By Bruce Caldwell
The Mazda CX-5 was new for the model year 2013, so the early arriving 2014 CX-5 is more of an engine and technology update than a whole new vehicle. What Mazda has done is take an already excellent crossover SUV and refine it with a more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
We were very impressed during our time in a 2013 CX-5 and the improved 2014 model only boosted those already positive reactions.
Walkaround: The CX-5 is a handsome vehicle. It’s a nice blend of SUV ruggedness and passenger car sleekness. It has some chiseled lines, but not to the extent that was popular a few years ago. As a crossover the CX-5 is a blend of both function and form.
Our tester was painted Sky Blue Mica (a bright candy blue) and although color doesn’t impact performance, it does affect how we feel about a vehicle. We applaud Mazda for offering colors beyond the all too common earth tones found on many SUVs.
The CX-5 rolled on handsome 19-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, both of which contributed to a more urban than rural look. Given how seldom most SUV owners leave paved roads these styling choices were a wise decision.
Interior: Mazda has done an excellent packaging job with the CX-5. The interior is spacious, even though the exterior size is very city-friendly. Tall people easily fit in the CX-5 and the high roofline means they can keep their hats on. Front legroom is very good and rear legroom is sufficient (depending on front seat positioning).
A comfortable, slightly contoured steering wheel was outfitted with intuitive auxiliary controls that included audio, cruise, and Bluetooth functions. The front seats had 3-temp heat and the driver’s seat had a power lumbar feature. The power sunroof was a little small, but it worked well.
Interior materials, design, and fit/finish were all very good with the exception of the headliner, which we rated as sub-par. Cargo space and flexibility are excellent. Small item storage areas are below average. The cargo floor is flat, but the split folding rear seats have a slight upward slant. We hauled some pretty impressive loads with all the seats retracted.
Under The Hood: The big news for the improved 2014 model CX-5 is the larger 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine. The extra half-liter displacement (over the previous 2.0-liter engine) is better suited for this crossover SUV. The engine is rated at 184-horsepower with 185 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an excellent 6-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel-drive.
The new 2.5-L engine is only available with the 6-speed automatic transmission and only on the Touring and Grand Touring models. The 2.0-L engine can be had with a 6-speed manual transmission. We previously tested a CX-5 with the 2.0-L engine and manual transmission. We were very impressed with fuel economy numbers over 31-mpg and the transmission was smooth and easy to use.
The slight fuel economy drop of the automatic transmission and larger engine is easily offset by the added convenience. This region is too hilly and congested to fully enjoy a manual transmission, especially in an active use vehicle like an SUV.
The CX-5 is EPA-rated at 24-mpg city and 30-mpg highway. We averaged 29.3-mpg on an extended highway trip and 27.7-mpg in mixed city/highway driving. That’s very impressive fuel economy for an AWD SUV with ample passenger and cargo room.
In addition to the full-time AWD, the CX-5 features excellent 4-wheel disc brakes, independent front and rear suspension, dynamic stability control, traction control, hill launch assist (not as big of a deal with an automatic transmission as with a manual trans, but still nice to have), and Mazda’s Skyactiv technology, which seamlessly integrates and maximizes all running gear functions.
Our test vehicle had the optional Grand Touring Tech Package, which included the new Smart City Brake Support. It uses a laser sensor to detect objects ahead of the vehicle and to monitor vehicle-closing rates. It then pressurizes the brake system to minimize braking times whenever a potential collision is detected. If the driver doesn’t brake for the obstacle, the system will automatically apply the brakes. This high level technology is usually reserved for much more expensive vehicles.
Behind The Wheel: The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is very smooth riding, especially given its SUV capabilities. The overall driving impression is more car-like than truck-like. The electric power-assisted steering gives a decent road feel. It’s not a sports car, but it’s pretty responsive.
A standard feature that we greatly appreciated was the blind spot monitoring system. In today’s highly congested, aggressive traffic we really like knowing what’s in our blind spot. Another great Pacific Northwest feature is the variable rain-sensing wipers.
Whines: The 2014 CX-5 came out in the first quarter of 2013, which makes it a 2013-1/2 at best. We don’t think automobiles should be dated like comic books.
The liftgate could open a little higher. We failed to pay attention (admittedly we were parked on an incline) and received a pretty good thump while loading gear in the cargo bay.
A few more interior small item bins would be nice.
Bottom Line: The 2014 Mazda CX-5 does an outstanding out of blending good old SUV practicality/functionality with state-of-the-art safety and fuel economy technology at a very attractive price. It’s a lot of car for the money and a lot of car period.