2024 Mazda CX-5 Turbo Signature: Will It Dog?

I don’t know if I agree with other reviewers who have called this a “poorer person’s Porsche Macan,” but it is still a nice little SUV.

byAndrew P. Collins|
Mazda Reviews photo
Andrew P. Collins


The 2024 Mazda CX-5 has effectively been around, with a few refreshes, since 2017. It’s perennially praised as one of the better-driving and prettier small SUVs on the road. I concur that it still looks good. It’s also dog-friendly but not exactly dog-optimized.

I have to admit I’m not quite as enamored with this car’s driving dynamics as my industry colleagues seem to be. My old buddy Travis Okuski went so far as to say “If you need the room of a crossover but still want something that can feel sporty, the CX-5 is the best one to drive this side of the Porsche Macan.”

Andrew P. Collins

This Mazda provides a decent driving experience, and yeah, the paddle shifters let you squeeze some essence of sportiness out of it when you get a back road to yourself. But I can’t say this was a car I itched to fire up as it sat in my driveway. Still, as daily transport with good comfort and great design? It’s totally solid.

Bramble's appearing solo this week. She's becoming more of a diva every day — she's even on YouTube now.

2024 Mazda CX-5 Specs for Dog Owners
Base Price (as tested)$29,300 ($42,705)
Seating Capacity (people)5
Seating Capacity (dogs)2, maybe 3
EPA Fuel Economy22 city | 27 highway | 24 combined
Cargo Volume30 cu. ft. behind rear seats | 59.3 cu. ft. with seats folded down
Quick TakeFeels like a low-budget luxury car, but, not in a bad way.
Will It Dog Score6/10

Interior Materials and Layout

The CX-5 has a completely traditional cockpit and interior configuration. Bench seat in the back, two buckets up front, center-console shifter in the middle with clear and simple controls between driver and passenger.

This brings me to another disagreement I have with other reviews I’ve seen, calling the CX-5 interior “dated.” I think it’s great! Mazda’s got a classy small screen up top for Apple CarPlay and infotainment, but all your key controls (climate, volume, drive modes) are easily within reach at all times as nicely shaped physical buttons.

Andrew P. Collins

There are some tracts of glossy black plastic, but most of the materials have a much warmer and more elegant look to them. The Nappa leather on the Signature model I tested has a soft yet robust feel to it. The center console didn’t seem easily scratched by paws or claws.

Touch surfaces, on the Signature at least, are all pretty darn nice if slightly light-feeling. But this model’s almost $10,000 more than the base CX-5, so make sure you scrutinize the cabin carefully and make your own judgments if you’re test-driving a lower spec.

Speaking of which—this Turbo Signature model is the top of the range, and pretty spendy listing just over $40,000. You do get the trappings of a real luxury car for your money—legitimately nice seats, heated front and rear seats, cooled front seats, high-quality leather, and clean and quick infotainment. I think the main value proposition here is that you get that luxe essence without, in theory, the running cost of something from a brand like BMW or Mercedes. Personally, I would rather buy something like a used last-gen X3 and pay a little more for parts and service. But I understand the appeal of this car.

In the back, you can fold the rear seats down to make a large cargo area or keep them in place and still have decent storage space behind the second row.

Climbing In and Out

The CX-5’s rear doors open wide, making plenty of space for even large animals to get in and out. However, the back seats are also pretty high off the ground. You’ll need a somewhat athletic pet to jump themselves in or out of this thing. Same goes for the cargo area.

Andrew P. Collins

Bramble here, with months of agility training, powerful hind legs, and the spryness of youth, was hopping in and out of the side doors no problem. But even she had to get a bit of a run-up to hop into the hatch. There’s not an abundance of space in the rear footwells, but smaller dogs might be able to hop up that way before getting to the back seat.

Driving With the Dog

Bramble generally behaved herself in the back seat of the CX-5, and the rear windows rolled down plenty low enough for her to get her snout out for low-speed sniffs. However, she did avail herself of the center console, using it as a stepping stool to sneak up on me a few times when she wasn’t belted.

Andrew P. Collins

A restraining harness, as you should really put your pooch in while underway, basically solved the problem. But since the car’s relatively short and the center console is somewhat low (while the back seats are high), you might find your pet wanting to climb into the front seat more often than you’d like.

The slight bucketing of the rear bench seat (there’s a little bit of bolstering for left and right rear passengers) does help encourage dogs to stay put—at least that’s what I observed with ours. Once we got moving and she was able to settle, the back seat seemed to be treating her well.

This straightforward climate control console was a welcome reprieve from some of the convoluted screen-based systems I've dealt with lately. Andrew P. Collins

Driving in General

With 320 lb-ft of torque, the CX-5 is not slow. But it does like to have a little momentum to really start feeling sporty. Keep the revs around the middle of the tach with the paddle shifters and you sense some of that zoom-zoom energy Mazda built its brand on. But when you’re driving the car normally, don’t expect to feel personality oozing through the steering wheel.

The CX-5 Signature has Mazda’s “Mi-Drive” mode-selector, which lets you cycle between Normal, Sport, and Off-Road. Sport seemed to effectively drop a gear and shift slightly later. Off-road … kind of felt the same. It seems to just allow for a little more power application in slippery scenarios.

Meanwhile, Mazda’s owner's manual defines Sport mode: “This mode enhances vehicle responsiveness when the accelerator pedal is depressed. This provides additional quick acceleration which may be needed to safely make maneuvers such as lane changes, merging onto freeways, or passing other vehicles.” And off-road mode: “This mode helps prevent drive-wheel spinning during off-road driving and improves driving performance. And this mode also assists in freeing tires that are stuck. Use this mode to drive the vehicle on slippery roads such as muddy, sandy, or deep-snowy roads.” 

The paddle shifters are what you really want to leverage for fun driving. The transmission is reasonably reactive to inputs and rewards smooth, deliberate action. Don’t try to flick the thing around; drive cleanly and keep the turbo spinning with the engine at a moderately high rpm for best results.

But I don’t think quickness is a critical feature for a crossover to be good to drive. The CX-5 is responsive, comfortable, and nice-looking … that’s really all you need to have a nice driving experience in this class of car.

I remain unconvinced that this is a poorer person’s Porsche Macan, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a nice little get-around car. The interior design stood out to me more than the driving dynamics; part of me wondered if other reviewers have internalized the sleek aesthetic in the cockpit as a feeling of driver engagement.

Mazda has been doing great interiors for years now and that trend continues with this car. The CX-5’s dash and controls don’t all feel quite as robust as what I’ve touched in late-model Hondas and Toyotas, but they are a little prettier. It’s still clear that Mazda takes interior design seriously and yeah, the felt headliner might not be the nicest thing ever but the vents and inserts and whole front-area layout are all very nice to look at.

Pack Hauling—Multiple Dogs On Board

We didn’t get enough time with the whole pack for pictures, but two big dogs easily occupied the back seat. It starts to get pretty cramped after that, though. And if you’re trying to put four people and luggage and an animal in this car, you’re going to have to pack really light or hope you’ve got a sub-50-pound pooch.

Carrying Kennels

Unfortunately, the CX-5’s cargo area is not big enough for a medium-sized kennel without dropping half of the rear seats. If you like to put your dog in an enclosed carrier while you drive, you’ll be down to just three human passengers. A large kennel would consume almost all of this car’s cargo space.

Mazda CX-5 Turbo Dog-Friendliness Verdict

The 2024 Mazda CX-5 is a nice little car, and certainly dog-compatible, but I would not call it dog-optimized. If you have a small to medium-sized pet, you’ll be absolutely fine. Even a single large dog, if you only have one or no kids, would work too. But if you’re trying to move four humans and one or more animals around, the CX-5 will start to feel pretty small.

This vehicle’s cabin isn’t cramped per se, it’s just that it’s kind of short (nose to tail) while being tall (floor to roof) and so the square inches of cargo space don’t all translate to pooch-occupiable areas.

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