Launched last year with a 2.0-liter SkyActiv gas engine the Mazda CX-5 offered segment-leading highway fuel economy in a surprisingly family-friendly little utility vehicle. Still, loaded with cargo and kids, it quickly becomes clear that a little extra power could make for a more livable driving experience.
|1. New 2.5L engine makes 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque.
2. Fuel economy is rated at 25/32 mpg for front-drive models and 24/30 mpg for the automatic.
3. Pricing starts at $26,660 in Touring trim.
NEW ENGINE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Thankfully, a new 2.5-liter engine offers exactly that with 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. The 29 extra ponies and 35 more lb-ft should make a big difference when loaded up and was more than required during our first test.
While it’s not extremely athletic, power delivery is much improved. That’s all the sweeter when you realize the extra thrust doesn’t mean drinking much more gas. Front-wheel drive models come with an estimated 25 mpg around town and 32 on the highway, which is essentially identical to the 26/32 mpg rating for the front-drive automatic with the smaller engine.
The numbers dip a little with all-wheel drive, but not much. Efficiency slides to 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, again compared to an only slightly better 25/32 rating with the 2.0-liter.
Hubris is a common condition among automakers, and braggarts often fall the hardest. Mazda boasts easily about its SkyActiv technology, but in this case the bold words bear meaning. With the fuel economy ratings of several automakers having recently been called into question, after our drive we have no reason to doubt Mazda’s claims.
AUTOMATIC ONLY, THAT’S OK
If there is a down side it’s that the six-speed stick isn’t available with the larger engine. Instead you’ll be assigned to the six-speed automatic. Truth be told, it doesn’t make a difference. Most buyers would make that choice on their own, with a small fraction of sales devoted to the manually minded – especially when it comes to crossovers.
Spend some time getting to know the automatic transmission and you’ll likely agree that it delivers a smooth, pleasing driving experience.
Similarly, the cornering feel is tactile and precise. Steering on uneven ground remains consistent and just like the less powerful 2.0-liter model, the 2.5-liter version is nothing if not fun to drive.
Better still, the larger engine won’t end up costing that extra arm and leg you’ve been saving for a rainy day.
There is no entry-level Sport trim for models equipped with the new 2.5-liter engine, meaning that at $26,660 for the Touring trim, it’s only about $2,000 more than a comparable 2.0-liter model.
True, pricing can run all the way up to $29,665 for the Grand Touring trim, though it comes with standard 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, Bose speakers, heated seats, dual-zone climate control and more.
SAME HANDSOME BODY
With only a year under its belt, the body receives no updates from last year, and doesn’t need them. Sharp lines run along the body and a new-ish version of the Mazda five-point grille carries over.
Last year when the CX-5 debuted, it was the only car in Mazda’s lineup under the brand’s KODO styling direction. Starting in January 2013, the all-new Mazda6 joined its ranks, with more to come in the future.
NEW SAFETY TECH
Just like the new Mazda6, the 2014 CX-5 gets a few new technology features. The most important of those is probably the Smart City Brake system that can slow the car at low speeds in anticipation of a crash.
It comes as part of the $1,485 tech package and uses a laser sensor mounted above the windshield to sense objects the car might hit. If you don’t react, the car will for you.
CLEAN AND SIMPLE INTERIOR
You won’t find the level of fancy in-car telematics that rivals offer and you also won’t find a center stack bristling with confusing options. Instead, it’s refreshingly simply with the same Tom Tom-based navigation system. If you so choose, downloadable voices like Homer Simpson can even direct you through the “dohs” of driving in unfamiliar territory.
An accent panel runs the width of the dashboard, and there are plenty of places to put your wallet, cell phone and snacks.
Mazda’s updated small crossover keeps everything that made it great during last year’s debut while addressing key complaints.
The larger 2.5-liter engine makes driving with kids and cargo a more reasonable proposition. With a reasonable price difference, minimally compromised fuel efficiency and added power, the 2.5-liter CX-5 is the option to take in most cases.