Behind the Wheel

2020 Mazda CX-5 Review: A two-row crossover that makes an engaging, budget-friendly statement

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 has a lot to like.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

These days, just about every carmaker sells a whole range of crossovers. There's a simple explanation for it of course: people buy them by the truckload. But strip the badging off and line them all up and it'll be hard to tell them apart.

To the non-enthusiast, the Ford whatsit is just like the Chevy whatsit which looks like the Honda whatever or is that the Toyota whatever? I can't tell.

They're alike on the inside, too. Steering wheel, high seating position, all-wheel drive (maybe), some luxury accoutrements depending on where it fits in the segment, leather, rinse, repeat.

2020 Mazda CX-5 The model's sculpted exterior is most different from other crossovers at the front, but it's back is not unattractive.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Does it matter which one you buy? At once, absolutely and absolutely not. The Ford whatsit you wouldn't hate having might come from a great dealer, in which case, go buy that. Or Kia might have a great Cyber Wednesday deal running or you might inexplicably like the shift knob in the BMW X# Competizione M Sport GranTurismo and that's what turns your head.

Or maybe you just want a crossover with luxury features that's comfortable, has terrific handling and performance, and great design, in which case you should head straight to your local Mazda dealer and plunk down thirty-thousand-and-something dollars for a Mazda CX-5 and skip all the other stuff. That's what I'd do.

Mazda is the rare carmaker that makes excellent vehicles across the entire range, so you can't go wrong. My tester CX-5 came in an intoxicating Soul Red Crystal Metallic with a Caturra Brown interior. I don't know what makes Soul Red different from regular red, or what a Caturra is, but Mazda's built a fetching crossover. The new Mazda3 is a looker and the CX-5 has the same lineage.
It's aggressive but not shouty, taut but not tense. It's sporty and luxurious. It's driver-focused but refined for everyone else too. It is, to put a point on it, all things to all people.

Except for that infotainment screen. It's a weak point, I'll admit — and so will Mazda, I suspect. It sticks out of the center of the dash, which is fine. It's a good size, and Apple CarPlay looks great on it. You can just reach it, but it's not a touch screen (except when it is). And the stock infotainment system is incredibly annoying.

2020 Mazda CX-5 The touch points of the CX-5 tester were more premium than the price of the SUV would let on.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Generally you control it with a knob and button setup down in the center console behind the shifter (the volume knob is down here too, which is annoying for five minutes and then kind of delightful). It's not the best way to control an interface, but it's serviceable and much preferred to the horrendous touchpad that Lexus insists on installing in all its vehicles these days. But then, once in a while, and only in CarPlay, it works as a touchscreen. But not always.

Yet, this is a mere quibble because the rest of the car is fantastic. My tester priced out at $38,655 in the Signature trim and is filled with nearly every feature on my must-have list, including 360-degree camera, parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats (and heated rear seats, too), a terrific heads-up display, adaptive cruise, an active lane-keeping assist, and a bunch more.

The Signature also includes standard AWD and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 250-horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque engine, and is a total peach. It even runs on standard fuel, although derated to 227 horsepower. Fuel economy with the bigger engine is hurt a little bit, running 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, while the smaller non-turbo variant that comes standard in the CX-5 runs 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque but at 24/30 city/highway with all-wheel drive.

2020 Mazda CX-5 Buttons, knobs, and the steering wheel are all easy to reach from the driver's seat.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

A few weeks ago, I tested a 2019 Mazda3 hatchback around the racetrack at the Monticello Motor Club and it was a riot. A note to those who love powerful cars: it's way more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. The Mazda3 was controllable and predictable — exactly what you want in a performance vehicle, and the CX-5 has the same sort of feel. It's much more car than SUV, and in this trim, is part sports car too.

It reminds me of a budget Porsche Macan a bit. Sporty luxury with quality and refinement to spare, only at a much more reasonable price. All those other crossovers might seem basically the same, but the CX-5 stands out. I guess that's why Mazda is selling so many of them.

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The new Civic Hatchback just went on sale.

Honda

The Honda Civic is one of the most popular and well-known cars of any type. Honda keeps refining the Civic formula to the point that it seems hard for the car to get any better, but that's what we're here to talk about. The 2022 model year sees the Civic enter its eleventh generation, and updates for the new model year make the car more upscale, more refined, and safer than ever before. Honda released the Civic Sedan first, but the Hatchback is now on the streets. Both cars are excellent, but we want to take a closer look at the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback. Here are three things to know about the car.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback The Civic Hatchback is almost as practical as a small SUV, and it's way more fun to drive. Honda

Cargo Space

Looking at the Civic Hatchback, or any modern Civic for that matter, it's easy to start believing that there's nothing to it - that you can't use it as a proper family car. That isn't the case here, nor is it the case with the 2022 Civic Sedan. The Hatchback starts with 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, and the rear bench folds flat to open up even more room for gear. That's shy of a compact crossover, but better than many subcompact crossovers - and the Civic is infinitely more fun to drive than either. The Honda CR-V, for example, offers 37.6 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats, but the subcompact HR-V offers just 23.2 cubic feet of space. I know which vehicle I'd rather drive, and it's the Civic Hatchback by miles and miles.


2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Clever design elevates the Civic above its competition.Honda

Refinement and Design

Honda's redesign of the Civic started with the Sedan, which released first. Its interior carries premium feeling materials and a grown-up design that is at odds with the Civic's reasonable price tag. There are several clever design touches like a singular metal grille that runs the length of the dash. The front air vents are concealed behind it and feature thoughtfully designed control knobs. It's a detail that isn't seen in other cars at this price point, and it's one that elevates the Civic from a budget car to one that feels special.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback All Civics come packed with safety tech.Honda

Safety Features and Crash Test Scores

The Honda Civic Sedan and Hatchback both earned Top Safety Pick + awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Vehicles earn the honor by scoring "Good," "Advanced," or "Superior" in all categories, including headlights. On top of that, Honda equips the cars with plenty of advanced driver aids, including forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, collision mitigation braking, and road departure mitigation. Blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are available in higher trims.

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The car shows just 9,000 miles.

Bring a Trailer

If you’re in the market for a new and unique sports car, this may be your fix. The Mazda RX-8 is a much-maligned and somewhat unreliable vehicle, but the price on this auction may be just right. The 2005 RX-8 shows just 9,000 miles on its odometer and looks to be in wonderful shape.

2005 Mazda RX-8 Unsurprisingly, the RX-8 looks almost new.Bring a Trailer

The RX-8 was an interesting but problem-plagued car that many enthusiasts steer clear of these days. Numerous things can go wrong with the rotary engine that powers the car, including bad ignition coils, engine fuel flooding, catalytic converter issues, and starter problems. The engine’s unique design caused problems when drivers started and quickly shut down the car without letting it warm fully. The problem would prevent the car from starting until remedied but didn’t cause any permanent damage. Other issues could cause costly repairs and extended downtime for RX-8 owners.

While all of that could eventually become an issue for this car, it’s likely that its low mileage and great condition will help it stay in decent health for at least a while. The seller also provided compression test results that show a healthy and functioning engine without much to worry about at the moment.

The RX-8’s tiny 1.3-liter two-rotor engine produced 238 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque when new. A six-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard. The cars were, and still are, quick, thanks to their light weight. On the downside, the cars’ fuel economy and oil consumption are both prodigious.

2005 Mazda RX-8 The RX-8 was a quirky car with small doors that opened to access the back seat. Bring a Trailer

This 2005 RX-8 sits at just $12,000 at the time of this article, and there’s still almost five hours to go in the auction. Unless some brave soul gets excited at the last minute, it likely won’t climb much higher than that. At that price, the RX-8 is a less risky purchase and would mean that the new owner could use and abuse it without much worry. Could that be you?

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