A driver’s crossover. Where most midsize crossovers aim for the whole family, the 2020 Mazda CX-5 has its sights set on the one in the driver’s seat. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be a family vehicle – just that it has its own set of priorities.

Mazda is well known for agile handling, and the CX-5 is no exception. The wheel transmits good feedback from the road, and the suspension is confident and responsive. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable, even with the larger 19-inch wheels.

We wish we were as excited about the powertrains, but they’re only average. The base engine is capable enough, but it rumbles and strains at times. The turbocharged engine in upper trims is more powerful, but not enough to justify the price increase.

Neither engine returns particularly good efficiency. Mazda says a turbodiesel option should arrive sometime in 2020, but details aren't yet forthcoming.

In the CX-5's favor, the available all-wheel-drive system is confidence-inspiring. The Mazda isn’t an off-road monster, but the system responds quickly and handles slippery conditions well.

From the inside, too. The interior spoils the driver, too. The front seats are comfortable, well-bolstered, and spacious, with an excellent view of the road in all directions.

Materials around the interior are generally thoughtful. Noise reduction was a focus for 2020, and the work paid off in a quiet cabin (which is welcome, given the engine noise). The infotainment screen looks tacked on, but everything else is nicely laid out.

Sadly, the view upfront comes at a cost. Rear passengers have enough headroom and legroom, but the bench is a little too narrow to seat three comfortable.

The trunk fares worse, with a maximum of 59.6 cubic feet after the seats are folded. Most rivals have at least 70.

Mazda CX-5

Safety at any cost. Safety is a strength of the CX-5. Mazda made nearly all of its safety equipment standard this year, including advanced features like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. That puts the CX-5 ahead of many competitors, especially in a segment wooing family buyers.

Crash tests have been just as favorable. The NHTSA gave the CX-5 five stars overall, and the IIHS declared the crossover a Top Safety Pick Plus.

Even the infotainment system is designed to be safer, with a control system intended to reduce reliance on the central touchscreen. We’re less sold on this tech – it makes the system finicky and menu-heavy. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay help, but you’ll need to step up at least a trim to get them.

Multiple personalities. Starting prices in the CX-5 lineup cover a range of more than $10,000. The character of the car changes with the spectrum.

The cheapest trim covers the basics, but we favor the second-from-the-bottom Touring trim at a modest price increase. With synthetic leather upholstery, keyless entry, and heated front seats, it makes the CX-5 a strong value.

Upper trims push close to $40,000, which is luxury-car territory. But the CX-5 Signature is impressively convincing, with Nappa leather upholstery, wood trim, and ventilated seats. Luxury brands, take notice.

The best news of all is that the CX-5 looks great in every trim. A long hood and clean lines make it attractive in nearly any color – another arena where the CX-5 punches above its price level.

Final thoughts. The 2020 Mazda CX-5 isn't without its compromises. By far the two biggest are lesser cargo space and a clunky infotainment system.

If you can live with those flaws, the CX-5 delivers more than its share of rewards. Safety, styling, and handling are all near the top of the class. Depending on trim, the CX-5 can be a value pick or a convincing luxury cruiser. Especially for buyers who like to enjoy the drive, the CX-5 will please.

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