2022 Mazda CX-5 gets new looks; all CX models get standard AWD

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Mazda has announced updates and a new face for the 2022 CX-5. The CX-5 has been a brand best-seller for the past several years, praised for its excellent driving feel, generous luxury features and sharp looks. With a winning formula, any tweaks are sure to be met with some blowback, and we have a few snap judgments to make.

The most visible — and what is likely to be the most controversial — change is in the styling. As predicted by the spy shots we saw last week, Mazda has given the CX-5 a subtle facelift. The front fascia now features a wider lower intake that smooths out some of the design flourishes in the nose. The grille too has a textured pattern rather than the current mesh. It has a thicker chrome frame as well, flanked by headlights housing dual L-shaped LED elements. Oddly, Mazda didn’t provide clear images of the rear, but we know from the spy shots that the taillights repeat the rectangular element theme.

The penultimate Grand Touring Reserve trim level has been re-christened 2.5 Turbo, and features gloss black accents rather than matte black. That means the cladding around the wheel arches, rocker panels and front chin spoiler all look a bit more upscale.

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On top-spec 2.5 Turbo Signature models, that exterior trim has been color-matched to the body. This might be good news for those who didn’t like the black cladding, but we’re not quite sure the solution is necessarily better. It would have been cost prohibitive to create new stampings for the fenders, so the resulting abundance of panel lines have a less elegant look than Mazda probably intended.

In fact, the new fascia makes the car look a bit snout-y. It’s a rare misstep in Mazda’s Kodo design language that has spawned consistently stunning designs over the years. Also, round elements in the head- and taillights have been a Kodo calling card for over a decade. Rectangular elements just make them look like any other Lexus, BMW, or even Chevy units. 

Mazda also says it’s improved the CX-5’s frame rigidity and the dampening control structure to reduce NVH and cabin noise. it has also reshaped the seats for more comfort and stability. That’s good, because our 2018 CX-5’s seats could use a bit more side bolstering.

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Mazda has also fiddled with the drivetrain software to provide optimized drive modes and a new shift map that the company says will provide smoother acceleration along with a more responsive six-speed automatic. The current transmission is already excellent at predicting when to hold the right gear for more power, so we look forward to testing its new programming.

Moving beyond the CX-5, Mazda says that starting in 2022 all CX models will come standard with all-wheel-drive. Mazda’s unique i-Activ AWD system monitors vehicle speed and weight transfer to decide how to apportion power to the wheels, one of the contributors to the responsive handling and feeling of vehicle control that the marque is known for.

Presumably, the elimination of front-wheel-drive options will mean higher base prices across the board, but Mazda hasn’t revealed pricing yet. We’ll know more as those vehicles near their launch dates.

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