The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Deserves Your Attention

Compared to some of the best-selling crossovers, Mazda’s SUV/crossover lineup has often been overlooked. But as the Japanese automaker has improved its products, buyers and critics like Consumer Reports have taken increasing notice. And if you’re looking for a fun-to-drive crossover with slick design and luxury on a budget, you should consider the 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature.

What comes standard on the 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD?

A front-3/4 view of a red 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD parked on a rainy street
2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD front | Matthew Skwarczek

The Mazda CX-5 Signature comes standard with all-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic. And it previously offered a turbodiesel four-cylinder, too. However, for 2020 the CX-5 Signature only comes with one engine: a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine. If you fill the gas tank with 87-octane, it develops 227 hp and 310 lb-ft, Motor Trend reports. But with 93-octane, that jumps to 250 hp and 320 lb-ft.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature's interior as seen from the rear seats
2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD rear interior | Matthew Skwarczek

With a $37,155 base price, the Signature is the range-topping Mazda CX-5 model. That means it comes standard with features like heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a power liftgate, and a heated steering wheel. Navigation is also standard, Roadshow reports, as are Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Bose audio system. LED interior lights, Nappa leather upholstery, real wood trim, and a heads-up display with traffic-sign recognition are standard too, Autotrader reports.

For 2020, the whole Mazda CX-5 lineup, which was already an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, received an ADAS suite upgrade. Every model now comes standard with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking. The CX-5 Signature adds front and rear parking sensors and a 360° camera system on top of that.

Basically, the only option on the 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature is the paint color. The Soul Red paint on my tester is an extra $595.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature: sporty stylish luxury

The side view of a red 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD on a rainy city street
2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD side | Matthew Skwarczek

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Car and Driver describes the 10 Best List-making Mazda CX-5 Signature as “a luxury SUV in all but name.” And it can definitely stand up to pricier rivals like the BMW X1 and Infiniti QX50. Its overall style and interior quality are just some of the reasons why it placed first in Car and Driver’s recent crossover comparison.

The materials are excellent: the leather is soft, most of the plastics are soft-touch, and every knob feels solid. And for 2020, the Mazda CX-5 lineup has more sound insulation, thicker door seals, and better acoustic layering for the windows, Autoweek reports. Driving on the highway, there was impressively little external noise.

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Speaking of driving, that’s perhaps the Mazda CX-5’s biggest strength, MT, and Autoweek report. The steering feels taut and solid and actually sends some road information to your fingertips. The suspension, while a bit stiff, is well-dampened, and the chassis is solid. You’ll feel road imperfections, MT notes, but the ride is never harsh. And it’s worth it for the grin-inducing handling.

Mazda also fits the CX-5 with ‘G-Vectoring Torque Control,’ which quickly cuts torque delivery as you enter a corner, to transfer weight forward and improve turn-in. I couldn’t tell you if it was working, but allegedly, that’s the point. But at the end of the day, it means the Mazda CX-5 is a great crossover to have when the road begins to curve.

Plus, it’s still a quiet luxurious driver with a smooth-shifting transmission. The heads-up display shows ADAS alerts, and the navigation gives plenty of notice for turns. The digital speedometer shows both the posted speed limit (in red) and the cruise control setting (in green). The 360° cameras and parking sensors make parallel-parking and avoiding curbs easier.

What still needs work?

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature isn’t perfect, though.

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For one, Roadshow notes its engine is coarser than the crossover’s luxury image suggests. I also noticed the same coarseness during my week with the car. The 2.5-liter also isn’t as fuel-efficient as its rivals, such as the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. Over 127.9 miles of city and highway driving, I averaged 22.37 mpg. That’s just above the Mazda CX-5’s city EPA rating.

A sharp, gray 2020 Honda CR-V Touring model parked in the city.
2020 Honda CR-V Touring | Honda

In addition, there are a few interior flaws worth addressing. Although the Mazda CX-5 can comfortably seat 4-5 people, MT notes the Honda CR-V has more cargo and seating space. Also, the black plastic trim, while sold-feeling, easily picks up fingerprints. Plus, if someone sits in the middle rear seat, the passengers can’t access the USB outlets. And in front, the USB outlets are hidden in the center armrest, which is slightly too far-back to keep both hands on the wheel.

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Finally, there are the Mazda CX-5’s brakes. They’re effective, to be sure, and easy to modulate. But they’re not as sharp as the steering and handling are. There’s a split-second of delay and needless pedal travel before the brakes actually bite. Autoweek describes the brake pedal as “a bit squishy at the top of its travel.” Going too sensitive would arguably be just as bad. But improving the pedal’s reflexes to make it more in-line with the rest of the crossover’s athleticism would be welcome.

That being said, the 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature is arguably the automaker’s best crossover/SUV. And if you’re in the market for a vehicle like that, it should definitely be on your radar.

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