It didn't take very long for us to fall in love with the CX-5' spry handling characteristics, but one part of the driving experience is a sore spot - the transmission.
Our main issue with Mazda's new Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic is its insistence on getting to sixth gear as quickly as possible. That's not for naught, however - being able to loaf along in top gear the majority of the time pays dividends in the fuel economy department; the EPA rates our front-wheel drive CX-5 at 26/32 mpg city/highway. "Does the transmission really need to be in fourth gear when I'm trying to accelerate away from a roundabout at 25 mph?" grouses associate web editor Jake Holmes. "I'll explain it this way: Bradley Wiggins may have won the Tour de France this year, but I bet if you asked him to ride to the grocery store using only his top-most gear, he'd be pretty darn slow. In fact, if I were able to use all the gears of another bicycle, even I could probably beat Wiggins to Whole Foods and back. It's no good having power if you waste it all by using the wrong gear."
There is a way to make sure that the CX-5 is in the correct gear: the manumatic shift gate. Not only is it set up in the correct orientation (push forward for downshift, pull back for upshift), the transmission is quick to respond to the driver's inputs. However, we would happily give up one or two mpg for automatic transmission programming that keeps the 2.0-liter I-4 in its powerband instead of making us do the work. Or, as senior web editor Phil Floraday points out, you could opt for the available six-speed manual, which also nets an additional three mpg on the highway. "I will happily take this level of power for a 35 mpg rating on the highway and an involving six-speed manual transmission," said Floraday. The only downside to the manual transmission is that it forces buyers into a bare-bones, no-options CX-5 versus being able to choose from the plethora of options we've equipped our car with.
One of our options that draws ire is the navigation system. After ranting about it last month, copy editor Rusty Blackwell gave the TomTom unit another try after we updated its software. While the update didn't transform the counterintuitive navigation interface, Blackwell went from one of the biggest detractors to commenting only on the addition of new Bert-and-Ernie-narrated voice guidance we added during the update. "My kids mildly enjoyed Bert and Ernie's turn-by-turn instructions, and my wife and I found it slightly charming for a short drive to Howell, Michigan. I don't think I'll listen to it again, though."
However, Blackwell will happily get behind the wheel of the CX-5 again - "Not many crossovers are this pleasant to drive. Far from fast, it has enough oomph to pass slow movers on back roads; you obviously just have to allow more clearance than you would in a more powerful car. But there are many more powerful cars, and especially crossovers, that can't hang with the CX-5 when the roads get twisty. This car holds the road very well and has very nice, sporty steering."