2014 Mazda CX-5

The CX-5 burst onto the small SUV scene last year flaunting exciting new design and debuting a series of gas saving measures called Skyactiv.  But for 2014 the CX-5 really hits its stride with a more powerful engine.

My initial test-drive of the 2013 CX-5 was a disappointment.  It was in this exact model – the Grand Touring all-wheel drive – right down to the color.  I criticized its new Skyactiv powertrain as being too weak and apparently I wasn’t the only one.  For its second model year, Mazda has upped the displacement of the 4-cylinder engine from 2.0 to 2.5-liters in turn increasing the horsepower from 155 to 184 and torque from 150 pound feet to 185.  Those changes are enough to bring the CX-5 back into the good graces of drivers who were wondering, like me, what had Mazda done with zoom-zoom?  More available energy means this engine also plays better with the Skyactiv 6-speed sport automatic transmission for a much smooth driving experience.

The increase in engine size transforms the CX-5 from a stylish but sluggish little runabout to an SUV you’ll really enjoy driving.  You’ll lose a few MPGs but it’s well worth it.

Two MPGs combined to be exact, from 28 to 26mpg.  Rated at 24mpg city/30mpg highway it still bests the Honda CR-V and on average will cost only $150 more per year at the pump over last year’s model.  That’s money well spent.

The rest of the CX-5 remains virtually unchanged with the exception of new safety technology.  Called Smart City Brake Support and tucked into the $1,625 Grand Touring Technology Package, this laser sensor is a collision mitigation system that works at low speeds.  Plus, it looks great, particularly in this extra charge Soul Red – but that was true from day 1.

Having taken this CX-5 out of town for a couple of days I noted a couple of things; 1) the Tom-Tom navi unit is lousy and even worse when it’s not functioning properly as it did in this tester and 2) the rear seats could use a slide or recline function to give passengers a bit more breathing room.  I do like the pull levers in the back for folding them and the clever cargo cover which attaches to the hatch for easier loading.  And the ride and handling is Mazda sharp just like the discerning driver wants with excellent steering feel and a ride quality that doesn’t sacrifice comfort.

This Grand Touring AWD model with the tech package is priced at $31,890 but not all CX-5’s get this new engine.  Sport models still motor with the 2.0.  With so many great offerings in this segment it’s hard to choose but the 2014 CX-5 has now found its missing ingredient making it one of the top picks.

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