What to Look Out for When Buying a Used Mazda CX-5

2017 Mazda CX 5 1

The Mazda CX-5 has to be one of the most stylish compact crossover SUVs in the current market. It was the first of Mazda’s vehicles to benefit from the company’s “Kodo” design philosophy, and it first broke cover as the Shinari concept car back in May 2011. Now in its second generation, the CX-5 is Mazda’s biggest-selling model here in the US, so let’s take a look at what to look out for when buying a used Mazda CX-5.

  • Mazda CX-5 history
  • First-generation Mazda CX-5
  • Second-generation Mazda CX-5
  • Potential problems to watch out for with a used CX-5
  • What’s special about the Mazda CX-5?
  • How much should you pay for a used Mazda CX-5?
  • Mazda CX-5 rivals
  • Mazda CX-5 FAQs
  • Should you buy a used Mazda CX-5?

Mazda CX-5 history

The CX-5 is a five-seat compact crossover SUV that went into production in 2012 as a 2013 model year offering. It was the first vehicle in the Japanese automaker’s lineup to benefit from the company’s new Kodo Soul of Motion Design Philosophy, which is where designers avoid complex curves and instead utilize single, flowing lines to help create a truly dynamic look.

It was also the first model after Mazda broke free from the shackles of Ford ownership, and it’s probably fair to say the brand has never looked back since. 

Although it shares a platform with the Mazda3 and Mazda6, the CX-5 was also Mazda’s first model to feature a full complement of the automaker’s SkyActiv technologies. SkyActiv technologies use a rigid, lightweight platform combined with engines and transmissions with the specific purpose of reducing both exhaust emissions and fuel consumption.

The first-gen CX-5 was a very attractive vehicle that sold pretty well, but the Kodo design philosophy took a giant leap forward with the second generation that first appeared for the 2017 model year.

If there’s a better-looking and more stylish compact crossover out there today than the second-gen CX-5 it would be good to know what it is, and that includes those from luxury manufacturers such as BMW, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes.

First-generation Mazda CX-5 (2013-2016)

2013 Mazda CX 5
2013 Mazda CX-5

When the CX-5 went on sale in 2012 as a 2013 model, its initial mission was to replace both the Tribute and the CX-7 in Mazda’s American portfolio. As well as its impressive exterior styling, the CX-5 was also lauded for its excellent handling, good rear-seat space, ease of access, and impressive levels of standard equipment.

Some of the things people criticize about the first-gen models were a relative lack of power, being noisy under hard acceleration, and a lack of rear vision as a result of the sporty styling.

Even though it was generally agreed that the CX-5 would have been better if it was a little more powerful, right from day one it made a strong case for itself as offering the best drive of any vehicle in its segment.

The engine powering the first-gen CX-5 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces a modest 155 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft. of torque, which gets sent to the front or all four wheels through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

Although the first-gen CX-5 drives and handles sensationally, manual versions take a fairly pedestrian 8.8 seconds to get from 0 to 60mph and automatics are even worse as they take 9.3 seconds to reach 60 from a standing start.

Things got better a year later as the 2014 model year ushered in a more powerful 2.5-liter engine that produced 184 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque in Touring and Grand Touring versions of the CX-5.

The new engine was only available with the six-speed automatic transmission, and you also have to have that transmission if you want a CX-5 will all-wheel-drive.

For full details of exactly what trim levels and features are available with each model year of the Mazda CX-5’s first-generation, here are the brochures with full details for each model year to download for free:


Second-generation Mazda CX-5 (2017-present)

2018 Mazda CX 5
2018 Mazda CX-5

Some people will claim the CX-5 didn’t change all that much when it entered its second generation, but I’d dispute that. Although a lot of the underpinnings carried over from the first generation and a lot of the sheet metal stayed the same, the tweaks to the exterior and interior made all the difference and took the CX-5 from being an excellent choice to a standout one in its segment.

The new front grille and squinty headlights gave the new CX-5 a truly cutting-edge look that looks as good today as it did at launch. The interior was upgraded to a level that gives some luxury models a run for their money, and there were improvements in the engine department to address that criticism of a perceived lack of power.

The standard powerplant was now the 2.5-liter inline-four developing 187 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, but Mazda insisted it had now been reworked to be more responsive. Although it wasn’t available right from the start of the 2017 model year, a 2.2-liter turbodiesel followed a few months later for those who like that sort of thing.

The automatic transmission became standard across the range as the manual was dropped completely from the US range.

For the 2018 model year, Mazda’s engineers added an active cylinder displacement feature to the 2.5-liter inline-four engine. Although it had no effect whatsoever on the way the CX-5 drives, what it does do is reduce fuel consumption in light load situations such as when coasting or cruising.

If you’d like a used second-generation CX-5 with a little more power and performance you’ll have to go for a 2019 model or later. That’s because this is the model year when a 2.5-liter turbo-four was added to the engine lineup that offers drivers 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque to play with.

For full details of exactly what trim levels and features are available with each model year of the Mazda CX-5’s second-generation, here are the brochures with full details for each model year for you to download for free.    

Potential problems to watch out for with a used Mazda CX-5

There are a number of niggly things to watch out for with a used first-generation Mazda CX-5, but nothing potentially catastrophic that should make you run away from one.

Faulty transmission shifter assembly – If the audio system stays in ACC model when the CX-5 has been turned off, it could be as a result of a faulty transmission shifter assembly. Although the problem can be solved with a replacement at between $280 and $530, it’s also possible the problem can be fixed by replacing just the switch that goes inside the shifter assembly.

Ignition coil – If you test drive a CX-5 and experience an engine misfire and/or a lack of power and the check engine light staying on or flashing, it’s probably a faulty ignition coil. There was a service bulletin from Mazda that recommended replacing the ignition coil, but if a used model hasn’t been serviced by a main dealer this could have been missed. Excluding diagnosis, the cost of replacing the ignition coil should be between $190 and $250.

Failed mass airflow sensor – If the check engine light is on and the CX-5 is hard to get started it could well be a failed mass air flow sensor. The good news is a replacement sensor is a quick and cheap fix.

LED day running lights – Although the LED DRL not working in one of the Mazda’s headlights might not sound like a fault to keep you awake at night, if you see this problem with a used CX-5 you’re interested in buying you might want to think again or insist the problem is fixed before buying. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as replacing a bulb and it’s actually going to cost about a thousand dollars for a full headlight unit replacement.

There’s no getting away from the fact that first-generation CX-5 models suffer more mechanical and other issues than second-generation models. Although a proportion of that can be put down to first-gen models being older and having more wear and tear, it’s also the case that Mazda made significant improvements with the second-generation CX-5.

On the whole, though, the CX-5 is a solid, reliable car that’s as good as or better than anything in its class in terms of durability and reliability.

2018 Mazda CX 5 interior
2018 Mazda CX-5 interior

What’s special about the Mazda CX-5?

It’s perhaps the fact there are no obvious downsides to the CX-5 that make it a pretty special mass-market compact crossover, but it could also be the fact it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. If the CX-5 didn’t have a Mazda badge on the grille it could easily pass as a luxury model and command a higher price, but that’s very good news for anyone who wants a world-class compact crossover SUV for a pretty reasonable amount of money.

How much should you pay for a used Mazda CX-5?

To give you an idea of how much you should expect to pay for a used Mazda CX-5, here are thecarconnection.com website’s used price ranges for each model year.

Model yearMinimum used priceMaximum used price

Mazda CX-5 rivals

There are loads of models out there that can lay claim to being in competition with the Mazda CX-5, but not too many of them are as good an all-around package as the Mazda. The Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 are perhaps the closest rivals to the CX-5, but you’d have to be a dedicated Honda or Toyota fan to claim either of them are anywhere near as stylish or desirable as the Mazda.

Other segment rivals include the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, and the Volkswagen Tiguan. That’s a lot of competition, but the Mazda can hold its head up high in any of this company.

Mazda CX-5 FAQs

Is the Mazda CX-5 safe?

Over the years the Mazda CX-5 has proved itself to be a pretty safe compact crossover SUV and most models come generously equipped with standard safety features. The 2013 model gained “Top Safety Pick” status from the IIHS, although the feds at the NHTSA only gave it four out of five for overall safety.

In 2014, the IIHS gave the CX-5 its coveted “Top Safety Pick+” rating and the NHTSA gave a full five-star rating for overall safety. However, the arrival of the second generation saw the NHTSA drop its rating for the CX-5 down to what’s now a fairly rare four stars. That four-star rating remained for the 2018 model year and the IIHS dropped its rating to Top Safety Pick for that model year.

The 2019 model year saw improvements that led to both the IIHS and NHTSA giving top marks to the CX-5 for overall safety, so as well as being one of the most attractive models in its class, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 is also one of the most impressive in terms of safety.

Is the CX-5 good on gas?

Despite a lack of hybrid or plug-in hybrid technology, the CX-5 has always been rated as pretty good for fuel economy. Here are the best EPA fuel economy ratings for each model year of the CX-5.

Model yearCity drivingHighway drivingCombined driving
201326 mpg34 mpg29 mpg
201426 mpg34 mpg29 mpg
201526 mpg34 mpg29 mpg
201626 mpg34 mpg29 mpg
201724 mpg31 mpg27 mpg
201828 mpg*31 mpg*29 mpg*
201928 mpg*31 mpg*29 mpg*
202025 mpg31 mpg28 mpg
* diesel engine
2016 Mazda CX 5
2016 Mazda CX-5

Does the Mazda CX-5 hold its value?

The CX-5 is about middle-of-the-road in terms of resale values. After 5 years they depreciate by about 52%, although some of the worst offenders in the segment can depreciate by that kind of percentage in as little as three years.

Is the Mazda CX-5 all-wheel-drive?

In its standard form, the CX-5 is front-wheel-drive but all-wheel-drive is available and some model years have trim levels that are standard AWD. Check out the brochures above for full details.

Is the Mazda CX-5 reliable?

On the whole, the CX-5 has always been a pretty reliable vehicle and in recent years it’s got better and better. The caranddriver.com website had a 2019 CX-5 on a 40,000-mile long-term test and said: “Unlike many of our other current long-termers, not even a flat tire or a cracked windshield has interrupted the Mazda’s clean streak.” Also, the esteemed J.D. Power survey gave the Mazda an overall score of 80 out of 100, which is pretty good for a non-luxury model.

Is the Mazda CX-5 quiet?

According to Consumer Reports, the Mazda CX-5 is one of the quietest non-luxury compact SUVs you can buy. Later models are the best as the increased weight helps the cabin become quieter than older models, and some models also benefit from active noise cancellation.

How long does the Mazda CX-5 last?

The CX-5 is expected to last up to 300,000 miles, but that’s hard to verify as it hasn’t been around for long enough to say if that’s an ambitious or conservative estimate. However, a quick national search on Auto Trader shows plenty of models offered with well above 200k miles on them, so it’s looking good for the Mazda’s longevity.

Does the CX-5 have leather seats?

You can certainly get the CX-5 with leather seats, but only on select trim levels towards the top of the range.

Should you buy a used Mazda CX-5?

Yes. There are only two reasons why you shouldn’t buy a used Mazda CX-5. The first is because you just don’t like the way it looks for some reason, and the other is because you can afford a brand-new one instead. While no car is perfect, the CX-5 is about as good as it gets for this sort of money.