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2014 Mazda CX-5 Quick Drive

Prescription Filled: 2014 Mazda CX-5 adds power

Last year, when we first got behind the wheel of the Mazda CX-5 -- the company's all-new entry in the mushrooming compact crossover segment -- we were unsure what to expect. We had seen the CX-5, and it looked sporty and fun enough to entice us, but how would it drive? Mazda was changing. Gone was the thirsty rotary engine, off in to the sunset to hang out with the Marlboro man, maybe. The last RX-8 sports car rolled off the line: was this the swan song of a doomed era? The Hiroshima-based automaker began using oddly-spelled words like Skyactiv, that vaguely alluded to the future, one where clouds were probably exercising. The lineup was essentially going to boot camp, shedding weight, and modernizing for a new era.

And then it happened: we got behind the wheel, the skies instantly brightened (maybe the new Skyactiv stuff), and color once again warmed our visage. Yes, Mazda's all-new crossover was light, and fit, and got great gas mileage. But for all the weight that engineers removed, they left in the fun. It was dynamic, could take on a corner with verve -- not that you necessarily need a crossover to, but hey -- and it was highly practical. Our one complaint? The CX-5 was underpowered. You could keep manual transmission models in the lower gears, but you'd sacrifice fuel economy. Automatic transmission models -- the one the majority of shoppers get -- always opted for a higher gear to achieve maximum fuel economy.

Ever the good student, the automaker made one major change for the 2014 Mazda CX-5. It added a new, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, one that adds a needed 29 horsepower, upping the total output to a respectable 184 hp. Most impressive? The new, more powerful engine returns almost the same fuel economy, only losing 1 mpg.

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Model and Price

The 2014 Mazda CX-5 powered by the bigger 2.5-liter engine comes standard on the CX-5's two higher trims, the Touring and Grand Touring models. To get in to an entry-level 2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5-liter Touring, you'll have to pony up $25,410 (including destination) for a front-wheel-drive model. While the entry-level sport model powered by the smaller 2.0-liter engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission with the option of a six-speed automatic, the automatic transmission comes standard on the Touring and Grand Touring models with the bigger 2.5-liter engine. All-wheel-drive will add an additional $2,020. Standard equipment includes a backup camera, a power driver's seat, premium audio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, Bluetooth, a blind-spot monitoring system, and more.

The model we tested was the Grand Touring trim, priced at $31,890 after delivery. Our 2014 Mazda CX-5 model came loaded with 19-inch alloy wheels; a power moonroof; rain-sensing wipers; leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, and more.

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Safety and Key Features

The 2014 Mazda CX-5 comes loaded with a bevy of standard safety features, including: 6 airbags; anti-lock brakes; dynamic stability and traction control; and a smart city brake support system that automatically brakes if you're less than 15 feet from the car ahead of you, and traveling at a speed of 18 mph or less. The smart city brake support could reduce low-speed accidents in situations where the driver may be distracted in traffic. A rearview camera and 5.8-inch screen also help when backing out of driveways or parking. A blind spot monitoring system also comes standard on the Touring and Grand Touring trims.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the Mazda CX-5 a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the CX-5 four out of five stars in its crash test ratings.

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Family Friendliness and Utility

While we didn't get to run the barrage of tests we normally conduct on full reviews -- fitting child and booster seats, and checking for ease of LATCH point access -- but we did fiddle with the folding seats when we reviewed the 2013 model. The 40-20-40 split means you'll be able to get maximum use out of your second row. And with 34.1 cubic feet of cargo room with the seats up, and 65.4 cubic feet with the entire second row down, you'll be able to store a Thanksgiving feast's worth of groceries, skis, and just about anything you can think of stuffing in a compact crossover.

Comfort and Quality

The 2014 Mazda CX-5 features a clean, simple and cohesive cabin. The buttons and dials are modern and look like they were all sourced from the same place; there's not a mish-mosh of carry-over assembly parts. The gauges have a timepiece-inspired feel of precision. Piano-black inlays and the simple, three-rotary-dial controls on the center-stack all work to create a unique, pleasant cabin. The leather seats are well-trimmed, and comfort doesn't take a backseat. While the 5.8-inch touchscreen and backup camera get the job done, we've recently seen newer, larger screens we prefer. Overall, we think the cabin looks good, and more premium than cars at this price point.

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How it Drives

The 2014 Mazda CX-5 powered by the 2.5-liter gasoline engine cranks out 184 hp, and never leaves you feeling like you need more. This is key, as that was our primary gripe on the 2.0-liter automatic transmission models. While taking on the windy roads of the Austin, Texas Hill Country, we always felt safe. Turning and cornering are especially responsive for a crossover, and the all-wheel-drive leaves you feeling confident, and planted.

While the 2014 Mazda CX-5 is sporty, the suspension was well tailored to allow for a comfortable ride, too. The cabin was quiet, and wind noise was at a minimum. Shifts on the automatic transmission were smooth, and the transmission worked in perfect harmony with Mazda's 2.5-liter engine. While there's no official word yet, a 2.2-liter diesel engine -- one that will be available on the 2014 Mazda6 later this year, and that we got to drive in Europe a few months back -- could eventually make its way under the CX-5 hood. With plenty of gratifying low-end power, and even better fuel economy, it's an option we'd openly welcome.

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Summary

Competing against a slew of popular compact crossovers such as the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Honda CRV, the 2014 Mazda CX-5 has its hands full. And while it won't realistically outsell the competition, the Hiroshima-based automaker adds a very competitive offering packed with zeal, and a fun-to-drive nature. We loved the CX-5 when we first tested it last year, but felt it would be underpowered for some buyers. Mazda heeded the call for a more powerful CX-5, and astonishingly was able to add 29 hp, while hardly sacrificing fuel economy. For shoppers in the segment, Mazda has built a fun, capable, and attractive crossover that merits strong consideration.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $31,890 after delivery
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 24 mpg
EPA Highway: 30 mpg
EPA Combined: 26 mpg
Estimated Combined Range: 398 miles
IntellichoiceCost of Ownership: N/A

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