2014 Mazda CX-5

The CX-5 is Mazda's entry in the popular and highly competitive compact crossover segment. It seeks to distinguish itself with class-leading highway fuel economy as well as the nimble and enjoyable handling dynamics that have become a hallmark of the Zoom-Zoom brand.

Recent Changes
For the latest model year, Mazda has updated the CX-5 by equipping upper-trim-level models with a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder motor. This engine provides more power - but nearly the same fuel economy - as the slightly underpowered 2.0-liter unit that was previously the crossover's sole powerplant.

KODO style
Outside, the CX-5 features the purposeful look of Mazda's new KODO design language. In place of the automaker's once-ubiquitous "smiley face" grille is a new trapezoidal unit flanked by eagle-eyed, wraparound headlamps, while elsewhere the taut-yet-organic sheetmetal and crisp surface detailing hints at the crossover's sharp handling.

The cabin boasts a driver-focused layout with a sporty three-spoke steering wheel, three large instrument binnacles and unusually high-quality materials for the segment. Soft touch materials abound, while even hard plastics are uniquely finished. Cargo capacity is 34.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats, which feature 40/20/40 split folding capabilities to accommodate further cargo.

The CX-5 is the first vehicle to be designed from the ground up using Mazda's SkyActiv technology philosophy. This approach employs careful engineering to reduce weight while upping rigidity, which reaps benefits in fuel economy, performance, handling and safety.

SkyActiv Powertrains
Under the hood of entry-level CX-5 models is Mazda's SkyActiv 2.0-liter inline-four, which features a lightweight design as well as the world's highest compression ratio for a mass-produced car (13:1). This motor produces 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, but its real forte is efficiency: with the standard six-speed manual transmission, fuel economy is rated at a class-leading 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

The available six-speed automatic transmission is a unique unit that combines the advantages of a conventional automatic, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a dual clutch transmission. At low speeds the gearbox performs like conventional torque-converter automatic with the attendant benefits of smooth and easy operation. At higher speeds (more than five to eight mph), the torque converter locks and the transmission performs like a dual clutch - quick shifts with little power-delivery interruption and rev-matched downshifts.

With this gearbox, the CX-5 returns 26/32 mpg, while adding all-wheel-drive (available only with the automatic) drops the highway figure to 31 mpg.

Upper-level CX-5 models now feature a SkyActiv 2.5-liter four-cylinder that's good for 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Available only with the six-speed automatic, this mill shaves about a second from the 2.0-liter's zero-to-60 mph time but exactly almost no fuel efficiency penalty. Mileage is rated at 25/32 mpg with FWD and 24/30 mph with AWD.

Innovative Structure
The CX-5 crossover makes Mazda the first-ever automaker to specifically develop and incorporate automotive components using 1,800 MPa ultra-high tensile steel.

Although high-strength and Boron steel are already fairly widely used in modern vehicles, Mazda says this particular variation is brand-new in the automotive realm, and it will make its debut in the form of just two components: the front and rear bumpers.

By using this new (to the application) steel, Mazda says it was able to gain 20 percent strength and shave off about 10.5 pounds of unwanted weight in two of the most crucial areas: the furthest extensions of the vehicles' overhangs front and rear, which detract from several aspects of vehicle performance.

To accomplish this, Mazda says it had to dramatically alter the impact design of the vehicle due to the fact that the steel is not very pliant and in turn absorbs less energy in a collision. The solution was to create an all-new design that absorbs energy more efficiently, directing it into intended areas of the vehicle and not into the passengers or passenger compartment.

Trim Level Breakdown
The CX-5 is available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring Trim levels.

Standard features on the Sport model include the six-speed manual transmission and 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Yokohama tires, power windows and locks, cruise control, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD audio system and push-button start. A Bluetooth audio package is optional for Sport models, as is the six-speed automatic transmission that comes standard on all other trim levels.

From there, the Touring model adds the more powerful 2.5-liter motor and the six-speed automatic, fog lamps, Bluetooth, power adjustment for the driver's seat (with upgraded cloth), a rearview camera, a six-speaker audio system with a 5.8-inch in-dash monitor, leather for the steering wheel and shift knob, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a blind spot monitor and a rear-seat armrest.

Touring models are available with a package that bundles together a moonroof and a 225-watt, nine-speaker Bose audio system, and a Technology Package that adds TomTom-based navigation, an auto-dimming/Homelink rearview mirror, automatic and adaptive Xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and an anti-theft alarm. SiriusXM satellite audio is a standalone option for the Touring.

For hedonists, the CX-5 Grand Touring adds 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, , heated mirrors, a mooonroof, heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bose audio and SiriusXM. A Technology Package builds on the Touring's similarly-named group but adds passive entry keys.

Occupant Safety
All CX-5 models come standard with dual front, side and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Key Competitors
The sporty CX-5 faces competition from a host of rivals including the popular Honda CR-V, the Euro-chic Ford Escape, the reliable Toyota RAV4 and the feature-packed Hyundai Tuscon.