When I first drove the 2013 CX-5 last year, I found it pleasant if a bit underpowered. That should come as no surprise. The original two-liter SKYACTIV gas engine was only good for 155hp and similar torque numbers. For 2014, Mazda has added a 2.5-liter SKY engine as an upgrade on the Touring and Grand Touring trims. At 184hp and 185lb-ft of Torque, this new mill makes the CX-5 power-competitive with the other non-turbocharged offerings within the class. It’s still not the clear leader in sheer grunt, but it brings enough hustle to keep it in the running in a class topped off by 250-horsepower Escapes and Sportages.
And while the absence of forced induction in Mazda’s offerings may seem a glaring omission in the context of those peers, it’s also worth pointing out that the more powerful completion is typically hampered by 2-300lbs of additional weight. Without the larger of Ford’s Ecoboost four-cylinders under the hood, the Escape is far more of a dog than even the 2.0L CX-5.
With the CX-5, however, there’s very little penalty for choosing the bigger engine. It’s still rated at 32mpg on the highway (25 in the city) in front-wheel drive guise and 24/30 if you want all four wheels driven. Hammering Mazda’s all-wheel-drive GT loaner around local roads, I managed to pull a consistent 27mpg average, which is about what I get from my modified 2008 Mazdaspeed3. Not bad.
When I wrote about the CX-5, I pointed out that it, like the SKY-refreshed Mazda3i, embodied the best of Mazda’s past and future. Compared to the CX-7 it replaced, the CX-5 is more efficient, more refined, more aesthetically pleasing and more appealing to the mainstream auto buyer, yet also quintessentially Mazda. It’s lighter, nimbler and abler. It’s a car you can ride in and a car you can drive, both in equal parts. When Mazda introduced the CX-5 to journalists last February, they held the event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and it wasn’t just for the front-gate photo-op.
The CX-5 is by no means perfect. The interior is perfectly acceptable for the class, but it’s by no means a stand-out. Attractive? Sure, but it won’t knock your socks off. The tech still needs work too. The infotainment interface is small and really no more robust than your typical AM/FM/CD unit from ten years ago paired with a dash-mounted TomTom or Garmin unit. It works, and reasonably well, but it pales in comparison to what you’ll get from Sync or the Koreans’ Microsoft-based systems, especially if you’re not an Apple user. Bluetooth compatibility seems to be fairly universal, but USB input works best with iOS devices.
The biggest negative to the 2014 CX-5 is that it has suffered a bit of price creep. A 2013 Sport could be had for just about $20k on the dot. The 2014 is $2,000 dearer, and you’ll need close to $25,000 if you want a Touring model with the 2.5. These prices aren’t out of line for the segment, but I felt the increase was noteworthy.
Bottom line: Mazda has taken an excellent car and made it tangibly better. Now, how about a turbocharger for 2015?
Mazda provided the CX-5 for this evaluation.