It’s a joy to drive, but missing some of the “little things” holds back the CX-5 from true greatness.
Update: Check the comments section too, others have mentioned a couple more good ones.
Update 2: I took my CX-5 on a racetrack, and I actually had a lot of fun. Here are my thoughts.
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is undoubtedly one of the best (affordable) CUVs on the market right now. Between it’s killer looks and fantastic road-feel, the CX-5 is a brilliant answer to the two giants that overshadow it, Honda and Subaru (CR-V and Forester). It’s near the front of the pack in terms of power and fuel efficiency, typically mutually exclusive traits, and still comes in under 30k. It’s not for the economy 4WD seeker, the CUVs like the Rogue cater to a more frugal bunch, but the CX-5 is a damn good (and practical) car if you care at all about enjoying what you drive.
That being said, there is still significant room for Mazda to improve the CX-5. Although it answered its critics’ biggest gripe from the 2013 (underpowered 2.0L engine upgraded to 2.5L), there are still many little things that make you shake your head. Here’s a selection of tiny faults I’ve come across in a month of driving. Some of them are legitimately stupid, and some of them are just based on my personal driving preferences.
- Window Controls
Have you ever parked your car, turned off the engine, and realized you left a window open? We all have, and most cars will keep the juice flowing to the windows controls until you crack open the door so you can correct your mistake without turning the car back on.
What Mazda does instead is only give you one auto-up/down, illuminated window switch which will remain active after turning off the ignition. All the other switches are left lifeless and dark. Either Mazda thinks people will only ever forget to close one window, or they didn’t feel like wiring up the remaining 3 (+ moonroof) window switches to a computer-controlled circuit and gluing in an LED. This is cheap, and dumb.
- Rear Visibility
This is something that plagues a lot of newer cars… sloped rear-ends that increase aerodynamics and hatchback-iness usually mean slits for rear windows. That’s not a problem when reversing if your car gives you a backup camera (and the CX-5 does), but when you’re driving on the highway, it’s bad for situational awareness. Couple this with headrests that permanently obscure your vision, and you have a pretty much useless rear view mirror.
Also, the last row of windows in the CX-5 is pretty much useless. Furthermore, the geometry of the rear pillar creates an area of high-contrast. That rear window in the back is always brighter than the surroundings, which turns makes it harder for me to clear my blind spot at a glance… probably why Mazda threw in a blind spot monitoring system.
- Lightweight Panels
In my old CR-V, when I closed the moonroof shade at highway speeds, I immediately noticed a sound-dampening quality in the cabin. The shade itself was dense and well padded. It also blocked out noise from rain. The CX-5’s shade is noticeably flimsier and does nothing for the car’s acoustics.
Some other plastic panels and accents don’t fit as snugly as they could have either.
- Subaru’s Trunk is More Useful
When I test-drove the Forester, I was impressed by the little details. Like a styrofoam tray in the spare tire compartment to store small trinkets. It wouldn’t be very useful for groceries, but it’s certainly nice for items you would otherwise carelessly toss in the trunk and let roll around on a regular basis.
Mazda’s spare tire well is shallower, so it can’t be nearly as useful. Maybe you can toss in a pair of shoes, that’s about it. If they’d dropped the trunk depth just a few more inches, they might have actually improved aerodynamics and added some useful hidden storage. It’s not like you’re going to go mudding in a car like this, so ground clearance would still have been quite sufficient.
This one’s really just knit-picking, the CX-5’s automatic transmission when paired with a 6-speed provides more than adequate power. But quite often, it’s fuel-sipping programming will make itself known as the car holds onto a higher gear as long as possible. You can drop the car into manual shift mode, but it’s not a real manual shifter. The CX-5’s automatic brain will still automatically downshift for you when you’re slowing down, so if you try to downshift there’s a good chance your car will try to simultaneously. Instead of limiting the car to only one shift (when 2 different inputs are received) every 150 milliseconds or so, you’ll just drop 2 gears at once and suffer the harsh engine braking consequences.
Mazda. Either give us FULL control, or put in some code in the ECU or something that ignores double-shifts (from user input + automatic logic).
- Open Door Indicator
Honda’s had this nailed down for years. Would it kill you to differentiate your different door sensors instead of having a single monolithic “A DOOR IS OPEN” icon on the dashboard???
- Infotainment System
This one’s the deal-breaker for me. If Mazda doesn’t fix this by the time my lease is over, I’m discarding all my accumulated love for Mazda and switching brands. Here’s how Mazda’s iPhone/Pod connectivity works:
1) Bluetooth – Works like a charm, easier to pair than Subaru’s system on the Forester. Navigation, music are all routed properly. However, there are no controls for finding playlists or songs. Nor are there options for shuffle or repeat. The only workaround is to use Siri to activate shuffle, not even the Music App’s controls work.
2) USB – Car tries to download ALL music. We’re not talking a song list or anything, if you have 10 GB of music, you have to wait for your car to read 10 GB over USB 2.0. I can usually drive a mile or two before playback starts. And when it does, there is no persistent memory of where you last left off. The car starts playing at the very first song in alphabetical order. People in forums have recommended creating empty tracks titled ‘aaaaaaaaa.mp3’ in order to circumvent this system.
Like… SERIOUSLY, MAZDA? A high school programmer could do better than this. MYFORD TOUCH, Sync, whatever it’s called works better than this. Not only is this annoying, but by not letting me set my music before I start driving you are creating a safety hazard. I, and dozens of others, have contacted Mazda Corporate, and they said they will relay our concerns to the UI designers but they have made no promises to patch this system in the future. (PS, there’s a Change.Org petition about this issue: http://www.change.org/petitions/mazda-north-america-mazda-uk-mazda-spain-espa%C3%B1a-update-head-unit-software-for-the-2014-mazda6)
Let me reiterate, the CX-5 is a joy to drive. The problem is that numerous little and large flaws tear you away from your automotive nirvana. To be clear though, this is by no means ‘the ultimate driving machine.’ It’s 80% there, for 50% of the price and for any other car that would be fantastic. But it kills me that all of Mazda’s faults could have been remedied for not a lot of money in manufacturing or design.
Another issue has been plaguing my car: Moisture.
Some mornings, I’ve found the inside of my windshield coated in ice, and because of its curvature I can’t scrape it off easily. After 5 minutes idling and 10 minutes driving with the deicer on maximum, there is still ice inside my car when I get to work (That’s another problem, uneven airflow over the windshield.)
And also, to get through the front gate I’ve had to open my door to show my ID because my window was frozen shut. I drive without air recirculation turned on, so humidity ought to have been equalized inside the cabin. I never had either of these problems with my CR-V in Michigan.