Who remembers the Mazda Navajo? It was Mazda's first attempt at an SUV in the US, but it was basically a rebadged two-door Ford Explorer Sport. Then there was the Mazda Tribute, which was basically an easily forgotten rebadged Ford Escape. Then the most recent attempt at a compact/ midsize crossover, the CX-7, which was plagued by bad gas mileage and a cramped interior. What does this all translate to? For over two decades Mazda hasn't been able to create a competitive compact crossover to go head to head with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4.
Well everything changed last year that with the introduction of the 2013 Mazda CX-5, which quickly jumped to the front of the compact crossover class, but was only held back by one issue, its engine. With only 155 horsepower under the hood you can imagine how hard it would be to get going. Well for the 2014 model year Mazda has introduced a more powerful 2.5L engine for the CX-5's two two trim levels. Does the new engine answer our prayers for more power without a big sacrifice in fuel economy?
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is now offered with two engines, the entry 155-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine and the new more powerful 2.5L four-cylinder engine that is also shared with the new Mazda6. The 2.5L engine generates 184-hp and 185 lb-ft. of torque, which is a nice 29-hp and 35 lb-ft. bump from the 2.0L engine. Even better with the extra power, the fuel economy ratings don't take a huge hit. The 2.5L is mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission and the front-wheel-drive CX-5 is rated at 25/32, which is a barely noticeable difference from the 2.0L automatic, which is rated at 26/32. The all-wheel-drive CX-5 2.5L is rated at 24/30 mpg. We averaged 26 mpg in our all-wheel-drive CX-5 Grand Touring.
Does the extra power matter? Definitely! The Mazda CX-5 is easily one of the best drives in the segment and now the 184-hp engine brings its power levels more inline with the CR-V and RAV-4. Of course it's still not as powerful as the turbocharged Kia Sportage, but its overall package works. The handling is great, although at times the suspension may have returned a bit too much of the road's imperfections. But we'd gladly take a firmer ride over a floaty non-engaging one. The CV-5's steering provides good feedback with it only feeling a bit numb at times.
How's the rest of the 2014 CX-5 besides the new engine? Our CX-5 Grand Touring AWD model sits on top of the CX-5 lineup and comes standard with leather seats, heated front seats, navigation system with Pandora radio, back up camera, Bluetooth, Bose audio system and a blind spot monitoring system. The overall layout and feel of the interior was exactly what we expected and yielded few complaints. The seats were nicely bolstered, the driving position was spot on and the space behind the rear seat had more than enough space. Our only big complaints, which weren't very big at all were that the heated front seats couldn't keep us warm in the 40 degree weather we experienced over our time with the CX-5. We also felt like the CX-5's TomTom navigation system felt a generation behind with its smallish screen and hard to use interface.
After spending a few days with the CX-5 we walked away mostly impressed. It's combination of sporty handling, its new more powerful engine and comfortable interior made it an easy compact crossover to live with. Mazda finally has a compact crossover that should be on anyone's "test drive" list. Now we only have one request. Mazda please make a Mazdaspeed version!
Base Price: 2014 Mazda CX-5: $21,990
As Tested: 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD: $29,665
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