When Jason Fogelson reviewed the Mazda CX-5 last year, his one big complaint was the lack of thrust from its 2.0 liter engine.
"I wanted more power when I merged onto the freeway, and when I drove up long inclines," he wrote. All the CX-5 needed to meet the competition, he said, was more horsepower.
For 2014, this shortcoming has been addressed with a new 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine. Tuned for 185 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, it tops the 2-liter version Jason drove by 30 hp and 35 lb-ft. The extra power doesn't turn the CX-5 into a rocket ship; you'll still want plenty of space before passing on a two-lane road, but merging onto the freeway is significantly less nerve-wracking than with the smaller engine. Not that buyers have much choice in the matter, though -- as of the 2014 model year, the 2.5 liter engine is included with the Touring and Grand Touring models, while the 2.0 remains the only choice for the entry-level CX-5 Sport.
The good news is that this new engine is part of the fuel-efficient SkyActiv family, so its EPA MPG estimates are 25 MPG city and 32 MPG highway with front-wheel-drive and 24/30 with all-wheel-drive, just 1 MPG less than the 2.0-liter engine. And like most Mazdas, the CX-5 can match those estimates in the real world -- I had no problem topping 26 MPG in a mix of city, country and freeway driving.
That should pretty much be the end of this review; easiest ten bucks I ever made. But I feel compelled to throw in my endorsement for the Mazda CX-5. No doubt you're familiar with Mazda's "Zoom Zoom" tagline, and while that may not quite apply to its acceleration, the CX-5, like all Mazda cars, is a heck of a lot of fun to drive, especially when the shortest distance from Point A to Point B involves a lot of twists and turns. I'm sure that curvy-road prowess isn't exactly high on the list of priorities for most SUV shoppers, but if you're trading in some sporty little number for a more family-friendly ride, it's nice to know there are still some grins to be had.
Happily, the Mazda CX-5 covers all the small-SUV bases: It's got a roomy and supportive back seat that provides comfort for adults and plenty of space for child seats, and the cargo bay is roomy, if not best in class, at 34.1 cubic feet. The control layout is clean and easy to use, which makes for distraction-free driving. My biggest complaint is the navigation system, which uses TomTom software; the screen is small and it's fiddly to program. Oh, and if you're looking for a luxurious ride, this isn't it -- the CX-5 Sport model certainly looks and feels nice enough for its $21,990 price, but the top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive CX-5 Grand Touring I drove, which stickered for $31,590, didn't feel a whole lot more plush.
By all accounts, the Mazda CX-5 is a success. Critics like Jason and I love it and buyers are snapping up every one Mazda can build, although it is produced in smaller numbers than mainstreamers like the Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox, which just happen to be two of my favorite small SUVs. The MINI Countryman rivals the CX-5's fun-to-drive factor, but it can't match the CX-5 on space or reliability. My personal opinion is that that the CX-5 is the small SUV to have. If you're willing to trade a little luxury for a lot of zoom-zoom, you should take a test drive. I'm sure you'll agree with Jason and me. -- Aaron Gold
Perfect size -- it's roomy inside yet easy to park
Good fun to drive
Clean, simple control layout
Impressive fuel economy
Tom Tom navigation system is a hot mess
Expensive models don't feel very plush
2.5 liter engine is adequate, but not particularly fast