Nearly five years after the first Mazda CX-5 became an instantaneous success for Mazda North America, the automaker has revamped its best seller. Revealed on the eve of the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 should have little trouble capitalizing on the momentum created by the oft-praised crossover.
In 36 of the last 45 months, year-over-year CX-5 volume has increased, a striking achievement given the Mazda brand’s struggles to earn mainstream market share in the United States. Mazda brand sales are down 8 percent in the U.S. this year.
But the CX-5 is another story; the bright light at a brand where the midsize car is ignored, the biggest and smallest crossovers are niche products, the compact is fast fading, the subcompact and minivan have both been extinguished, and the most famous product is the brand’s least common product.
Tonight’s 2017 Mazda CX-5 reveal is hugely important to Mazda, as nearly four-in-ten sales in Mazda’s U.S. showrooms are generated by the brand’s surprisingly fun to drive CR-V fighter.
“We will aim at the level of art here. This is our target,” Mazda design boss Ikuo Maeda said tonight during an extensive design-oriented presentation leading up to the CX-5’s reveal, free from the subject of engineering. Emphasizing Japanese aesthetics, design awards won by recently introduced Mazdas, and a wide array of objects that inspire Mazda design, Maeda fostered high expectations for the new CX-5.
Does it live up to the hype? Is the new CX-5, in the words of Maeda, “car as art?”
Good looks alone clearly don’t sell Mazdas in North America. Just look at the Mazda 6 and Mazda CX-3’s limited demand for evidence. But adding greater visual expression to the already popular CX-5 would be another matter altogether.
This redesign certainly modernizes the five-year-old CX-5’s style, but it is largely an evolutionary move forward. Unmistakably a CX-5, this latest Mazda neither looks “all-new” nor does it appear to be yesterday’s car.
We reported on rumors yesterday that the revamped CX-5 would beÂ made available with a diesel engine, and Mazda’s media release seems to confirm that the 2.2-liter SkyActiv-D will be brought to the U.S. market. The 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter four-cylinders from the previous CX-5 will continue.
The CX-5’s body is 16 percent stiffer. G-Vectoring control already seen in the updated Mazda 3 makes its way into the CX-5. Mazda lowered the center of gravity by nearly half an inch, lowered the beltline for better visibility, and raised the console to allow for a shifter that â€” oh, I can’t help it â€” falls more readily to hand.
Mazda also promises a quieter CX-5 after road noise complaints were prevalent in criticism of the outgoing model.
Sales of the new CX-5 begin in Japan in Febuary. Global launches willÂ follow shortly thereafter.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.