Looking for a used car? Most Americans buy used — or pre-owned or certified pre-owned — vehicles. For one thing, a used car is much cheaper than a new one: A year-old SUV loses 20 to 30 percent of its value after one year. Given the cost of a base-level Tahoe — $49,000 for 2021 — that depreciation puts pre-owned vehicles in a manageable price range for many consumers. But what if your budget is a lot less, like $10,000? There are plenty of vehicles for you, including the Mazda CX-5.
So you’re in better shape than you might think if you’re price-conscious. One of the pandemic’s positive side effects is that automakers are offering super deals on new cars, which in turn has flooded the used-car market. So with that 10 grand burning a hole in your pocket, you can surf used-car websites like Kelley Blue Book with the confidence you’ll find a good ride within your budget.
The Mazda CX-5
You don’t have to settle for a beat-up Chevy Malibu either. There are several late-model small SUVS out there, including the Honda CR-V, Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4, and, yes, Ford Escape. But one of the better options is the Mazda CX-5.
Mazda redesigned the CX-5 in 2013, abandoning the somewhat creepy “happy face” on the grill with a more sophisticated take on the classic pentagonal design. The lines are more sophisticated than you’d expect for a small SUV, a far cry from the boxy Tribute that preceded the CX-5, which was basically a Ford Escape (the result of a joint venture into the world of small SUVs).
Like most SUVs, the CX-5 comes in three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. With a budget of $10,000, your options will likely be the Sport model, but with a used car, you can get lots more bells and whistles on the vehicle. For starters, the base model comes with front- or all-wheel-drive. If you want a manual transmission, the CX-5 is one of the few SUVs that offer one, but only in the front-wheel-drive option.
Where the CX-5 shines in its class
Consumer Reports calls the 2013 Mazda CX-5 a recommended buy, and with an expected price between $9,000 and $11,425, it’s worth your time to find one for a test drive. Some of the highlights: Per CR, the CX-5 has solid fuel economy (25 mpg with regular gas), a roomy interior, and lots of features. It’s also nimble and more fun to drive than most SUVs. One of the downsides: Though the cabin is roomy, there’s not a lot of legroom, so if you’re on the taller side, you might want to keep looking.
Some standard features are a bit surprising at this price point: a full range of power assists, tilt/telescope steering column and multifunction wheel, cruise, keyless remote, and a split folding rear seat. Options on the Sport model include a Bluetooth package with phone/audio connectivity, touchscreen, and HD radio.
Take the Mazda CX-5 for a virtual test drive
The Mazda CX-5 handles more like a sports car but also has the overall ride comfort of one. It’s a rough ride, not as tiring as the Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage, but a bit choppy nonetheless. The CX-5 is a bit noisy on the road, so plan to crank up the radio. Braking is solid, and the SUV stops short on wet or dry pavement. Mazda has also upped the towing capacity to 2,000 pounds, which is a little more aggressive than the 1,500 pounds for most SUVs in this class.
The Mazda CX-5 hits most of the marks for an inexpensive small SUV, and it scored well on CR’s safety tests. Overall, it’s a good choice at this price point.