A grey 2020 Mazda CX-5 is shown from the front at an angle.

Truly Unique: A History of the Mazda CX-5

What is it that makes a vehicle unique? The automobile industry has a never-ending cavalcade of makes and models designed to give drivers an edge and enhance their quality of life. But of all the vehicles on the market, it is the SUV segment that has catapulted itself into superstardom. While once thought of as nothing more than gas-guzzlers with four-wheel drive, the class has been reimagined by a variety of manufacturers to be the ideal vehicle for drivers from all walks of life.

Of all the available options that are currently on the market, it’s the Mazda CX-5 that deserves recognition for being one of the more unique offerings. With its blend of style, versatility, and performance, the CX-5 stands out in a segment where all the models can often start to blend together. We’re here to examine how this vehicle broke the mould and evolved into the fine-tuned piece of machinery it is today. After reading this, you might be on the hunt to find a Mazda CX-5 for sale at a dealership near you.

Humble Beginnings

Our story begins in 2013. While it was only a decade ago, a lot has changed since then. At that time, the SUV had already gone through its dramatic metamorphosis from off-roader to everyday commuter. No longer was the segment defined by boxy, bulky models suited for the trail; the SUV had transformed into a scaled-down streamlined vehicle, one that could be piloted through tight city streets by the most novice of drivers.

It was in this year that the Mazda CX-5 would debut to an unsuspecting public. Taking the place of the Mazda Tribute, it was a change that seemed to hint at the new direction that Mazda was taking its SUVs. While similar in design to the CX-7, the CX-5 completely did away with the Tribute’s boxy style, which was indeed a tribute, as it bore a likeness to the traditional SUV designs that continue to oversaturate the market. While the CX-7 had a design that went against the grain, it was still conventional enough to warrant a change.

The 2013 CX-5 possessed a look that seemed to merge the coupe with the SUV, the end result being the ideal crossover. By the time the 2013 model year came around, many manufacturers had abandoned the mindset that “bigger was better” in terms of design. Smaller SUVs meant smaller engines, and the CX-5 was no exception to this train of thought. Mazda equipped its newest fleet member with a 2.0L inline four-cylinder engine. Its modest 155 hp and the introduction of Mazda’s efficient Skyactiv technology made for conservative fuel consumption that benefitted consumers. Rated for 8.9L/100 km in the city and 7.3L/100 km on the highway, the 2013 CX-5 sipped fuel.

Always on the verge of evolution, it didn’t take long for Mazda to perfect its newest fleet member. For the 2014 model year, a 2.5L four-cylinder was introduced, which heightened the performance aspects of the vehicle by a considerable amount. Now with 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, the CX-5 gave consumers the opportunity to have AWD and FWD on all trim levels. According to testing done in the United States by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2014 CX-5 also performed exceptionally well in being a safe vehicle and was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The first few years had been quite favourable for the CX-5, and better times were ahead.

A red 2021 Mazda CX-5 is shown from the rear at an angle.

2017: The Next Generation Takes Flight

The 2017 model year marked the beginning of the CX-5’s second generation. The CX-5 had already gotten off to a phenomenal start, and while it’s been remarked that you can’t reinvent the wheel, Mazda made some changes that would further propel the CX-5 forward and garner industry accolades. For the Canadian market, engine output increased to 187 hp. But it wasn’t just the engine that benefitted from the new redesign. A longer body and lower center of gravity made the vehicle more maneuverable than in previous model years.

It didn’t take long for others to take notice of the CX-5’s continued evolution. Car & Driver Magazine rated the 2017 Mazda CX-5 10/10, describing it as having a “luxury feel at a reasonable price.” This continued in 2018 when Car & Driver named the CX-5 to its prestigious 10Best list. The 2018 model also saw the introduction of cylinder deactivation to improve the CX-5’s fuel consumption. Mazda was the first manufacturer in Canada to apply this technology to a four-cylinder engine, earning the CX-5 a rated fuel economy of just 8.5 L/100km combined.

By the time the 2019 model year rolled around, the CX-5 surpassed all expectations in terms of luxury and performance. For the third year in a row, the CX-5 received high marks from Car & Driver, and when one holds a magnifying glass to the changes and additions that Mazda made, it’s quite easy to see why. For 2019, a brand-new engine was added to the powertrain options: the CX-5 was now running on turbo power! Mazda introduced a turbocharged 2.5L engine. Boasting an impressive 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque when fed premium gas, the upgraded CX-5 makes it more than apparent that Mazda was intent on staying in the winner’s circle. A Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS allows for peace of mind for consumers, and the addition of standard Apple Car Play and Android Audio makes for more entertainment options.

Shifting Into High Gear in a Post-Pandemic World

There was certainly a lot to be optimistic about for Mazda in 2019. However, 2020 saw the emergence of a global pandemic and any semblance of normalcy was completely gone as the world was turned on its axis. Combined with a worldwide microchip shortage, the entire automotive industry was dealt its biggest blow since the worldwide energy crisis years earlier. But Mazda did what it had always done in the past: adapt, overcome, and achieve.

Enhancing its reputation for luxury and comfort, the 2022 CX-5 is fully refreshed and comes equipped with a standard 26 cm infotainment screen. New standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking and driver attention alert were also added, much to the delight of those with a keen eye for technology. One of the biggest changes to the CX-5 for 2022 was less obvious from the outside. To compete with Subaru, Mazda dropped front-wheel drive altogether and made all-wheel drive the new sole drivetrain for its entire fleet of SUVs. The turbocharged engine also has a slight performance increase, resulting in a 256 hp rating.

The interior of a 2020 Mazda CX-5 is shown from the driver's side.

The Future Looks Fine for the Mazda CX-5

The rate at which different aspects of the automotive industry evolve is truly amazing. In the span of less than a decade, the CX-5 went from the heir apparent to a copycat SUV to one of the most unique vehicles in its segment. Both critics and consumers continue to praise the vehicle for its luxurious feel, high-octane performance, and continuous development as one of the most outstanding SUVs on the market. While it’s unknown what leaps and bounds Mazda has in mind for the CX-5 in the upcoming decade, history has shown us that the brand will continue to improve in its relentless pursuit of perfection. We’re waiting with bated breath as to how things will unfold.