2023 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Turbo 2.5 new car reviews

Can small SUVs be fun to drive? Mazda seemed to have succeeded with the CX-5 back when it was introduced, but does that still hold true in 2023?

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

The Mazda CX-5 was maybe the first small SUV that showed us that vehicles in this class could still return a satisfying driving experience. In fact, in late 2015 when my wife was looking for new wheels, I suggested the CX-5, she fell in love as well, and bought a 2016 GT model for around $34,000.

At the time it was the most loaded model, eschewing only the optional AWD, but otherwise decked out with all the boxes that were checkable at the time. By comparison, the top-of-the-line Signature spec from 2023 lists out starting just under $40,000, which is fairly close to the inflation-adjusted $34,000 in 2016 dollars. But while the price has remained consistent, the standard features list has been upgraded.

CX-5 Signature models—and all CX-5 for that matter—now come standard with AWD, and the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine in this 2023 model is noticeably peppier than Dana’s naturally aspirated 2.5-powered Mazda. The newer version also gets cooled and heated seats instead of just heated, a power hatch, a revised interior with more soft-touch surfaces and a facelifted exterior.

So, is it better?

Eh, not really.

This is not to say it’s bad, mind you. It’s still one of the most satisfying small SUVs on the road, both from its exceptional dynamic manners and it’s just-right form factor which provides plenty of utility without being cumbersome on the road or in a parking lot. It’s just not a huge upgrade from the pre-facelifted version that we’re rushing to a Mazda dealer with our title in hand.

The AWD is a nice touch, but not for the entirety of the country. We specifically eschewed the AWD in choosing our car since there was a fuel economy penalty that came along with it. For my friends in Vermont, you’ll love it. For my friends who live in climates where rain on flat roads are the most adverse conditions they’ll ever face, having that extra couple of mpgs adds up over the years.

Likewise, the additional power is nice when the on-ramp is crowded, but the car wasn’t exactly begging for more power. We recorded 26.5 mpg over our test period, which included lots of highway driving.

When I checked my wife’s CX-5, I saw that she’s been averaging 28 mpg in all her driving, and also that she’s been listening to a lot of butt rock lately. She also has a heavy foot, which is not helping her fuel economy any, but probably makes the Foghat more enjoyable.

Anyway, a lot of this is probably sounding like me rationalizing not rushing to the Mazda dealer and trading in our CX-5 on a new one, and, yeah, some of it probably is. The truth is the CX-5 is still one of our favorite small SUVs, but they’ve also been getting it right for several years.

If you’re shopping new, it’s a great place to look. If you already have a CX-5, well, you already know how good they are.

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