2014 Mazda CX-5 Long Term Update 1: The Road Trip

2014 Mazda CX-5 Long Term Update 1: The Road Trip

We check back in with our 2014 Mazda CX-5 Long Term Test Car after a long weekend spent road-tripping at the hands of Editor-in-Chief Colum Wood and at the mercy of his family.

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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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.



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.




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.


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.

Have a comment, or better yet, a question? Ask us anything you want to know about the CX-5 on YouTube, in our AutoGuide comments section or even tweet at us @AutoGuide.



  • Style
  • Cargo room
  • Decent fuel economy



  • Transmission
  • Could be more fuel efficient
  • Overly sensitive blind-spot monitoring


  • Honest Abe

    Wow… you ripped on that transmission more than you do on CVTs.

  • Avedis24

    My wife got one of these in March, and I even made the same point during the test drive – the car will not downshift when it should. I notice it dragging going up some of the steeper hills around Western PA. I often throw it into manual mode and do it myself, but the transmission on this thing is garbage. Fortunately, it’s the wife’s car and not mine.

  • MetalMania

    Interesting take on the transmission, I’ve read just the opposite on some other sites praising it for always seeming to be in the right gear and being very responsive. Not saying either is wrong, maybe there’s manufacturing variance or something?

  • Alfie

    Maybe those other sites just say whatever Mazda tells them to because they don’t know what they’re talking about. So far these guys haven’t steered me wrong!

  • MetalMania

    I doubt that, they’re reputable sites and typically call faults where they’re warranted. I’m not talking about “Joe Backyard’s independent car reviews”, these were high profile/mainstream car review sites. Even some who claimed to hate automatic transmissions felt that this one was an exception. Mazda usually isn’t a manufacturer that tends to get a “free pass” like Honda, Toyota, and BMW often do. As I said, I’m not saying the reviewer from this site was wrong or that I doubt their impression of how the transmission in their specific example of the CX-5 behaved. I’m just pointing out that other automotive journalists who drive a lot of vehicles (giving them experience to know what they’re talking about) have had a different opinion about the transmission in this car, and that perhaps this reviewer’s experience might not be indicative of all CX-5. I know it’s the same transmission, and they should all drive the same, but sometimes for whatever reason different examples of the same car can behave, well, differently. This is why I read reviews from several different sites, specifically so I DO get varying reports and impressions of a vehicle and am not limiting my information to one person or organization’s preferences and interpretations.

    Also, modern transmissions being in a hurry for top gear or being reluctant to downshift in the interest of fuel economy is certainly not unique to Mazda. It sounds annoying regardless of what vehicle it happens in, and it seems that most manufacturers these days are doing it.

  • Yeach

    If you have problems with how it shifts, you can always shift it yourself in manual mode.
    Not ideal but better than say CR-V that doesn’t allow manual shifting.