Latest addition to CX line shows its pedigree

Our first encounter with the Mazda CX-5 was reminiscent of the first time we drove a Mitsubishi Outlander. Both bowled us over. How could a compact crossover, at this price point, perform like a sport sedan?

The CX-5, the smallest of the three in Mazda’s CX line, was the last to arrive. It debuted in the U.S. market as a 2013 model. This spring, we test-drove a 2014 Grand Touring model with all-wheel drive and found it to be fun, functional and comfortable, though a little pricy for this segment.

The base CX-5 Sport starts at a reasonable $21,195. At that price, the CX-5 has a 2.0-liter, 155-horsepower engine and a 6-speed standard transmission. So equipped, and endowed with Mazda’s SKYACTIV performance and fuel-economy technology, it delivers an exceptional 35 mpg on the highway.

Our test car, however, was a different animal entirely. Clad in Soul Red Metallic paint, it had the bigger of the two engines available in the CX-5 – a 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower Four. With automatic transmission and AWD, it was rated at a creditable 24 mpg in the city, 30 highway. The price, with four major options including a navigation system and Mazda’s new Smart City Brake Support system, was $31,890.

Among the CX-5’s many strengths are its roomy interior, 65-cubic-foot cargo capacity with the rear seat lowered, a nearly flat cargo floor, and driving dynamics common to Mazda’s sportier lines. Standard features in the Grand Touring model, with a base price of $28,870, include power moonroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats and outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, push-button start, rear-view camera, satellite radio and blind-spot monitoring system.

Smart City Brake Support, included in a $1,625 technology package, detects stationary objects in the car’s path when traveling at low speeds and sounds a warning. If the driver doesn’t apply the brakes, the system stops the car.

Early returns on the CX-5 indicate it’s reliable. It has been designated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The CX-5 may not be a Lexus or BMW, but it’s assembled with quality materials and attention to detail. Controls are easy to use and easy to read. The comparatively spacious back seat sets it apart from many of the competing crossover models.

Major makes like Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Kia and Hyundai all build well-regarded compact crossovers. Mazda, once known more for performance than fuel economy, has stepped up recently. Consumer Reports magazine testing places the CX-5 (with the 2.0-liter engine) ahead of the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Chevrolet Equinox and Nissan Rogue in the fuel-economy race.

The CX-5 is less competitive with the Escape and other popular compact crossovers in the sales contest, but it’s attracting plenty of attention. Dealers sold about 18,000 CX-5s in the first quarter of 2013, a respectable showing for a car that has barely completed its first year on the market.


Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.


Price: $31,890

Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four, 184 horsepower, 185 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 3,1944 lb.

Ground clearance: 8.5 in.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19×7-in. alloy

Tires: P225/55R19 99V all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 34.1 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 65.4 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 14.8 gallons

Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular