2015 Mazda CX-5 Test Drive

2014 Mazda CX-5 front QBy Barbara & Bill Schaffer

When the new Mazda CX-5 debuted about 18 months ago, it injected Skyactive? into the Mazda vocabulary and took the company in a fresh new direction. Most manufacturers develop a variety of systems for their drivetrains, suspensions, chassis, etc., and then put them together in the vehicle. The Mazda Skyactiv system is designed as a single unit and then synchronously collaborates between all the components. It is difficult define, but it?s easy to experience it behind the wheel of the CX-5.

Recent U.S. sales results have been mixed for the brand, but the CX-5 has been a big winner and as of April 2014 it has been the number one selling Mazda model, making up about one third of the sales volume for the brand. The Skyactiv technologies have been well received by the public and critics alike.

We were happy to get some fresh road time in the CX-5 driving it from the Portland, Oregon area to east of Seattle, where the vehicle we were driving was the Mazda entry in the Northwest Automotive Press Association?s annual Mudfest ? the Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition.

2014 Mazda CX-5 side 2To start with, the entire Skyactiv package is a willowy 3,208 pounds making it one of the lightest SUVs in the category ? the fully equipped Grand Touring all-wheel drive model we drove actually tips the scale at just over 3,500 pounds, still quite svelte for the class. The light weight allowed the engineers to use a smaller engine to achieve better fuel economy without taking too much away from the desirable Zoom-Zoom attributes.

2014 Mazda CX-5 front Q2The 2015 Mazda CX-5 is available in three trim levels — Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The Sport is powered by a 155 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It is small compared to most competitors, but it has the enthusiasm of ?The Little Engine That Could?. It has a standard six-speed manual transmission and optional six-speed automatic. With its high 13.0 to 1 compression ratio (the highest of any gasoline powered production car), direct injection and variable valve timing combined the four-cylinder engine produces spirited performance including a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 8.3 seconds for the front-drive version. Through clever engineering, the engine runs on regular gasoline, despite the high compression ratio. The EPA lists the fuel economy at 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with front-wheel drive model with a manual transmission.

2014 Mazda CX-5 rearOur Grand Touring test vehicle and the Touring model both have a larger 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The larger engine makes the 0 to 60 mph run in 7.6 seconds and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with AWD and the automatic transmission. Our mostly highway driving, netted us an average fuel economy of 28.5 mpg at speeds of 65 to 75 mph for most of the trip. The six-speed automatic Skyactiv transmission powering either the front wheels or an all-new optional all-wheel drive system is standard in the Touring and Grand Touring models. The automatic comes with steering wheel mounted shift paddles for better driver control.

The CX-5 driving characteristics are more closely related to the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) sports car than the typical compact SUV. The positive steering is crisp and accurate, brakes are solid and even the styling is more slippery than the typical boxy SUV.

2014 Mazda CX-5 sideMost visual of Mazda?s Skyactiv system is their new Kodo (soul of motion) design language, which is a bit more subtle than the wind-driven Nagare look shown on some recent Mazda concepts. Kodo may be less dramatic, but it is nevertheless quite fluid. Mazda officials say Kodo will continue to inspire other future Mazda designs.

2014 Mazda CX-5 cargoThe interior is business like with simple well organized controls and more of a quality feel than some previous models. Cargo space is a spacious 34.1 cubic feet behind the second row seats, and can be expanded to about 65 cubic feet when the rear seat backs are folded.

2014 Mazda CX-5 interiorThe 2015 Mazda CX-5 pricing ranges from $23,375 for the CX-5 Sport with front-wheel drive up to $30,050 for the Grand Touring AWD model. Outfitted with all the available options and accessories the price can go to nearly $35,000.

2014 Mazda CX-5 rear seatThe Grand Touring trim level has a very high level of equipment with standard features like 19-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof and heated (front) leather seating. Convenience and safety equipment includes items like blind spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, push-button start, rear camera and a strong dose of communications connections. The Grand Touring Tech Package adds a Tom-Tom-based navigation system, HID headlights, adaptive front lighting, auto-dim mirror and Smart City Brake Support as part of a $1,425 package.

2014 Mazda CX-5 door panelThe 2015 Mazda CX-5 would be an excellent choice for a young family or an empty-nester couple looking for an economical and universal SUV/crossover. It?s entertaining to drive, stylish to look at and illustrates that Skyactiv is more than a strange name. To add a further element of sportiness, we both vote for the addition of a turbocharged version.

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