2019 Mazda CX-5 First Drive

January 16, 2019 Updated: January 20, 2019

The Mazda CX-5 finished the past year as one of the best-selling crossovers in Canada, and the stat shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s driven one. Gorgeous, refined, and comfortable, perhaps the only missing piece of the puzzle was a more powerful engine. Well that’s changed for 2019 as the model undergoes a mid-cycle refresh happening primarily under the hood and inside the cabin.

“What’s different? We’ve put the 2.5-litre turbo in there from the CX-9; upgraded the GVC (G-Vectoring Control) system, which has a new algorithm, previously working just on turn-in and now on turn-out as well; re-tuned the suspension; and it finally has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto,” summed up Dave Coleman, Mazda USA vehicle dynamics engineer at the CX-5’s first drive event in Whistler, B.C., just before the holiday break.

The SKYACTIV-G 2.5T four-cylinder mill is indeed pretty much the same one found in the brand’s flagship SUV: pushing 227 horsepower (or 250 if filled with premium octane) and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, compared to the 187 horses in the base 2.5 that’s naturally aspirated. Special turbine and intake manifold design help the motor breathe well, and the output is smooth and linear, feeling almost like a V6 when I punched the throttle on the highway.

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The 2019 CX-5 received a more powerful option under the hood. (Benjamin Yong)

For those unfamiliar, GVC is a computer rather than a mechanical-based marvel, possessing the ability to tell the powertrain to reduce engine torque the moment you enter a corner. This places extra weight over the front tires, increasing grip and enhancing steering feel. The software has been enhanced and can talk to the brakes too, so while exiting a corner, the front outside brake is applied to better stabilize the vehicle.

Although the empty parking lot was under about a foot of snow when we tried the feature, the CX-5 was quite composed each time we whipped it around a cone. Additionally, the ride remained civil even going over big icy ruts due to the revised spring and damper setup.

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Validating the CX-5 performance in dismal conditions. (Benjamin Yong)

Also new to the crossover is the introduction of a top-of-the-line Signature trim. Bordering on luxurious, the long list of highlights includes the aforementioned turbocharged engine, a cocoa Nappa leather and genuine Abachi wood interior, ventilated front seating, power folding mirrors, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

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19-inch alloy wheel. (Benjamin Yong)

All grades receive Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, programmed in a unique way by Mazda. Once plugging a compatible smartphone into the dedicated USB port, all the familiar menus may be manipulated using the buttons and HMI (Human-Machine Interface) Commander rotatory knob. Although using physical controls to operate a touch-based system may seem counter-intuitive, you aren’t required to take your eyes off the road as often or as long to access various core functions.

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The dashboard of the CX-5. (Benjamin Yong)

Drivers of GT models and above will notice the addition of SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link services (five-year complimentary subscription), accessible from the infotainment home screen and able to show weather forecasts, current fuel prices, traffic conditions, and sports scores.

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SiriusXM Travel Link. (Benjamin Yong)

The 2019 Mazda CX-5 starts at $27,850 for the GX; MSRP for the Signature is set at $40,950.

Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C., and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @b_yong.