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In many ways, the 2014 Mazda CX-5 is quite a conventional compact crossover. However, its sharp styling and engaging driving experience set it apart from the pack.
Engaging driving experience; fuel-efficient engines; sharp styling.
Mediocre electronics interface; subpar stereo sound quality.
Available CX-5 SUV Models
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The Mazda CX-5 gets a welcome infusion of power for 2014 as the Touring and Grand Touring models get a bigger engine. Thankfully, fuel economy is barely affected. Other additions include the availability of a collision warning and assist system (Smart City Brake Support), as well as HD and Pandora radio services.
The CX-5 has been a big success for Mazda, a company that so often struggles to get the attention of buyers more inclined to shop other brands. The CX-5's blend of good looks, generous feature content, ample space and carlike driving dynamics has apparently resonated with folks looking for a compact crossover SUV. If there was one area of possible improvement, it was under the hood.
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 addresses that issue. Last year's 2.0-liter "Skyactiv" four-cylinder that was strong in fuel economy but weak in power now lives on only in the base Sport model. The Touring and Grand Touring trims now come with a bigger version of that engine, which displaces 2.5 liters and puts out 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Not only is that 29 and 35, respectively, more than the 2.0-liter, it's also one of the more potent non-turbo four-cylinder engines in the segment. Best of all, fuel economy takes only a tiny dip.
Beyond that, the CX-5's virtues go unchanged for 2014. It remains one of the most enjoyable little SUVs to drive, as Mazda once again proves that sensible doesn't need to equal boring. The CX-5's cabin isn't the most visually dynamic around, but it can be equipped with most of the bells and whistles we've come to expect from compact crossovers. Some of them are controlled by a touchscreen that's hardly a class-leading interface, but we think most will find the CX-5's controls to be simple and intuitive.
Of course, there are an awful lot of worthy competitors to consider. The Ford Escape offers available turbo power and a more appealing interior, the Honda CR-V is a more utilitarian choice, and the 2014 Subaru Forester boasts stronger credentials for off-road use. However, the 2014 Mazda CX-5 should be strongly considered. It may be quite conventional in concept, but it's certainly unique in its execution.
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels.
The base Sport comes standard with 17-inch wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface. The Bluetooth Audio package adds Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a touchscreen interface, HD radio, Pandora Internet radio, automatic crash notification, SMS text message reading and audio system voice controls. Foglights are a stand-alone option.
The Touring gets the Sport's optional equipment plus a more powerful engine, a rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system, a six-way power driver seat, a 40/20/40-split-folding rear seat, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system. The Moonroof and Bose Audio package adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system.
The Grand Touring includes all of the above, plus 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats and leather upholstery.
The Technology package available on both Touring and Grand Touring models tacks on the Smart City Brake Support System (see Safety section), automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, an auto-dimming mirror, satellite radio and a TomTom-powered navigation system. The latter two items are available as stand-alone options. The Touring version of this package includes automatic wipers, while the Grand Touring version gets keyless ignition/entry.
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 Sport comes with the same engine as last year: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. Buyers are offered the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. However, the 2.0-liter alone comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive CX-5 with this engine went from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, which is average for a small crossover. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 26 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and the automatic. It drops to 25/31/28 with all-wheel drive, but raises to a class-leading 26/35/29 with the manual.
The CX-5 Touring and Grand Touring get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed automatic is standard. Despite its added power, EPA-estimated fuel economy is nearly identical at 25/32/27 with FWD and 24/30/26 with AWD.
Every 2014 Mazda CX-5 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. An automatic crash notification feature is optional on the Sport and standard on the Touring and Grand Touring, which also get a blind-spot warning system.
The optional Smart City Brake Support system uses a laser sensor to detect stationary objects such as stopped cars or pedestrians in front of the vehicle at speeds up to 19 mph. If the driver fails to respond to a warning, the car can automatically apply the brakes.
In Edmunds brake testing, a CX-5 Grand Touring came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, which is a bit better than average for the class.
The government gave the CX-5 four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the CX-5 received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The cockpit of the CX-5, regardless of trim level, is attractive, modern and functional. It's a mature (some might say demure) design, but at least it isn't swathed in poorly rendered fake wood or highly reflective chrome trim. Soft-touch surfaces are set off with the limited use of satin-finish metallic details, and the black gauges with white lettering are highly legible. The optional TomTom-sourced navigation system is satisfactory, but many competitor units are quicker, more intuitive and have better graphics. The audio system's touchscreen interface is similarly just OK.
The driving position and front seat comfort are both quite good. The rear seats are spacious (especially in terms of legroom) for the category and, while a bit flat to sit on, feature an innovative folding mechanism on the Touring and Grand Touring that lowers the seat bottom before folding the seatback on top to provide a near-flat load floor. With all seats occupied, there are 34 cubic feet of luggage space that grows to a competitive 65 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
The way the 2014 Mazda CX-5 drives is a dynamic departure from the compact SUV segment's otherwise typical low standards. The brakes, suspension and steering are uncommonly capable, and in general the CX-5 is downright fun and confidence-inspiring on a curving road. On the open highway, the CX-5 isn't the quietest choice available, but it still rides comfortably.
The base engine offers competitive acceleration on paper, but in practice it always makes the CX-5 Sport feel a step behind its competitors. There is certainly a suitable amount of power, but we think the available 2.5-liter four-cylinder is a much better choice given its superior power and minuscule fuel economy penalty. Regardless of engine, the six-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly. We're also happy that Mazda offers a manual transmission on the Sport for those who enjoy having greater control of the driving experience (and better fuel economy to boot).
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