Had I carefully looked both ways twice before crossing a busy road, I would have most likely purchased my beloved 2011 Chevy Cruze LS at the end of the lease. However, my wife may have more vociferously expressed her hatred for the car, and we would have ended up in the market anyway. We have now had two cars, the Cruze and the Grand Caravan, which my wife hated that met premature ends. I would be suspicious if both casualties had not been 100% my fault. I must love my wife more than I thought. I decided to let her pick the next car.
Up until a couple of years ago, the annual Connecticut Auto Show was within walking distance of my office. If I had the opportunity, I would pop over on opening Friday during lunch hour. At the November 2012 show I was looking primarily at compact crossovers, figuring that would be the type of vehicle to replace Shadow, our 2003 Pontiac Vibe. Most of them left me cold, but I really liked sitting in the Mazda CX-5, Mazda’s first vehicle 100% designed and engineered in-house since its divorce from Ford several years before. The CX-5 was also the first Mazda to feature the whole Skyactiv Technology suite (the Mazda3 only offered the engine until its 2014 redesign). I spoke to the salesman on the show floor for a little bit, expressing my concern with the longevity of the direct-injection engine, but walked away with an overall positive impression of the car. When we went shopping for a car in a couple of years, the CX-5 would still be in its current form and near the top of our list.
Two weeks later, we found ourselves in the market for a new car. Thanks to my idiot insurance agent, I was paying for my rental out of pocket. So, we needed to buy something as soon as possible. After our tearful goodbye to Charlie in the towing yard, I took the family over to our local Mazda dealer, and they had a front-wheel drive Touring model in that cool Mica Blue Metallic which Mazda used in their advertising at the time. The kids had a great time playing in the car while we talked to the salesman. We told him that we liked the CX-5 but had a few other cars to check out.
I had a Windows computer connected to my living room TV (Media Center was my way of cutting the cord several years prior). I pulled up Edmunds.com, and we reviewed every compact crossover in that category. We narrowed our list to the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Nissan Rogue. We took that Tuesday off so we could shop without the kids. The Escape was nice, but I just didn’t trust Ford’s quality control. The Hyundai and Honda weren’t attractive enough in person, and the Rogue had an unforgivably cheap interior.
Back at the Mazda dealer, the salesman handed us the keys, and we took the CX-5 on one of our extended test drives. I drove for the first half and was very impressed with the way it rode and handled. Acceleration from the small 2.0-liter four was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. We pulled off the highway and did a full walk-around in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn, then my wife drove back to the dealer.
Something was still bothering me, and on the way back to the dealer we started talking about the accident. I was suddenly overcome with emotion. It landed on me like a ton of bricks why we were test driving a new car. The accident. The “accident” that could have killed my six-year-old son had I been driving either the Vibe or our old Grand Caravan. The “accident” that only happened because I was too damn impatient to look both ways twice before crossing a busy highway. I ultimately broke down, sobbing. My wife did her best to calm me down, since I would be the one handling the negotiations.
I had it mostly together by the time we sat down with the salesman. I glanced down at my spreadsheet, which I’d hurriedly worked up the night before. My out-the-door (OTD) price, at $27,463 seemed high, especially compared to the $24,049 invoice, even in high-tax, high-fee Connecticut. While the OTD price is usually a floor, I offered $26,500, and agreed on $26,772 including a retractable cargo cover. We told them we’d come back later that night to pick up the car so we could return the rental before we were charged for another day. We also asked them to put it in the showroom, like with Charlie, figuring the kids would get a big kick out of it. Not only did they do that, but, as you can see from the photos, they also put on a big, green ribbon (which we were not allowed to keep, much to my daughter’s chagrin).
While I was going over the paperwork later that night, I noticed that they were able to includ $189 for “VIN Etching” in the price. How the hell were they able to work that in? My OTD calculation usually leaves little room for dealer fees and add-ons unless the dealer cuts the selling price, and we were about $1,000 below that. Looking again at the spreadsheet, I saw that the OTD expression was “=Selling_Price+Sales_Tax+SUM(F40:F48)” Looks okay. Wait. Sales_Tax is cell F40. Crap. This just isn’t my week. Apparently, when I adapted the spreadsheet from Virginia to Connecticut, I screwed up altering the expression to account for the additional rows of fees. However, as the OTD on full MSRP would have been $27,209 with the cargo cover, and there were no incentives, it wasn’t an altogether terrible deal on the hottest new Mazda since the Miata. We’d also already had the money set aside to purchase Charlie. Between that and the insurance money, we were able to make a sizable down payment.
Since “Mica” already had 345 miles (something else I didn’t notice until later), there was no need to take a trip to break him in. My wife loved him right from the start. Prior to the purchase, I was getting flak from my mother-in-law because I was the primary driver of the last two new cars. It didn’t matter that my wife had no desire to drive them, but we seemed to be following the pattern of her older siblings where the under-achieving, under-earning spouse drove the newer car. We made it clear that Mica was her car, and I took over driving Shadow.
The first generation CX-5 is one of the best looking compact crossovers ever made. There’s just not a bad line anywhere. The current generation CX-5 is nice, but like the new Mazda3, Mazda kind of lost the plot toward the hind quarters. Other crossovers have clearly been inspired by the CX-5. The current Hyundai Tucson, especially in Aqua Blue, is almost a dead ringer. The previous generation RAV4 looked like a CX-5 with all of the life sucked out of it.
Mica is also a very pleasant vehicle to live with. The thick three-spoke steering wheel, 160 MPH speedometer, push-button start and gated gear shift provide a distinctly sporty feel. Both the front and rear are impressively roomy, and cargo space is generous. While power is somewhat wanting, these first generation SkyActiv vehicles are extremely efficient. The EPA estimate for this model is 26 city/32 highway, numbers we routinely beat. Mica actually gets better mileage than my subcompact hatchback, which you’ll read about next week.
We didn’t take Mica on a trip until the following August, when we drove to a resort in the Catskill Mountains. As we were navigating switchbacks while climbing, I moved the gear shift of the 6-speed automatic into manual mode, which worked beautifully to keep the engine in the appropriate power band. While the transmission doesn’t shift into high gear early like many other cars, manual mode is the secret to getting the most out of the little engine. Mazda’s transmission works a lot like the VW/Porsche Tiptronic, where the lever is moved into a separate gate and pulled back for upshifts and pushed forward for downshifts. A little counter-intuitive, but it works well. Overall, this is a good example of how a well programmed transmission can help compensate for a power deficit.
The only serious issue with the car was a dash rattle that we were fortunately able to reproduce for the service advisor. It took them a week to resolve (under warranty), but I got to drive a Mazda6 in the interim. Since the Mazda6 and the CX-5 share a lot, including the dashboard, it felt a lot like driving Mica, only lower.
Complaints are few. The audio system is probably the biggest Achilles heel. Even though it’s a modern touch screen (with separate physical buttons on the sides), it’s very old school. Instead of allowing station presets to be set regardless of band like in the Cruze, there are AM, FM1 and FM2 presets. A waste as most people don’t have one AM station to which they listen much less five. Although it doesn’t work with Sirius XM, it does have HD Radio, and there are some fun stations out there. The system takes a while to boot up after the car is turned on, and there’s no additional five minutes of power when the car is turned off. We’ve learned that if we want to continue listening to something without the engine idling, we need to put the gear shift into neutral, turn off the car, then put it in park. This leaves the car in accessory power, but you have to remember to push the ignition button twice to turn the car completely off before exiting. We also have about 1,500 songs on a flash drive plugged into the USB port, and it takes the system approximately two full minutes to index – every time – before playing.
Another issue is an intermittent lengthy pause when the car is shifted into drive. Most of the time the transmission engages instantaneously. Sometimes, usually when the engine is cold and after backing out of the driveway or a parking space, it can sometimes take a long as five seconds to engage after shifting into drive. If we forget and give it gas too soon, the car does one of those “neutral drop” jumps. We had it inspected by the dealer, and they said that it is a common problem with this drivetrain, but nothing that should affect its longevity. We’ve just learned to live with it. Additionally, that “sporty” 160 MPH speedometer, with its 20 MPH increments, makes determining actual speed rather difficult.
There have thankfully been no major accidents [knocking wood]. The only major scruff was from a thoughtless individual who clearly hit Mica either pulling in or backing out of the parking space to our left while we were at gymnastics class, but chose not to leave a note. I also did a little damage to the passenger mirror pulling out of the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry, but fortunately didn’t break any internal components, and it still works fine.
More than seven years and 90,000 miles later, Mica is still my wife’s daily driver and our beloved family car. Since I get a discount at Enterprise through my work, we’ve chosen to rent minivans for longer driving trips in order to keep off the miles and eke out a few more years. Not because we can’t afford a new car, I just don’t know what we’d replace him with. My wife doesn’t like the new CX-5, nor anything else on the market. With my history, I’m actually a little afraid to drive him. Wish me luck.
“… Not because we can’t afford a new car, I just don’t know what we’d replace him with…”.
I understand this conundrum.
Buying a new vehicle is a risky business. Not only is it expensive, who’s to say the new vehicle will be better – or even just as well liked – as the Mica you currently have.
A phrase I often read on car websites is some variation of “I wish I still had that car …”, or “I regret selling that truck…”.
Being happy with what one has and not always lusting over a newer, bigger, or better car or truck or house is one part of life’s biggest secret to experiencing joy.
This morning on WNYC on the show “On Being” Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast called joy “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens”.
And very important – your wife likes her CX-5.
PS: Love the car washing photo.
I love the Benedictine’s observation. I once heard a similar idea, that if something has to happen in order for you to be happy, you will never get there.
I live in a heavily Benedictine environment with St. Meinrad Archabbey a couple of hours away, which runs the seminary where most of our local priests come from.
Thanks RL. I never want to hear myself say those lines either. That is why, if you’ve noticed, all of my cars are either used up or have met premature ends before we move on to the next car.
I remember saying that when my 86 Mazda 626 reached the end of it’s life. Buying a new car isn’t something I look forward to. As it stands between 1980-2020 I have only had three new cars circa 1980, 1986, and 2004. I rolled the dice in 2004 as I was leaning towards the Mazda 3 but in the end went with the Focus ZTS because of a great rebate.
Of course great rebates don’t make for great cars but I got lucky. Then with another older 626 gifted to me, along with my father’s 2004 passed down to me I never have to purchase a new car for me again. The three can share and last 20+ years. However, I do have a wife, who had her 626 stolen and that meant a new car. Her car is the 2018 Mazda 3 with 2.0 Skyactiv under my care. Let’s see how it does…
I’m in the same quandary with my current car. Chevy doesn’t make it anymore, and the nearest domestic equivalent, the Dart, is gone as well. It’s like having a 1977 Beetle and then seeing the Rabbit replace it.
At least the Rabbit was a better car (in design and engineering if not quality). I can’t say the same thing about the crossovers that are replacing cars. Worse handling, lower gas mileage, and less efficient use of space than hatchbacks or wagons.
I wholeheartedly agree that this is the best looking CUV out there. I’m not a fan of CUV(s) and SUV(s), but I’ve always liked this one. And that color is a very nice choice.
A guy in my neighborhood has two of them; a slightly newer version of this generation in dark blue that is just gorgeous. His wife drives that one. He liked it so much, when the next generation came out (current gen, I think), he bought one for himself in a metallic red. It’s a nice looking ride, but I agree that the older generation is a better looking car.
I’m not very familiar with the trim levels of these, but think that his is a fancier one then hers. It has bigger rims, and looks a little sportier. I still like hers better. 😉
Thanks Rick! in 2013, there was the base Sport, up-level Touring, and the top Grand Touring. The Grand Touring has leather and 18″ wheels and is the model I probably see most often.
Another great COAL, and I enjoy your detailed car-buying stories. That was a great idea to have the dealership put the car in the showroom; I have no idea how many dealers would accommodate that request, but I know my own kids would have loved that.
I was very impressed when we bought our Kia Sedona in 2018 that the dealer had no markups, sales pitches for added stuff, or other surprises on top of (or inserted into) the OTD price. I was doubly impressed because I had heard some rather bad stories about Kia dealers, and before we bought it visited another dealer that seemed a bit sketchy. But I hope that carmakers realize that a smooth carbuying experience will certainly lead to more repeat customers.
Your parking lot scruff bears some striking similarities to what happened to our Sedona when it was virtually new. Someone hit the car in a similar fashion, but we were fortunate in that she was one of the (seemingly few) honest people around, and left a note of apology along with her contact information. And she did send us a check for repainting the damaged area after we got it repaired.
And as far as CUVs go, I like these CX-5s — good choice. Thanks again for the enjoyable COALs.
Thanks Eric. If the dealer has room to add, say, $189 for VIN Etching, then your OTD price is too high. Had I not double-counted sales tax, it would have been a very different story. Just another reason to always double-check your work.
I do like these. My only reluctance about Mazda has been the low priority the company has given to rust resistance over the years. But perhaps this has changed?
I understand perfectly having a car you love and being less crazy about the new model. I am there with both of my cars and wonder what I might choose if the need appeared now.
I really haven’t seen any rust on Mazda’s made over the last 10 or so years. I think washing helps, and we always get the good car wash with under-carriage wash in early Spring.
I’ve never seen a Midwest Mazda to know if that is true of Mazda only or if not Honda and Toyota. Now I have seen 30-34 year old Mazdas here in California with no rust at all, but and this is a big but, not near the beach. Near the beach cars seem to rust from the top down.
I somewhat agree with your assessment of Mazda’s being susceptible to rust, but I think it was down to a certain period. Specifically, the early 2000s. I bought a 2003 Protege5 in 2007 from the original fastidious owner and even that had some bubbling going on to the back of the rear wheel arch lip. I repaired it myself but started noticing serious rust issues on not only the Proteges, but the 626/Mazda6 of the time as well.
My guess is they bought the same steel that Mercedes-Benz did in that late 1990’s and early 2000’s era. Like Adam said already, I haven’t seen the same issues with Mazda’s of the last ten years.
Excellent choice- Mazda was really hitting their styling groove at that time and it looks great in the blue. Thanks for sharing the family photos- they are reminders that cars are as much about the people who ride in them and drive them as they are about the vehicles themselves.
“With my history, I’m actually a little afraid to drive him.”
I have the feeling you’d be scrupulously careful when driving him. 🙂
I sympathize with the sentiment about replacing it. 90K really isn’t that much for a well-built car if you maintain it, though. I’m sure you’ll be able to “eke out” a few more years and possibly more. The Yaris had 144K when it was wrecked and it still ran like a top. Heck, my Scion has 107K now and, unless some unforeseen event occurs, I plan on keeping it as long as it runs. I work at home, so I don’t put gobs of miles on it, but still. Nothing much new out there appeals to me much.
A side note- I liked the styling of the previous RAV4 (though I do think the concurrent CX5 was definitely better looking). The current RAV4 looks chunky and pumped full of steroids.
Looking forward to reading about your little hatch. You keep dropping hints. I’ll see if I’m right.
I knew you’d take issue with my RAV4 comment :-).
Ha! Generally, I haven’t been a fan of Toyota styling for the last 6-7 years, ever since they started slapping those “cow catcher” grilles on everything. But I felt the previous RAV4 was much more restrained compared to some of their other offerings. But now, pretty much everything turn out makes me want to avert my gaze.
Good choice on the Mazda. Your wife has better sense in cars than you do lol. I was cringing when Nissan rogue and Ford were on your checklist. The Vin etching… They fit what they can into what you say you can afford monthly. Its how dealers make money today.
You’re definitely right about that. She likes what she likes and really doesn’t care about price or prestige. One of our neighbors bought (probably leased) a Porsche Macan, and she looked at it and said, “Meh.”
I like how you used your kids as character actors in your photos! Charmingly womderful!
Of course, they’re really pictures of the kids that the cars just happens to be in!
Thanks for an excellent COAL series! It feels a bit like being invited into someone’s life, including the ups and downs. I’m glad it’s ended on a positive note, with a car you and your wife love.
Hey, I still have one left! Two if I can get my sister to send me her memories of her first car, which is a hilarious story.
What am I going to do with my Sunday mornings when you’re done? Oh yeah, there’s other stuff at CC! Will miss yours, though.
My son’s wife brought a CX-5 into the marriage. It seemed a decent car and she liked it. But the arrival of children exposed one fault of the car. If you put one of the reverse facing car seats in the back, It pushes the front seat passenger’s knees into the dash. When we rode in it, I had thought the rear seat leg room was a little tight.
They now have a Forerunner and problem solved.
That’s really surprising considering the 106.3-inch wheelbase. I had that problem in my 96.5″ wheelbase Sentra, but not in my 102.4″ wheelbase Vibe. Maybe it’s a really thick car seat?
Love that blue color! And the winter wheels/tires look super sharp.
I agree with Importamation. In Slovakia, most of these rides are Soul Red colored and while generally nice to look at, I would rather choose a CX-5 (or other Mazda of this vintage) in an another color, let’s say this blue. The car looks really nice then and stands out.
By the way, what size are the wheels on Mica? The wheel arches look a bit empty to me.
The Touring comes with 17″ wheels. The arches are a little bigger because the Grand Touring has 18″ wheels.
Thank you, now it makes sense. And I looked to our national classifieds, where two 2.0s could be found in this stunning color.
If somebody was looking for spare place in wheel arches, I could help them with this photo, caught in my dorm parking lot.
Thank you! It’s a shame that you can only get Mica Blue Metallic on the CX-3 now.
I applaud your courage and honesty in reporting the moment when the emotional impact of your previous accident struck you. I suspect that, having experienced the memory in the supportive presence of your wife, you were in a clearer state of mind to negotiate the new purchase (apart from the spreadsheet error which had taken place before you arrived). Negotiating the price of a new car is stressful enough, you don’t need left-over trauma and guilt on top of that.
And then I am glad that your time with the car (and clearly with your family) has worked out so well. And I like blue cars, too. Zoom-zoom!
Thanks Iowahawk. It just hit me out of nowhere, and my wife had actually forgotten all about it until she edited this piece.
Parents bought one of the current gen. in July 2017. It’s an all option Grand Touring, but FWD. I had to convince Dad that “If you never had AWD in Minnesota your whole life, why now in Tucson?”. Wonderful vehicle to drive, feels much more agile than what you expect sitting up above many cars. The interior is the real draw, clean simple detailing and a very high fit and finish of both feel of controls and actual assembly. It shamed a more expensive C-RV Touring they thought they’d love in that regard because they were trading in an Acura. Very good value in this segment if outright interior space is not a main concern.
Mazda interiors put most other brands to shame. I like the current CX-5, except for the rear end. The biggest issue is that leather seats are now standard in the Touring, so you have to go all the way to the base model to get cloth seats. I can’t figure out why a material that’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter is so popular.
Popular for the dealers as less buyers want the base model. The 2018 3 I bought was the base model with cloth seats, smaller engine, and only 16″ tires with wheel covers. Buried all the way in the back no doubt for months and months by the look of it. Did I get a deal on it? Yes, $5000 less than the sticker price out the door tax and license included. In 1970 I wouldn’t be too interested in a base model but in 2018 I am very comfortable with a base model and won’t get sucked in.
Before I bought that car I also looked at the Fusion. Went to two dealers and told them what I wanted to see, a base model. They had not one and I said thanks but no thanks to their entreaties to look at another level of trim.
Is that Libery Mazda in Hartford? We’ve bought two cars there in the past two years – a 22017 CX-5 and a 2019 CX-9!
That it is. I really like the look of the CX-9. I hope it’s working out for you.
A fine piece, and very honest.
My brother has one, albeit the turbo-diesel. It feels to me to be no less in quality than, say, a BMW, for a lot less money. It’s an excellent, posh-feeling little machine. The diesel has really big shove, too, while returning about 42 US mpg.
I do find the ride is a bit unyielding at low speeds, and I’m a bit surprised your wife hasn’t complained about roominess, given her knees-up Cruise complaint. For the long-legged, I reckon it’s a bit marginal. (I’m 6’1″, mostly legs).
Love The Angry Gymnast photo. Speaking as a several-time victim of unaccounted panel wrinkles, she expresses the sentiment well.
Thanks Justy. The ride isn’t the best, but if your brother has a Grand Touring with the 18″ wheels, that might be part of the reason.
My wife is 5’6″, so as long as she’s not sitting on the ground – and you set nicely high in the CX-5 – she’s good. Since I’m only 5’7″, we’re all very comfortable when we’re in the car together.
“didn’t trust Ford’s quality control” There’s nothing wrong with Ford’s quality.
There are quite a few PowerShift buyers who may disagree with that statement. Many of the consumer reviews of their other products, as well as CR’s reliability rankings, are also none too encouraging.
I had a 2013 GT for a while, which had been my mother’s, and enjoyed it, but was quite familiar with needing to manually shift it on the highway, as the 2.0 just didn’t have the omph to pass when you needed it otherwise.
Traded it for a 2016 GT and they really fixed exactly what needed fixing, without messing anything else up. The 2.5 made a world of difference and the revised areas of the interior felt considerably nicer. I still love it dearly and the design just works effortlessly. I have never warmed up to the 2017-20. Those somehow seem both too pointy and too bloated at the same time, and the smaller glass area makes it feel more cramped.
Fun fact about the 2016 GT: if you ever see them “winking” at you, there is a known issue with the scowling eye LED DRLs, and they are prone to failure that results in them becoming dim and flickering. Both of mine failed 5 months apart, out of warranty, but Mazda covered the first one 100% and I paid just the labor on the second. The entire adaptive headlight unit has to be replaced.
They’ve finally issued a recall, so I’ll be able to be reimbursed for my labor charge. That’s the only issue I’ve had in the past 5 years.
The Faithful Cx-5: Incredible what it can do better than others in the segment.
I missed this one earlier and as the owner of a 2016 CX-5 as the result of a similar problem I feel some kinship. Our Soul Red Metallic CX-5 was the result of an idiot running a stop sign and totaling our beloved Mazda5 nicknamed haha (Japanese for my mother) and right after that our Saturn’s transaxle self destructed leaving us with no operational cars. Mazda had a great lease deal in early 2017 so we got the CX-5 nicknamed chi chi (my father in Japanese) and liked it so much we bought out the lease. This was our first new car in decades and I really appreciate the modern conveniences like Bluetooth and a backup camera. Ours has the facelifted interior with the electric parking brake and i-drive style controller for the radio
Regarding the Hyundai Tuscon, that looks so much like a CX-5 we call it the Kimchi Chi Chi.