph. We didn’t try.

Also in the Tech Package are the aforementioned crazy lady navigation system, auto-diming rear view mirror and adaptive HID headlights. “Adaptive” means the headlights steer with the wheels, turning into the corner to let you “see around the curve.” Most systems swing both headlights back and forth in unison, but the Mazda system turns only the inside headlight (the right headlight in a curve to the right, for example), but turns it further than the typical adaptive headlight system does. Definitely cool.

Finally, gas mileage. Officially, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 has an EPA rating of 24/30 mpg city/highway, with a combined rating of 26 mpg. We found our test CX-5 to be almost unshakable in returning a circa 25 mpg performance, whether local or highway—at least highway as we drive highways. Our overall mileage was a respectable 24.8 mpg.

But cupholders, shmupholders. We know that the Mazda CX-5 is in its third year of production, and that a refresh is due soon. Can we hope for the center console be reshaped for just a little more space between the cups? Yeah, #firstworldproblem, but that’s the way we are.