Mazda has done nothing lately but shock the automotive industry with their stunning eye-catching redesigns implementing the “KODO” design language throughout their lineup. The latest Mazda3, Mazda6, and CX-5 are the most notable of these designs. They also manage to keep enthusiasts like myself happy by offering manual transmissions across the family. I had the pleasure of driving the 2014 Mazda6 GT (6-speed manual, of course!) late last year, paired with the 2.5L SkyActiv-G 4-cylinder. This engine is one I fell in love with, and it also coincidentally is found in this week’s tester, the 2014 Mazda CX-5 GT.
Painted in a refreshing Blue Reflex Mica and powered by this fantastic 2.5L SkyActiv-G engine, I thoroughly looked forward to my test of the 2014 CX-5. Though the base model is available with the 6-speed manual, my tester was the top-trim GT, a six-speed automatic coupled to full-time all-wheel-drive. In this application, the 2.5L puts out a healthy 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, entirely competent and surprisingly pleasant.
Mazda has appointed the interior of the CX-5 very similarly to the Mazda6, which I originally loved for its perfect blend between the modern and slightly classic styles. I enjoy using the actual buttons far more than the touchscreen applications in many competitors (namely General Motors and Ford). To control simple frequently-used controls with regular buttons is all I ask for in an everyday driver. The CX-5 GT (short for Grand Touring) comes standard with an AM/FM/CD infotainment system with a 9-speaker Bose sound system; tons of clarity here. The Bluetooth integration is top notch, producing crystal clear quality for a seamless handsfree experience. I must mention though that the iPod integration is not quite there yet – the system has problems reading our 160GB iPod Classic; a problem we also experienced with the Mazda6.
I will say though that the integration of the TomTom navigation system isn’t as good as it could be. Similarly to what I said in my story of the Mazda6, it’s still sluggish and feels a bit out of place. However, Mazda has already proven that they can do a lot better. It’s only a matter of time until the excellent system in the all-new Mazda3 trickles down throughout the rest of the Mazda family. The CX-5 GT also comes with dual-zone climate control, leather seating throughout, and a sunroof. The interior is very well laid out and is a bright, pleasant place to be. I had no complaints at all about head or legroom, but the rear seat area could be a little roomier.
One thing Mazda really does understand about its buyers is fuel efficiency. I could go on and on for hours complaining about how much I miss the KL-DE and KL-ZE V6 motors found in the older 626, MX-6, and modified MX-3 models of the 1990s, but the days of Mazda’s high-horsepower engines are gone as they focus more and more towards an economical solution that still remains a joy to drive. I averaged a pleasant 8.6L/100km throughout my test week, which is a far cry from the suggested numbers, but my commute itself is a far cry from the typical commute.
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 GT I drove came sporting 19” alloy wheels with 225/55R19 all-season tires, an exceptional design, and an efficient powertrain. I was surprised at how well the car drives for a small SUV/crossover. Its healthy balance of “zoom-zoom” soul, comfort, and efficiency is truly something to check out. The price point for the CX-5 GT isn’t bad either; my tester came in at an as-tested price just under $36,000. If Mazda actually offered the 6-speed manual in the GT trim (hey, they do it in the Mazda6!), I would have one on the driveway as a family hauler.
Compared to its competitors, the Mazda CX-5 puts out a compelling argument. The exterior styling is something you could look at day in and day out without ever complaining – the swooping lines and stylish headlights are elegant without being too over the top. It has enough room in the trunk for as much kid gear as you can throw at it, and it’s liveable enough for cross-country road trips. Plus, the four-banger bearing the SkyActiv badge is a winner – even as a true petrolhead, I found this engine a pleasure to drive. I know for a fact that when the time comes for me to upsize to an SUV, the CX-5 is going to be near the top of my shopping list.