INDIVIDUALIZATION OF OUR SURROUNDINGS FEELS BETTER: Whether it be in the intricate patterns, the gentler shapes, the earth tones, the subdued sounds, the crisp action, or something as subtle as a monogram.

DEFINING FOR DECADES THE INTERSECTION OF BESPOKE AND AUTOMOTIVE: are customizing subsidiaries of luxury marques such as Audi Exclusive, BMW Individual, Mercedes-Benz Designo taking cues from the exotics. Their paints from the artist’s palette, precision stitched quilted full grain hides tanned from open range steer, and  genuine wood veneers from linear matching grains, hand lacquered and polished.

AT THE CROSSROADS OF BESPOKE AND VOLUME VEHICLES is automaker Mazda. Their Signature trim has nearly evolved to the prestige sub-brand without the need for separate showrooms. Mazda Signature blends Japanese aesthetic concepts of WABI-SABI as Japanese culture aesthetics constituting a way of life, SHIZEN (natural without pretense) and SHIBUI (simple unobtrusive beauty) with their overarching design KODO (upwards towards sky) design language.

In plain English, Mazda Signature = as close as any volume automotive brand has come to offering bespoke.

First bestowed on the 3-Row  2016 Mazda CX-9 3-Row crossover, featuring real aluminum & rosewood accents and auburn leathers, then applied post mid-cycle update to 2018 Mazda6 sedan, boasting semi-aniline matte hides, Nubuck dashboard inserts and Zen wood veneers, “Signature” designation finally comes to the best selling Mazda in this land, the new 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature. For this newly fortified rendition of the enthusiast’s choice for compact 2-Row crossover, is the first of the clan to wear the liftgate badge “Sg.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

WHAT: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD 2- Row compact crossover sports activity vehicle.

Power: transverse variable nozzle turbocharged 2.5L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 250 hp/ 310 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm. That’s a heady 68% more torque than found in Grand Touring and lesser trims, which retain the still sweet, naturally aspirated 2.5L Skyactiv-G engine, also available in front-wheel drive.

Drivetrain: 6-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle + PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable all-wheel drive.

NOTE: shorting the engine with 87 RON octane unleaded gasoline drops net horsepower to 227, while rated torque is unchanged.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: 2nd Gen. Mazda CX-5 (KF) is built on thorough revision of Mk. 1 KE CX-5 platform; The 1″-inch clearance drop delivers a bolder stance.

– A steep overhang exaggerates an already low dipping hood. The pentagonal grille widens with a thinning full dark lattice treatment. The lower grille chrome border unfolds into wider wings carrying sharply tweezed HID +LED DRL light assemblies.  +1 Streamlined lower front fascia nixes former corner simulated air inlets;

– Lower door panel halves coke-bottle creasing, while the beltline adopts chrome character bar partly rising at D-pillar kink.

– The punched out liftgate speaks Kammback. Two-tone roof spoiler buttresses run up to liftgate side channels.  Mid-liftgate adopts a split character line; Tweezed rear wrap-around light housings envelope an amber center flasher housing. A pentagonal crease at the lower liftgate extends to rear quarters. Larger rear quarters flowing to deeper painted bumper cover diminishes lower clad fascia. De-rigeur are split dual chrome exhaust tips.

WHY: Continued Kaizen for only volume Japanese brand sold in U.S. without a stand-alone luxury division.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Autumn 2018

WHERE: Mazda new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Hiroshima, Japan

WHERE TO: Standard transaxle to PTU to rear viscous multi-clutch differential all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 100/ 10% to 50/50%; Loss of 1″-inch clearance (now 7.6″-inches) & lack of differential lock = Bad weather & gravel road uninhibited;

HOW ROADWORTHY: The turbo gas DOHC  I-4 banger isn’t the high revving powerplant that the naturally aspirated powerplant is. Though, punching the accelerator pedal on motorways, unleashing that 310 lb-ft of spin, with up to an even front to rear split of all-wheel drive traction, pushes lots of more pedestrian traveling vehicles out of the way, now better accounting for the 269 lb. weight surplus over Sport na 2.5L  models. As always, the 6-speed planetary automatic gearbox remains attentive, delivering energetic throttle blips in sport mode.

Suspension travel < Mk. 1 CX-5 = +1 lean & pitch control; Slight jitter, yet stiffer body doesn’t quiver; Sharper steering than any crossover deservers to exhibit, combined with Mazda’s neat G-Vectoring, diminish dive & lift in turns, yielding lower understeer. Nearly an inch larger front rotors shrug off speed with the greater mass, working best when sufficiently warmed; Cross-winds pitch is modest. In the spirit of luxury cabin far more immune to exterior, drivetrain noise, while suspension jostle is sedated with a tautness.

HOW FAR: 25 combined miles per gallon = 11% fuel economy < CX-5 GT NA 2.5L AWD. 415 miles highway range using 91 RON unleaded gasoline.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: Generously tilting 2nd Row seat backs, yet still among tightest compact CUVs to seat 5; -1 2nd Row headroom and legroom suffer by much needed fractions of inches to create the rakish profile; -1 Ditto for an 8% cargo space shaving, making CX-5 distant runner-up for home improvement store outings;

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature 106.2″ wheelbase = 2.1″ < Buick Envision, 0.4″ > Jeep Cherokee Overland

+1: 39.6″-inches Row 2 legroom = 2.1″ > Buick Envision , 0.7″ < Jeep Cherokee Overland; +1: 143 lbs. < Buick Envision Premier II

HOW USEFUL: Near flat folding 40/20/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks w/ twin cargo bay release handles; Mini-spare load floor cover hooked tether;  –1 Blind spots resulting from shorter backlight + tall beltline; -1 Compromised front door pockets from Bose speakers; -1 No concealed lower center stack wireless device space; Tow Rating: 2000 lbs.

PARTICULARLY USEFUL: +1 3-way split 2nd Row center pass through

Not So Useful: -1 No approach liftgate release

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature 65.4 cu. ft. cargo space (max.) = 12% > Buick Envision, 16% > Jeep Cherokee Overland, Tow rating = -2000 lbs. < Jeep Cherokee Overland w/ tow package.

HOW SAFE: 7 airbags; IIHS Safety Pick + ; Rear camera w/ park grid; Blind Spot warning;  Rear cross traffic alert;  i-Activesense Level 1 driver autonomy: Full Adaptive cruise control, Full, Forward collision warning, Lane departure warning, Smart City brake; Auto high beam headlamps;  Rain sensing, windshield wipers; De-icing windshield wipers and 360° surround cameras view (exclusive to Signature).

-1 LDW over-sensitive & Lane departure intervention = lane marker locating challenged;

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Caturra brown Nappa leather seats, heated front & rear, cooled front; 8-way driver / 6-way power seats w/ 2 driver memory settings; Signature exclusive heated leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; TFT virtual gauge cluster (and finally a genuine coolant temperature display!)  1″-inch reduced clearance = Lower step in;

-1 Fixed front center armrest + limited telescoping helm; -1 Narrow & shallow seat cushions; -1 2nd Row outboard seat heat switches buried inside center armrest   -1 Only prop rod for heavy bonnet;

Cool Gizmo(s) Color Heads-Up Display includes lane array, traffic signage; Precision-machined center console Command infotaiment dial-joystick w/ dedicated function switches; Mesh cargo shade attached to liftgate, with tonneau to 2nd Row seat backs.

Details Done Right: Catarra brown leather seats;   Folded tandem stitched simulated leather dashboard accents; Aluminum & genuine Zen wood veneers span door panels, dash & center console; Center console tunnel padded in seat color matching synthetic hides; Machined aluminum climate control dials; Precision cut, tactile intuitive switchgear.

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Coarse weave carpeting; No dead pedal hard cover; No nubuck dash finish; -1 Only traffic sign detected is Stop Sign.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Dash top 7″ flat-panel capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen w/ remote Command rotary toggle dial; Native HDD GPS voice command / guidance Navigation; Voice command hands-free communications;  SMS with stored contacts photos; 360 W, 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2.0 audio punchy without boom; USB x 3, 12V x 2;

+/- Mazda implementation of Sirius Travellink supplants typical Movies application with Parking app filled with incomplete listings.

-1 2nd Row USB ports inside center armrest (inaccessible when middle position occupied); -1 Non-zooming real time traffic app = non-usable; -1 Several obsolete native navigation POI listings are obsolete; -1 Media screen size now pales against most of competition. Don’t they know their own Mazda6 features 8.0″ screen?

HOW MUCH: $39, 155 = 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD price as tested.

WHAT’S MISSING: 2nd row 12V ports, 115V AC outlet, climate controls; Panorama moonroof; Active parking assist; Larger infotainment screen and simpler operation, including that of Android Auto.

ANY COMPETITION: Buick Envision Premium II: +1  More intuitive, larger touch display Intellilink infotainment, active parking assist & convenience amenities; Jeep Cherokee Overland: +1 available active parking & intuitive, larger display U-Connect infotainment;