2014 Mazda CX-5 Driven

Joe Lorio
2014 mazda cx 5

Mazda's CX-5 has charmed us with its lively chassis, tidy size, and excellent fuel economy. The latter, however, comes at a cost, one that becomes immediately apparent the first time you point the CX-5 up a long grade. Although adequate around town, the 155-hp 2.0-liter is underpowered on uphill climbs, and the six-speed automatic transmission allows forward momentum to drain away before it finally downshifts and struggles to regain speed.

Salvation underhood
For its sophomore model year, Mazda has addressed that one dynamic weakness with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that is now standard in CX-5 Touring and Grand Touring models (the base Sport continues with the smaller 2.0-liter). The larger engine's 185 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque might not sound like a huge increase over the smaller four's 155 hp and 150 pound-feet, but it's enough to make a difference. This is the engine the CX-5 should have had from the get-go; with it, acceleration is livelier and the little SUV fears no hills.

Pay at the pump
Of course, that extra power comes at a cost of a couple miles per gallon. The CX-5, however, was already at the top of its class as far as fuel economy is concerned, and with the bigger engine it's still quite good. Even with four-wheel drive, the 2.5-liter manages 30 mpg on the highway and 24 in the city. With front-wheel drive, the ratings are 25/32 city/highway. The abstemious 2.0-liter nets 26/32 mpg and 25/31 mpg (2WD and 4WD, respectively). Those figures are with the automatic transmission; the CX-5 only hits its marquee number, 35 mpg highway, with the manual transmission, which can be had only on the base Sport with front-wheel drive.

On its toes
Other than the change in the engine room, the 2014 CX-5 remains the winning compact SUV it has been. Chief among it charms is its chassis. The CX-5 has a lively, on-it-toes feeling that is unique in this segment, and most welcome. There's a section of New York's Taconic State Parkway in Putnam County that has a long, decreasing-radius, downhill curve and a passing lane that is particularly narrow, with the white line just inches from the rusty, banged-up center guardrail. Passing someone on that stretch is a white-knuckle affair, unless you're in a car with superb steering. The CX-5 aced that test, and we expect it would be the only compact SUV to do so.

More commonplace virtues include dead-easy ingress and egress, seats with excellent lateral support, an adult-habitable rear seat, a decent cargo hold, and generally easy-to-use switchgear. The notable downsides are pretty much limited to a plainish interior, a subpar navigation system, and poor rear visibility. The latter is an unfortunate offshoot of the highly styled -- or is that overstyled? -- exterior, which almost could be the work of a moonlighting Chris Bangle. Actually, having a former BMW designer shape the exterior would be appropriate in a way, since the CX-5 drives like the BMW of compact crossovers. And now it has the engine to match.

2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

Base Price: $29,695
Price as Tested: $31,890
Standard Equipment:
2.5-liter I-4 engine
All-wheel drive
6-speed automatic transmission
Hill launch assist
Power windows and door locks
Power moonroof
Leather-trimmed seats, steering wheel, shift knob
Heated seats
8-way power driver's seat
Backup camera
Blind spot monitoring system
5.8-inch color touch-screen
Bose Centerpoint 9-speaker surround-sound audio system
HD radio, satellite radio, Pandora compatibility
Steering-wheel audio controls
Bluetooth
Tilt and telescopic steering column
Pushbutton start
Dual-zone automatic climate control
19-inch alloy wheels
Rain-sensing wipers
Options on this vehicle:
Grand Touring Tech Package- $1625
Navigation system
Smart city brake support
Keyless entry
Auto-dimming rearview mirror w/Homelink
HID headlamps
Soul red paint charge- $300
Retractable cargo cover- $200
Rear bumper guard- $100
Engine: 2.5-liter I-4
Horsepower: 184 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: All-wheel
Wheel: 7.0 x 19 in alloy
Tires: 255/55R19
Curb Weight: 3532 lbs
Fuel Economy: 24/30 mpg (city/highway)
Capacities:
Doors/Passengers: 4/5
Cargo (rear seats up/folded):34.1/65.4 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear):41.0/39.3 in
Headroom (front/rear):39.0/39.0 in

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