We’ve clocked over two-thousand miles on the CX-5 already, about half of which I think I’m personally responsible for, testing it in the most demanding way any crossover can be: packed full with a family and luggage for a weekend road trip.
SEE ALSO: Mazda CX-5 Long Term Intro
FAST FACTS 1. Power comes from a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that makes 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. 2. Our all-wheel drive test vehicle is officially rated at 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. 3. Cargo room is rated at 34 cu-ft. 4. Starting at $21,195 a 2.5L AWD test model stats at $28,870.
One of the big surprises of the CX-5 isn’t that it’s sporty. I expected that from Mazda. Rather, I’m pleased to find that it’s actually a good family vehicle.
Fitting both child seats was easy, though for the record I am practically an expert at tying down these little-people holders. I once removed both seats from my wife’s Mazda5 and installed them in a Grand Caravan in 10 minutes flat. It was no shoddy job either. I always make sure those straps are pulled so tight the seats might as well be welded to the car’s frame.
In the CX-5 the two Britax seats fit snuggly. There’s even a good amount of left over room, so while my kids’ little feet can still kick the seatback, they don’t have to.
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SUFFICIENTLY SPACIOUS FOR SCADS OF ‘STUFFIES’
Cargo room is also plentiful at 34 cu-ft. Tall, deep and wide, about the only drawback to the CX-5’s trunk is that the load floor is a bit higher than what you’d find in the CR-V, which also boasts a slightly more cargo volume.
Cargo statistics don’t mean much so let me just tell you it can hold a LOT, and that’s a good thing because if you have kids you know that means even a weekend road trip brings with it an absurd amount of packing. You have to bring toys, and their booster seats for eating, and they want their own pillows and “stuffies”. There’s bunny and bear, and penguin and monkey and, well, you get the picture.
POWER vs FUEL ECONOMY
In addition to enjoying the raised ride height (I’m not one for crossovers, but it’s not hard to see why people like being able to see the road ahead), the long drive also gave me a chance to test out the fuel economy. Forget the 35 mpg number you may have seen advertised for the CX-5. That’s for a manual transmission, front-drive model with the base 2.0-liter engine.
Our 2.5-liter AWD model with the six-speed automatic is rated at 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. I averaged 28 mpg not paying attention, while cruising at 65 mph I got 29 mpg on the nose.
Testing a CR-V a week later, the CX-5’s numbers weren’t as good as the Honda’s, which averaged slightly higher at 30 mpg.
The new 2.5-liter engine makes 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque and I’m happy to report that while the smaller 2.0L is barely enough to power the car with just a driver, the 2.5L performs admirably even when fully loaded.
CHANGING LANES IS A SENSITIVE SUBJECT
A long highway cruise was more than enough time to test out the blind spot warning system. I wish there was a way to adjust its settings, however, as it’s quite sensitive and beeps off a warning too easily for my tastes.
Passing cars on the highway, every time I went to get back into the right lane, I’d put my signal on and the car would shriek out its alarm, trying to correct a behavior that doesn’t need correcting. My lane changing is both safe and efficient – not hogging the left lane and getting out of the way of anyone else who wants to get by.
With my kids sleeping in the back and the threat of impending beeps waking up two grumpy monsters who have FINALLY taken a nap… I instead just opted to turn the blind spot monitor off.
That’s not entirely a complaint against the car… but this is… the transmission. Mazda is very proud of this transmission – but they shouldn’t be. I’ve had engineers tell me how fast it shifts gears; ‘it’s like a dual clutch’, they say. That’s true when you slam your foot down. For every other type of driving, it simply doesn’t want to change gears.
My wife, a manual transmission driver herself (in her Mazda5 no less) even astutely commented that it felt like the car is in the wrong gear at times. And that’s exactly what it feels like. The car doesn’t want to drop gears for more power (instead fighting to get the most fuel economy). It also is far too eager to jump up a gear, saving fuel, but also sending a shudder through the car and making acceleration less zoom zoom and more Prius-like.
FROM THE HIGHWAY TO THE RACETRACK
In addition to driving carefully with my loved ones in the car, I’d also had a chance to pilot the CX-5 as the chase car on the track for a few video shoots and I can say I’m impressed that this compact crossover does have a true Mazda soul.
Not convinced? Then go watch our Audi RS5 review. Many of those track shots of the 450 hp German coupe are taken out the back of the CX-5, with me behind the wheel.
Apart from those observations I still think the CX-5 is the best looking compact crossover. Only the Santa Fe comes close in my mind.
The interior is high quality and all the controls are easy to use. The only real down side is that transmission, a pill that isn’t too large to swallow when you take into account the rest of the package.
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