2017 Mazda CX-5 Interior Review: Premiumish


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Even without fancy Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 stands out in the crowded compact crossover segment. But unless you gaze longingly at your car for hours every day, you’ll spend more time inside the cabin. That’s what makes a car’s interior so important, and after spending some time in a loaded 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring in the city and on the open road, we have a few thoughts.

Wait! Before continuing, feel free to catch up on our extensive 2017 Mazda CX-5 coverage right here:

Breaking It Up

Lately, Mazda has been positioning itself as offering semipremium cars at nonpremium prices. And in the past, Motor Trend has appreciated some smart design touches on the 2017 CX-5’s interior. One of those details is the way the center stack is broken up twice by panels of leatherlike material. The first separates the dash-topping 7.0-inch infotainment screen from the air vents, and there’s another break between those vents and other controls, including A/C adjustments and the heated seats. The overall effect is a center stack that looks especially clean and, yes, premiumish.

Going Down

Especially for taller drivers, that center-stack layout can become a problem if you want your HVAC controls in a location that’s easy to find and operate at a glance. Instead, the 2017 CX-5’s HVAC controls are at the very bottom of the center stack and mounted on a plane that feels almost vertical, making it a tad more difficult to use. In addition to tilting back the controls to make it easier to use, maybe a future CX-5 could swap the locations of the higher-placed heated seat and heated steering wheel buttons with those of the lower HVAC controls.


Whether it’s those HVAC controls, the central controller knob, or the little volume knob, I’m a huge fan of the way Mazda’s rotating knobs feel. Really—if you’re heading to a dealership, spend a few seconds rotating those controls. They feel good to use and are partially finished with a rougher texture that helps you keep your grip as you’re turning up the temperature or volume.

Mazda: Pull an Audi

About that volume control, it’s located just above the cupholders on the center console instead of on the dash as you might have in your own car. My long-term Motor Trend car is a 2017 Audi A4 with a similar volume control I’ve come to like. The knob is easy to find if you’re avoiding the volume buttons on the steering wheel, and I hope Mazda will make future volume knobs also function as track forward/back controllers like the A4 I drive. Without it, the CX-5 offers a front passenger no easy way to change the music to the next track if the infotainment system is displaying the navigation/map screens.

Make It Bigger and Driver-Focused

The 2017 CX-5’s infotainment screen is mounted exactly where it should be, at the very top of the dash. This detail has become important to me because I don’t want to have to look too far down while I’m driving to see whatever info is on the screen.

The CX-5’s interior has come a long way since the first-generation model was introduced years ago, but if Mazda is going to advertise its cars as a premium-brand alternative for a much better price, perhaps future CX-5s can offer a screen larger than 7.0 inches. (Hyundai, Kia, and Ford offer larger screens on their competitive SUVs.) Also, like with the Kia Sportage I spent about a year driving and unlike in the current Honda CR-V, I’d love to see a refreshed CX-5’s screen angled a little toward the driver.

Kneed Luxury

One touch we really appreciated on our 2017 CX-5 Grand Touring tester was the stitched trim panels on the sides of the center console. Although they could have been softer, the detail is still one that, for the most part, is only seen on higher-priced vehicles.

Interior Color Options

Most 2017 CX-5 trims offer a choice of two interior colors (the base Sport model gets black cloth seats), and that includes the highest Grand Touring trim. In fact, instead of the Touring model’s leatherette with suede inserts in black or beige, the Grand Select and Grand Touring trims get black or Parchment leather, the latter of which looks like a light beige in person. I’d be afraid of getting those light seats dirty over time, but I appreciate that the leather color is differentiated from lower trims. Still, if a premium interior color is a consideration for you, check out the Subaru Forester Touring’s brown leather option.

Take a (Back) Seat

The 2017 CX-5’s rear-seat legroom is decent but no subjective match for the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4—crossovers that both offer more cargo space. What neither of those popular crossovers offer is the CX-5’s why-doesn’t-everyone-do-this? rear-seat package. Starting with the Touring trim, the CX-5 features two 2.1-amp quick-charging USBs located in the central armrest. The location is more logical than some cars with USB outlets on the back of the front seats’ center console.

One feature Mazda has retained on the CX-5 from the last-gen model is the ability to fold down the seats via levers in the cargo area (the controls are pictured below). It’s a helpful feature, as is the fact that those side doors open 6 degrees wider than before (to a full 80-degree opening).

The Cluster

The 2017 Mazda CX-5 has an updated instrument cluster, but its design isn’t as modern as those in the Honda CR-V or loaded Kia Sportages and Hyundai Tucsons. Even so, the genuine head-up display helps—our Grand Touring tester had the Premium package, which includes that upscale tech as well as a six-way power passenger seat.


The 2017 Mazda CX-5’s interior makes a good case for itself. The clean center stack is a plus, though you’ll have to determine whether you think those low HVAC controls will become a minor irritation over time. I don’t personally consider the CX-5’s interior as a whole to be on the level of similarly sized premium-brand crossovers, but there are definitely some smart touches inside that enhance the sitting-in-traffic experience. Now if Mazda can just add a larger infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the CX-5 will really take a leap forward.

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