If you’ve been anywhere near as concerned about Mazda build quality and reliability lately as I have, I have really good news for you (especially if you’re in the market for a small SUV or crossover): Mazda CX-5 problems aren’t that bad actually.
The Mazda CX-5 is a relatively new, small-scale sport utility vehicle that has been a popular choice with consumers. I see them all the time here in Southern California, and it’s not very often I’ll talk to an owner who absolutely hates theirs.
That being said, there are a handful of problems that you need to watch out for. Most of them are build-quality issues (flickering daytime running lights and cracked windshields). However, be aware that CX-5s are also prone to transmission and engine issues. Let’s have a closer look at all of these:
What problems does the Mazda CX-5 have?
Again, there aren’t a lot of issues with the Mazda CX-5. Problems are relatively minor for most model years, and there isn’t one specific model year that I cannot recommend. However, the 2015 and 2016 models seem to have more engine issues than any other model years, so be on the lookout for that.
Flickering daytime running lights
The main issue with the daytime running lights is the fact that they flicker and prematurely fail, specifically in the 2016 model. In some cases, owners report that the cost to repair can be up to $1,000 (since it’s usually the entire headlight assembly that has to be replaced).
Most repairs only require replacing one headlight assembly, but I have talked to several owners who had to replace both at once. Ouch. For the most part, this headlight issues start at around 40,000 miles.
Thankfully, this problem seems to be permanently solved once the units have been replaced.
Issues with windshield integrity
Windshield problems are no joke. Unfortunately, the CX-5 is not immune to them. Some CX-5 owners state their windshield cracked seemingly without cause, but others state a small rock or road debris hit it, and the resulting crack was larger than it should have been.
It’s the 2015 model that I hear the most complaints about, but windshield cracks are something that’s been happening too easily for all model years.
Owners report the cost of a windshield replacement in a CX-5 to be $700(ish). Just like the headlight problems I discussed above, very few repeat issues with cracks tend to be reported once the windshield is replaced.
Based on all the research I’ve done on the CX-5 (I was thinking about buying one a couple years ago), it didn’t take long to realized that transmission problems were the biggest issue with this popular crossover.
The 2014 CX-5 seems to have a problem with the transmission clunking into gear. Usually what happens is that after being put into gear, the engine will rev (as the driver applies a bit of throttle thinking it’s in gear), but nothing happens. The transmission then “clunks” into gear, and lurches forward (making you look like a terrible driver).
Other complaints about the 2014 model is that it lurches forward when it starts to move (it doesn’t accelerate smoothly). Some owners report difficulty putting it into gear.
In other words: prepare to deal with transmission issues with the 2014 model.
Complete transmission failure is commonly reported on the 2016 Mazda CX-5. Many report the the vehicle revving up and not shifting gears, and if this happens to your CX-5 (or one you’re thinking about buying), be prepared for the worst.
In these cases, the transmission usually needs a full replacement. Transmission issues can happen at any time on the CX-5, but most owners report it happens between 10,000 to 30,000 miles. Which, if I’m being honest, is unacceptable. Any car under 30,000 miles is still very much “new” IMHO.
As you might expect, transmission replacements aren’t cheap.
Minor engine issues
The other two models with the most complaints are the 2013 model and the 2018 model.
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 owners commonly report a loss of power while driving (and engine hesitation).
- The 2018 Mazda CX-5 has been notorious for coming from the factory with defective engine heads. Excessive engine noise (likely from valve train problems) is another thing to watch out for.
Is the Mazda CX-5 a reliable car?
In terms of overall reliability, the Mazda CX-5 is a reliable small SUV that is easy for me to recommend. However, be aware that the transmission issues, windshield problems, and daylight running light issues are most prevalent between the 2014-2016 models.
If you need a car that will last for hundreds of thousands of miles, the Mazda CX-5 is a good choice overall. The most recent models are the best choice. However, despite it’s problems, it is a good and reliable option regardless of the model year.
In terms of crash testing, the newer models are the best in terms of durability and safety ratings. Older models have NHTSA recalls for airbags, and the crash test results for the 2013 and 2014 models are not as good as models newer than 2014.
How bad are CX-5 problems compared to the competition?
Of all the car problems that I’ve written about in the past, the Mazda CX-5 is probably in the top 5 in terms of vehicles that have the fewest issues. There are some other crossovers and small SUVs that are almost as good, as well as a handful that are much (much) worse. For example:
- Buick Encore problems are definitely worse than what you’d expect from a cheaply-built vehicle from GM – and I highly recommend a CX-5 over an Encore.
- Honda HR-V problems are mild. I highly recommend the HR-V as an alternative to the CX-5.
Which model year CX-5 should you avoid?
Based on all the research I did when I was thinking of being a CX-5, I’m of the opinion it is a good idea to avoid the 2014-2016 models. At the very least, I’d recommend getting a model newer than 2014 based on the poor crash test reports from the 2013 and 2014 models.
How long will a Mazda CX-5 last?
The Mazda CX-5 lasts between 200,000 and 250,000 on average. Of course, this depends on how well you take care of the car and service it when needed.
If you drive it about 15,000 miles per year, your CX-5 can easily last 13-17 years. If you drive more than 15,000 miles per year, how well you take care of it will greatly determine it’s overall lifespan.
There have been a few recalls on most models of the Mazda CX-5 (you can search for your specific model on the official Mazda recall page). It’s easily one of the most dependable and reliable small crossover SUVs on the market, so this list is relatively short compared to some of it’s competitors.
- The 2013 model has one recall. This is for the structural integrity of the liftgate as it may fall and cause injury.
- The 2014 model has four recalls. One recall for the structure of the liftgate. One for the steering system (as the steering knuckle separates from the strut), causing a potential loss of steering control. There is also a recall for the visibility and the fuel system.
- The 2015 model has the same four recalls as the 2014 model.
- The 2016 Mazda CX-5 has the identical four recalls as the 2014 and 2015 models. However, there is an additional recall for the exterior lighting regarding the reported DRL failure.
- The 2017 Mazda CX-5 has only has one recall. This recall pertains to the electrical system and trailer hitches (the lighting on the back of the trailer becomes inoperable on some vehicles).
- The 2018 Mazda CX-5 has three recalls. These include one for the fuel system (causing stalling), one for the engine and powertrain, and one for the airbags (they may not deploy properly).
- The 2019 Mazda CX-5 has the same fuel system and engine recall as the 2018 model, but it does not have the airbag recall.
- So far, the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Mazda CX-5s do not have any recalls.