The 2019 CX-5 looks great inside and out, it’s a pleasure to drive and ride in and it will haul kids and groceries. It’s affordable, efficient and good looking. Honestly, what else is there?
The aesthetic of the CX-5 is a tidy and stylish one. It’s not pretending to look like an offroader or trying to be overly cute. Its style is compact and clean without being adorned with chintzy nonsense. 19×7 inch alloys fill out wheel wells. A wide open mouth for a grille and slits for headlights give this car a sporty look and set it apart from other things on the road.
The backend follows the same tidy and clean theme. Everything is sculpted and contoured to maintain the smooth lines. Genuine exhaust tips, not just bodywork that looks like exhaust, poke out at both bottom corners.
Rather than a cluttered and unnecessarily complicated dash/console set up, Mazda engineers elected to pursue a clean and simple dash design. The sleek symmetrical theme is soothing. The interface for the stereo and navigation system has a reasonable learning curve and quickly becomes second nature. Apple Carplay and Android Auto ensure seamless connectivity between devices, the car and its occupants.
The CX-5 Signature seats are wrapped in deep brown Nappa leather. Their design, like that of the dash, is restrained but well-executed. Front seats are heated and ventilated with power adjustment. All-weather mats go a long way toward preserving the carpets.
Rear seat passengers are treated to heated seats and can keep the batteries in their devices topped up using the charger in the fold-out armrest. The interior of this ride is a classy and comfortable space to spend a commute.
Mazda’s 250 horsepower, 2.5-liter turbocharged engine is sublime. seriously, it makes this car pleasure to operate. When lifting after acceleration there’s a little sigh from the turbo blow-off valve. This scoots the slick little crossover to 60 in just over six seconds. Unfortunately, this engine is available in the Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models only. The other trim levels have to make do with a naturally aspirated version.
Per the Mazda standard, this car handles well. It’s fun to drive and inspires confidence to attack corners that other, more wobbly crossovers don’t. The clever proximity key locks the door for drivers as they walk away from the car.
The CX-5 is a standout in a crowded market. And with five trim levels to choose from, there’s likely a CX-5 for almost any budget. The Sport model starts at $24,350, and the Signature trim, as tested here, will set buyers back $36,890. It sounds like marketing talk, but quality is what sets this car apart from other, similarly priced vehicles in its class. There’s a cohesive style that pervades each facet of the car from the inside out. This, combined with a satisfying driving experience, a decent price point and resonable fuel economy to create what must be the best bang for your five-seater crossover buck.
It does beg the question though, “what would happen if they dropped this darling little motor in an MX-5?” Maybe they’ll release a limited run insanity trim level that comes with a year’s supply of free rear tires.
Previous experience with Mitsubishi products may have tainted my perception of the brand for the worse. Not that they’re terrible cars, or that I’ve heard rumor that they are unreliable. No, it’s just that they feel a bit gimmicky, as if they’re angling to grab the attention of young buyers more interested in disco lights and subwoofers than a quality driving experience. Has Mitsubishi changed their tune for 2018?
First impressions upon climbing behind the wheel might be, “wow, there’s an awful lot of plastic used inside this car.” The dash lacks a little design continuity from one side to the other, but how often do you sit and meditate on your dash? Set in the dash is a seven inch touch screen infotainment interface that features Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Relative to other infotainment options, Carplay is a dream to operate, which is a plus for the Outlander. The Rockford Fosgate stereo pushes 710-watts through nine speakers including a subwoofer in the rear cargo area. The sub seems like a holdover gimic from a time when Mitsu angling for the young and hip, but audiophiles may appreciate it.
The second and third row seats lay flat for an open cargo space. Pull the handle to fold the second row down and the seat bottom leaps forward on springs. It’s a small joy to behold. This is technically a seven seater, but the third row seats are not really a viable option for adults. The interior does feel a little chintzier than other crossovers in its class, but if you have a load of kids and their friends tearing it apart, maybe you’ll mourn the stained upholstery and sticky cup holders a little less
The body was updated in 2015. This wasn’t an all out makeover, but more of a gentle massage. It holds up though, and definitely looks better than the over-bite aesthetic pre-2012 predecessor. It looks a little dated today, but mostly because it’s not chasing current trends. For example, it has reasonably sized brand marques on the grille and liftgate rather than the jumbo logos found on lots of other brands.
The 224 horsepower V6 in the GT S-AWD is enough to deliver adequate acceleration. However, the six speed auto transmission does feel a little indecisive at times. The adaptive cruise control could be smoother, but it hardly merits mention. Steering feel is above average for a crossover but is a bit let down by the marshmallowy suspension that allows pretty noticeable body roll. Honestly though, if you’re looking for a vehicle to carve up windy roads, you’re probably not shopping for crossovers in this price range.
The GT touring package features cross traffic alert and bird’s eye view which makes negotiating parking lots a breeze. Inside the cabin it is quiet and comfortable at highway speeds.
When you consider the the price to seating ratio, the Outlander seems like a lot of car for the money. When you begin racking up the optional extras, the deal seems even sweeter. And if going green is your thing, Mitsubishi offers a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander. Relative to its smaller sibling, the Outlander Sport, this vehicle feels a little more grown up, which is a move in the right direction for Mitsubishi. It’s a three row SUV starting under $24k, keep that in mind and you won’t be disappointed.
The Toyota CH-R didn’t begin life as a Toyota at all. It started as a design project by Scion way back in 2014. Since then Scion has died, but the little C-HR lives on under the Toyota marque.
It seems to me the C-HR is a victim of its own design. The initial Scion concept stirred up some interest with it’s over-sized 21″ wheels and pancaked roofline. Like so many aspects of concept cars, the form takes precedent over the function. In an attempt to retain likable elements of the concept car, it seems Toyota’s production model sacrifices some functionality for aesthetics.
Toyota offers any interior you want in the C-HR, as long as you happen to want black cloth. The headroom is good, but there’s a shortage of legroom in the car. You can get two adults in the rear seats, but you can’t really open the glovebox all the way with a person in the passenger seat. It also feels narrow between door panel and console. If I could sum up the interior in only one word, it would be rubbery. However, there is room behind the rear seats for groceries.
Exterior design is a mash up of gills, vents, bulbous lights, and creases in the body lines that depart at odd angles. If they sought to do something beautiful I’m afraid they missed the mark here. It’s not easy to design a car, so in an effort to pay the looks of this car some sort of friendly compliment, I scribbled the following line in my notes. “The front fascia looks like a satisfied cat drawn by Ghibli Studios, and isn’t that bad.” There, now this article is fair and balanced.
Perhaps the most tragic thing about the appearance of the C-HR is how similar it is to another compact crossover, the Nissan Juke. For instance, the rear door handles are integrated into the body work, the B-pillars are blacked out for that “hardtop” look, there’s a spoiler/shade over the rear window, and the headlights and taillights creep from the ends of the car to the adjacent body panels. If Toyota sought to make a statement with this car, Nissan beat them to it by six years.
When you slip the car into reverse, you may look to the seven inch touch-screen display mounted in the dash for a backup camera. This is wrong. Instead you must squint into the rather small and grainy picture that appears in the rearview mirror. Or you could try a more old fashion approach. Twist around and peer over your right shoulder and try looking out the back window.
You’ll find that this is no great improvement over the tiny image in your rearview. Toyota gave the C-HR a decent sized rear window but it’s slanted at an angle that makes it ineffective at almost anything other than keeping the rain out of the car. Presumably this was to try to maintain the silhouette of the original concept.
You can try getting a better angle by unbuckling and contorting yourself out of the driver’s seat, but do so at your own peril. The seatbelt reminder chime is unbearable and gets progressively more intense. It’s like a psychological warfare device borrowed from a Guantanamo Bay, used to crack the toughest nuts. In addition to the unusual rear window arrangement, the C-HR features very wide C-pillars which translates to big blind spots.
Power is derived from a buzzy 2.0L 4-pot which gets the job done, but without much zest. The brake pedal has an unsettling mush to it. I found myself slightly over-shooting the white line at intersections until I got the hang of it. The car is a little noisy inside but that’s not so uncommon for cars in its price range. The electrically assisted power steering does have a nice feel though.
To paraphrase a quote from the great “Red Green Show,” “If they don’t find you handsome, at least they’ll find you handy.” This car is neither. It’s an unremarkable car in a saturated market. It’s for Toyota brand-loyalist who want to send their daughters to college in a shiny new compact crossover. If you happen to be reading this while waiting for a car salesperson to return with the figures on your daughter’s new C-HR, don’t panic. Just take a deep breath, get up from the finance table, and drive to the closest Subaru dealership. The Crosstrek has CarPlay, it’s better looking, less expensive, more capable, and you can actually see out the back window.