Lame duck but still soaring: 2022 Mazda CX-5

2021 Mazda CX-5

By Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2022 Mazda CX-5 different?

Very little, in what’s probably this compact-crossover SUV’s final model year before a full redesign. The 2022 CX-5 might gain a new color choice or two, maybe even an end-of-generation special edition. But it’ll return fundamentally unchanged as one of the best-looking – and arguably the best-driving – entries in this hotly contested class.

Introduced for model-year 2013, the CX-5 is among America’s oldest compact crossovers. But Mazda’s kept it competitive. It freshened the styling for 2017, added a lavish new flagship for ’19, introduced a turbocharged engine option for ’20, and modernizing the infotainment system for 2021.

Each change moved it upmarket and underscored how Mazda’s evidently turned the CX-5’s advanced age into a dependability advantage. Lacking funds to frequently introduce all-new models, the small Japanese automaker tends to update its cars and crossovers prudently. In 2020, that conservative approach earned the brand its first No. 1 ranking in Consumer Reports reliability survey.

The CX-5 is Mazda’s top-selling vehicle. In a crowded field of some 20 compact crossovers, it ranked seventh in sales through the first three quarters of 2020.

Should I wait for the 2022 Mazda CX-5 or buy a 2021?

2021 CX-5

Not much incentive to wait. The ’22 should be a virtual rerun of the ’21, but it’s almost certain to cost more – and at roughly $26,400-$38,500 – base prices are already in the upper echelon of the segment. Further, Mazda shuns heavy incentives, which helps maintain brand image and resale value but can discourage price-sensitive shoppers.

Another disincentive to wait: with the fully redesigned 2023 CX-5 in the wings, the ‘22’s styling and feature set will have a shorter shelf life than that of a ’21.

The 2022 CX-5 will remain a five-seater available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). It’ll reprise the 2021’s choice of naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines. And it’ll continue to slot in Mazda’s crossover roster between the smaller, subcompact CX-3 and CX-30 and the midsize, seven-passenger CX-9.

Mazda might introduce yet another trim level for model-year ’22. Even if not, it’s parsed the CX-5’s lineup smartly, packaging each grade with a sensible hierarchy of features and minimizing options. And the desirable turbocharged engine should remain available for a palatable $1,805 upcharge.

 Expect the core 2022 CX-5 lineup to return Sport, Touring, Carbon Edition, and Grand Touring models with the base engine. The Carbon Edition Turbo, Grand Touring Reserve, and flagship Signature grades with the turbocharged engine should repeat, too.

Will 2022 Mazda CX-5 styling be different?

2021 CX-5

Not beyond appearance details unique to any new trim level. The ’22 CX-5 will continue with touches applied as part of the 2017 refresh, when tweaks to nose and tail aligned its look with that of most other Mazdas. Sophisticated lines, minimal gingerbread, and smooth contours are themes inside and out.

All ’22 CX-5s should return LED headlights and black lower-body and wheel-lip moldings. LED foglamps, taillights and daytime running lights should again be standard starting with the Grand Touring trim. The Carbon Edition will again get its own blacked-out grille and black instead of body-colored side mirrors (but with the same integrated LED turn signals as the other models).

No trendy two-tone body/roof treatments here, but the body’s sexy lines can be emphasized by extra-cost colors, such as Soul Red Crystal Metallic ($595 for 2021) and Snowflake White Pearl Mica ($395).

The diameter and finish of the standard alloy wheels should remain among the few visual trim-level differentiators. Expect the ’22 CX-5 Sport to return with grey metallic 17 incher. All the other models should repeat with 19s, in black for the Carbon Edition and with bright or shadowed finishes for the others, depending on model.

2021 CX-5

The ’22 CX-5’s dashboard will reprise model-year 2021’s big change: a crisp 10.25-inch tablet-style infotainment screen as standard, in place of previous 7- and available 8.8-inch displays. Users will again govern most functions via an intuitive console-mounted controller dial and associated buttons. Like most everything else in the cockpit, from substantial-feeling panels to the precision movement of knobs and toggles, it’s a classy treatment that would be at home in many pricier vehicles.    

2021 CX-5

Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto will remain standard across the board. Imbedded navigation that doesn’t require a cell signal for real-time GPS mapping should return as a SD-card option for the Grand Touring Reserve and standard on the Signature models (and perhaps included with some new trim level).

Every ’22 CX-5 will return with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, with red stitching in the Carbon Edition. Expect the Touring model to again upgrade from cloth upholstery to leatherette with faux suede inserts, plus heated front seats and a power driver’s seat. If Mazda reprises the Touring Preferred SV Package it should again add red leather upholstery, black honeycomb cabin trim, a memory power driver’s seat, and a power passenger seat, among other features.

Leather upholstery should remain standard on all the other ’22 CX-5s, with the Grand Touring Reserve again adding ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. Exclusive brown Nappa leather, real-wood and bright-silver cabin accents, unique steering-wheel stitching, and ambient and LED lighting – all worthy of a premium-class crossover — should again distinguish the Signature flagship.

2021 CX-5 Signature

Mazda also takes pains to please the discerning enthusiast. Classic analog gauges, a steering wheel carefully aligned with the driver’s-seat centerline, and a floor-hinged gas pedal – easier to modulate than the more common lever type — are evidence. So are front bucket seats shaped more for support in corners than to accommodate the wider of girth. Sit before you commit.

Wide doorways and a relatively low step-in height furnish easy entry to a cabin of generous headroom and legroom. The rear bench, though, lacks the convenience of fore-aft sliding adjustment and a reclining backrest.

Interior storage space is adequate. The rear seatbacks fold in a 40/20/40 split, allowing a useful center passthrough. At 30.9 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 59.6 with it folded, however, cargo volume is a bit below class average. A power liftgate should return as optional for the Touring model and standard on the higher trims. We’d suggest Mazda find a way to provide expect hands-free operation. Its continued absence is a shortfall for a modern crossover. 

Any 2022 Mazda CX-5 mechanical changes?

2021 CX-5

Major mechanical changes won’t come before the expected model-year-2023 launch of the second-generation CX-5. Even then, as Mazda takes the next-gen CX-9 and Mazda 6 midsize sedan upmarket with rear-drive-based engineering and inline-six-cylinder engines, the CX-5 will hew to compact-crossover tradition: a front-wheel-drive-based platform and transverse-mounted four-cylinder engines.

And don’t expect it to offer gas-electric power to match the conventional- and plug-in hybrid models available in such rivals as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Toyota RAV4 and Venza. Mazda’s likely to plant its compact-crossover-hybrid flag with a new entry using Toyota technology and potentially called the CX-70. (On the subject of badges, the second-generation CX-5 could be renamed the CX-50 as Mazda transitions to double-digit suffixes for its crossovers.)

By any name, the next CX-5 could be a candidate for Mazda’s new Skyactiv-X engine, a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder that employs both gasoline-spark ignition to optimize fuel efficiency and diesel-type compression ignition to maximize torque. With around 180 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, it would be the entry-level engine.

Today’s first-gen will conclude its run with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder of 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving). It’ll again power the Sport, Touring, Carbon Edition, and Grand Touring trims.

The 2022 CX-5 Carbon Edition Turbo, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature will return with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four. Mazda should again rate it at 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque on super-premium 93-octane gasoline and 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet using 87-octane regular.

Continuously variable transmissions and automatics of seven, eight, and even nine speeds are now common in this class. But the ’22 CX-5 will again link both its engines to a proven six-speed automatic. It’s a fine match, keeping these fours in their power bands without unnecessary gear changes – even if it potentially sacrifices a smidgen of fuel economy in the bargain.

2021 CX-5

This is among the lighter compact crossovers, so acceleration with the naturally aspirated engine is satisfying if far from thrilling. Power delivery is rewardingly linear and there’s muscle enough for drama-free merging and passing. Fairly effective control over engine speed is provided by the steering-wheel paddle shifters that should again be standard starting with the Grand Touring trim.  

Turbocharged CX-5s will again benefit from 25-percent more engine displacement than the turbo 2.0-liter fours familiar to the competition. That helps erase a measure of off-boost lag that can frustrate response away from a stop and from midrange speeds. Strategic throttle application still works best, though, and rewards with 0-60 mph in a lively 6.2 seconds – some 2.5 seconds quicker than with the naturally aspirated engine. There’s a commensurate margin of extra oomph to join the flow and overtake at highway speeds, too.

The turbo four isn’t as smooth as the naturally aspirated engine, but its raspy grumble fades at cruising speeds, complimenting this crossover’s laudable resistance to road and wind noise. Incidentally, we observed no noticeable performance degradation on 87-octane gas.

AWD should remain optional for models with the naturally aspirated engine and for the Carbon Edition Turbo. Expect it to return as standard for the turbo Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models. It’s a mainstream system, normally operating in front-wheel drive and automatically shuffling power rearward when the front tires slip. Even with a reasonable 8.2 inches of ground clearance, this is no off-roader. However, Mazda does include what it calls off-road traction assist, which automatically adjusts power and braking to favor tires with the most purchase.

Regardless of engine or drivetrain, the ’22 CX-5 should retain its standing as the best overall handler in the segment. The plaudits begin with firm steering that’s accurate on center and in turns. Changes of direction are initiated without hesitation, grip and balance in corners inspire confidence. Suspension control is splendid, with a blend of firmness and compliance characteristic of sporty European brands – some of which don’t match this Mazda’s all-around composure.

AWD adds a degree handling equilibrium even on dry roads. Front-wheel-drive 2022 CX-5s will again come with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, which sharpens turn-in reaction by subtly scaling back torque, adding an instant of traction-enhancing weight to the front tires.

We’ve not tested a Sport with the 17-inch wheels and tires. CX-5s with the 19s absorb bumps better than most rivals with rolling stock of similar size. Sharp ridges seldom shudder the structure and dips and ripples don’t disrupt its stride. The ride is decidedly firm, but in the service of control.

Will 2022 Mazda CX-5 fuel economy improve?

2021 CX-5

Absent powertrain changes, 2022 CX-5 EPA ratings should repeat those of the 2021 models. That would leave the ’22 slightly below average for the class.

Expect CX-5s with the naturally aspirated engine to again rate 25/31/28 mpg with front drive and 24/30/26 with AWD. Look for the turbocharged models, which should again come standard with AWD, to repeat at 22/27/24 mpg and 27/30/28, respectively. A 2021 Signature averaged 25.1 mpg in our testing on the recommended 93-octane fuel.

Will there be new 2022 Mazda CX-5 features?

2021 CX-5

Nothing major is likely. Mazda could tack on amenities such as a video rearview mirror that uses a tailgate camera to let drivers “see through” rear occupants and cargo that might otherwise obstruct the view aft. Features such as semi-autonomous driving control, increasingly available on class rivals, will almost certainly not arrive until the redesign.

Laudably, Mazda will again make its full suite of safety features standard across the entire 2022 CX-5 lineup. Its i-Activesense system includes autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian.

Lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction is part of i-Activesense. So is adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go driving. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection are included, although for model-year 2021, only the Signature came with automatic rear braking. We’d urge Mazda to expand this useful driver assist to other CX-5 grades for 2022.

Every ’22 CX-5 will again come with the convenience of automatic brake hold that relieves the driver of maintaining pressure on the brake pedal when the crossover is stopped at a light or in jammed traffic. Automatic highbeam headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers will again be standard, too.

Expect a head-up instrument display to remain optional for the Grand Touring model and standard for the Grand Touring Reserve and Signature. It’s display of blind-spot-alert icons is a praiseworthy safety adjunct. Look for the Signature to again be the only ’22 CX-5 that can display on its dashboard screen a 360-degree exterior view, a handy maneuvering aid in tight quarters.

In addition to features already discussed, all 2022 CX-5 should return with in-car WiFi hotspot support, two front USB ports, pushbutton ignition. To the Sport model, the Touring should again add full keyless entry, auto-leveling headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, and for the rear seats, privacy glass, climate vents, a center armrest, and two USB charging ports. 

2021 CX-5 Signature cabin has real wood trim

The Touring Preferred SV Package should again be just one of two major options. Expect it to again cost around $1,445 and add to the ’22 CX-5 Touring such features as a 10-speaker Bose audio system, the power liftgate, a power moonroof, and automatic-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink. Look for the ’22 Carbon Edition to include this package’s contents, plus the aforementioned black-out trim and wheels.

To all that – sans the blackouts — the 2022 CX-5 Grand Touring should again add satellite radio, a digital vehicle-data screen in the instrument cluster, and the previously noted paddle shifters and extra LED lighting. It should also be available with the ’22 CX-5’s only other major option, the Grand Touring Premium Package. Priced at $1,625 for model-year ’21, the package should again include the head-up display, power-folding side mirrors, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, and a windshield de-icer.

To that package, expect the 2022 Grand Touring Reserve to add the turbocharged engine. Upgrading it with imbedded navigation should again be possible via an SD card available from Mazda dealers or at retail for around $50. The ’22 CX-5 Signature would continue to bundle the turbo with all these features and its unique interior appointments.

Will 2022 Mazda CX-5 prices be different?

2021 CX-5

They’ll likely increase, although Mazda might be wise to show restraint. All its vehicles are getting costlier as it repositions itself as an upscale brand. Certainly, its cars and crossovers can boast a near-premium sheen versus most direct competitors. Trouble is, much of the buying public still seems to view Mazdas as mainstream and affordable rather than aspirational and pricey.

For reference, here are base prices for the 2021 Mazda CX-5, including the $1,100 manufacturer destination fee.

For 2021 CX-5 models with the naturally aspirated engine, the Sport started at $26,370 with front-wheel drive and at $27,770 with AWD, the Touring at $28,110 and $29,510, respectively. Base price for the ’21 Carbon Edition was $29,955 with front-drive and $31,355 with AWD. The ’21 Grand Touring was priced from $31,560 with front drive and $32,960 with AWD.

Models with the turbocharged engine started at $31,760 for the 2021 CX-5 Carbon Edition Turbo with front-drive and $33,160 with AWD. With AWD standard, base price was $36,385 for the ’21 CX-5 Grand Touring Reserve and $38,505 for the ’21 Signature.

When does the 2022 Mazda CX-5 come out?

2021 CX-5

Expect a 2022 Mazda CX-5 release date in the third quarter of 2021.

Best 2022 CX-5 Mazda competitors

Chevrolet Equinox, Buick Envision, Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Venza, Volkswagen Tiguan

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]