Just last year, Mazda added a new compact crossover – the five-passenger CX-5. It returns for 2014 with just one major change: a new, more-powerful engine for all but the base grade.Built in Japan on an all-new Mazda chassis, the CX-5 falls into the Mazda lineup just behind the midsize, seven-passenger CX-9 and ahead of the smaller, six-passenger Mazda 5.For 2014, prices start at $21,195 (plus $795 freight) for the base front-wheel-drive Sport model with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission, or $22,595 with a six-speed automatic. Front drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available.All-wheel-drive versions begin with the Sport automatic at $23,845. The Sport is the only trim level offered with the manual gearbox, but the manual is not offered with all-wheel drive.In the middle of the lineup are the Touring models, which come with the new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. They start at $24,615 with front-wheel-drive, and $25,865 with all-wheel drive.At the top of the line is the Grand Touring model, also with the 2.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic. It begins at $27,620 with front drive and $28,870 with all-wheel drive.The CX-5 replaced two crossovers in the Mazda lineup: the compact Tribute, which was a clone of the previous-generation Ford Escape; and the CX-7, which was slightly larger outside than the CX-5, but with less interior space.Entirely a Mazda product, the CX-5 carries over nothing from Ford Motor Co., which had control of Mazda for years until it divested itself of the Japanese automaker during the Detroit financial crisis. The CX-9, built on the architecture of the Ford Edge, is the only Ford remnant left in the Mazda lineup.While the CX-5 is available with a diesel engine in other world markets, but for the U.S., we get only the gasoline versions.The base engine is the normally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.0-liter, rated at 155 horsepower and 150 foot-pounds of torque.For more zip, the 2.5-liter engine, also normally aspirated, has 184 horsepower and 185 foot-pounds of torque.The CX-5 features Mazda’s new “SKYACTIV” technology, which brings a variety of features that include engine, transmission and even suspension components.Mazda says, “SKYACTIV … is not a package or trim level but an all-encompassing, deeply imbedded philosophy that obtaining more power, more torque and more miles per gallon does not mean sacrificing fuel economy, design or safety.”The best attribute probably is its better fuel economy. The CX-5 ranks among the best for fuel economy among the compact crossovers, with a rating of 35 mpg (26 city). But that’s only for the Sport front-drive with the manual gearbox, which most buyers will ignore in favor of the optional automatic.With the automatic, the ratings for the 2.0-liter engine are 26 city/32 highway, which is still quite decent for a five-passenger crossover with this much interior space. (All-wheel-drive models are rated at 25 city/31 highway.)The new 2.5-liter engine brings ratings of 25 city/32 highway with front drive, and 24/30 with all-wheel drive.Our tester – the all-wheel-drive Grand Touring model – easily accommodated five people, and all but the one riding in the middle of the rear bench seat ride in comfort, with plenty of leg-, knee- and headroom.There is enough space under the front seats for rear passengers to put their feet. That space can also be used to keep belongings out of sight when the car is parked in a public place.Six- or eight-way power-adjustable front seats are standard on all but the Sport model, which has only manual adjustments – but still the same full range of movement.The automatic transmission shifted quite smoothly and at the right times to make the best use of the available power. We previously tested the CX-5 with the 2.0-liter engine, and found it had adequate power for most of our driving, thanks in no small part to the light weight of the CX-5 – it’s just over 3,200 pounds. But the extra power of the 2.5-liter was welcome, especially on hills when we had a full load of people and their stuff on board. It performed well on uphill freeway ramps, as well, allowing us to merge seamlessly into the traffic flow.The CX-5’s towing capacity is 2,000 pounds with either engine, but we didn’t try that. A trailer hitch receiver is available for $425.With the automatic transmission, there is a manual-shift mode (without having to fool with a clutch) using a console-mounted lever that downshifts by pushing forward and up-shifts by pulling backward. The new Mazda Kodo “Soul of Motion” design philosophy gives the CX-5 sculpted exterior lines, with the goal of making the vehicle look like it’s constantly in motion. Other SKYACTIC elements include a reinforced chassis that adds strength, stability and a huge margin of safety to the vehicle, Mazda says.While driving the CX-5 on a variety of roads, including some fun mountain curves, I found steering to be predictable, and handling to be much better than typical SUVs of the past, with no wallowing in the tight turns.The four-wheel antilock disc brakes were quite decent, reacting quickly and allowing the vehicle to stop in a straight line with no skidding or movement off center when applied as one would in a panic stop. Among standard safety features are front seat-mounted side air bags; roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows; daytime running lights; electronic stability control with traction control; and tire-pressure monitoring.Sport models have a decent list of standard amenities, including 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, power door locks, power outside mirrors with embedded turn signals, automatic headlight shutoff, body-colored rear spoiler, cloth upholstery, pushbutton start, power windows with driver’s side one-touch open/close, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering column, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, air conditioning, and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio with auxiliary and USB connection ports.A Bluetooth audio package ($400) is available on the Sport models, bringing hands-free phone and audio streaming, along with a 5.8-inch in-dash color touch screen and HD radio.Touring models add the Bluetooth package, along with fog lights, privacy glass, upgraded cloth seats, six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, rearview camera, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, steering-wheel-mounted audio/Bluetooth/cruise functions, a blind-spot monitoring system, and a rear-seat pull-down center armrest with cupholders.Available on the Touring model are a Moon roof/Bose Audio Package ($1,130) that includes a 225-watt Bose Surround Sound system; and a Technology Package ($1,485), which brings a TomTom in-dash navigation system, auto-dimming rearview mirror with universal garage opener, automatic on/off adaptive bi-xenon self-leveling headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and an anti-theft alarm. The Moon roof package is required with the Tech package.Sirius satellite radio can be added by itself for $525 on Touring models, as well as Sport models equipped with the Bluetooth package. .Our Grand Touring model came with most of the Touring model’s features, along with 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers and the moon roof.Also included were leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Bose Surround Sound system and satellite radio.A Technology Package ($1,625) is offered on the Grand Touring model, and was included on our tester. It brought the navigation system, bi-xenon adaptive headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror with garage opener, anti-theft alarm and Mazda’s Advanced Keyless Entry.Total sticker price of my CX-5 Grand Touring all-wheel-drive tester was $31,290, including freight and the Technology Package.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.