This may be the first time we’ve reviewed a CUV, but if you combine all the talk of SkyActiv technology that brings new levels of efficiency and performance to Mazda’s stable with the CX-5’s sexy Kodo-design sheetmetal, we just had to take one for a spin. To be honest, our expectations weren’t all that high, since the higher center of gravity that comes with this type of vehicle generally leaves us feeling more like sailors than race car drivers—but the CX-5 delivers a surprisingly engaging driving experience.
Before getting to its suspension tuning, it’s worth mentioning that the bigger 2.5L SkyActiv engine (part of Mazda’s impressive new family of gasoline direct-injection engines with 14:1 compression) suits the CX-5 far better than the 2.0L engine it was originally launched with. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the 2.0L engine, but in a vehicle of this size and weight, the extra displacement really does make a world of difference when overtaking slower traffic, and it delivers virtually identical fuel economy in the process (front-wheel-drive models are rated at 25/32 city/highway, while our all-wheel-drive test mule delivered a combined 29 mpg with a mix of city and highway driving).
But what really impressed us most about the CX-5 is its feel on the road, where it exhibited very little body roll and had a willingness to change direction that left us wondering if we were driving a sports wagon instead of a cute-ute. Its suspension turning is firm—probably too firm for the average soccer mom out there—so you do feel more of what’s going on underneath you. But we’ll gladly take the extra feedback in exchange for the impressive cornering ability that comes with it.
We put quite a few miles on this fully loaded AWD GT model on some rough and twisty country roads and found ourselves pushing it harder into every corner and deeper into every braking zone, our confidence growing as this surprisingly lightweight (3,355 pounds) CUV gobbled up this type of terrain in true zoom-zoom fashion. It’s equally at home cruising down the interstate or making short jaunts around town. But while its relatively compact size makes it a breeze to park or navigate tight spaces, it still had more than enough cargo capacity for a weekend road trip with the wife, our 2-year-old son, and a trunk full of luggage, diapers, cookies, juice boxes, and enough toys to entertain an orphanage for a month.
It may not be the next-gen RX-7 we’re all waiting for, but in the meantime, if you happen to knock up your wife and find yourself in need of a right-sized utility vehicle that’s still plenty of fun to drive, head straight to your local Mazda dealership and try out the CX-5, because we’re pretty sure you’re going to enjoy it as much as we did.
Specs & Details
2014 Mazda CX-5 GT
Engine 2.5L SkyActiv-G 4-cylinder
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Price 2L Sport model starts at $21,395;
2.5L GT model starts at $27,820