The battle for compact SUV supremacy is intense.
The Ford Escape is making serious noise to get noticed. The Honda CR-V is nearly flawless. Kia’s Sportage looks better than ever. Even the Subaru Forester is turning mainstream heads.
So what can the Mazda CX-5 bring to this fight? Plenty. It may not slay the competition, but it can hold its own on the battlefield.
The big knock on last year’s CX-5 was its lack of horsepower. 155 ponies just wasn’t enough, despite some impressive gas mileage. So Mazda went back to the engine room and whipped up some motor magic, adding nearly 30 horsepower. While the mileage took a dip, it’s still pretty impressive, 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway. If you’re bound and determined to minimize your time at the pump, you can still get the 155 horsepower engine on the Sport version which will bump the mileage to 26 city/35 highway.
My test car had the 184 horsepower engine. While it’s not going to wow you with its overwhelming power, it wasn’t bad. I liked the fact that I could chirp the tires from a dead stop. Thanks to the CX-5’s six speed transmission, every ounce of power was available from the moment you hit the gas.
Once you’re up to speed, the CX-5 is a pleasant driving experience. Mazda claims its cars have passion for the road and the CX-5 is nicely maneuverable. It may not have outrageous power, but it makes up for it on the curvey sections.
Styling is pleasant. It follows the Mazda look up front with a nice rake to the body that gives it a slightly aggressive look. It’s not quite a smooth as the CX-9, with a more current look.
The inside is nice. It doesn’t lack anything, but it doesn’t deliver anything special. The heated leather seats that are part of the Grand Touring package (along with the dual zone auto climate control and the power sliding glass moon roof, and navigation among other things) were very comfortable. While the suspension handles the road curves, the seats handled the body curves just fine.
Since electronics are key part of any new car, I can tell you that I liked the Pandora connection. Hook it up to your smart phone and who needs a satellite radio? You can create your own station for any taste. Just make sure your data package will handle the open road. On the downside, I wasn’t impressed with the navigation system. But, frankly, I’m still searching for a car system that’s half as good as my phone. I also felt that the virtual controls on the display had a bit of a lag every time I hit a button. One minor annoyance was the small digital clock located low on the center of the dash. Am I the only one who worried about what time it is?
Base price for the Grand Touring model was $27,620, with my test car coming in at $30,340 after you add the tech package and delivery fee.
It’s hard to find a clear winner in the compact SUV field. You simply have to decide what is more important. While the Kia Sportage out muscles the CX-5 in the horsepower department (top model has 260hp), the Ford Escape has less than the Mazda. But the Sportage handling isn’t quite as good as the CX-5. Perhaps the CX-5’s biggest problem for me was the electronics. It’s just not as sophisticated. But if it’s drivability you want, the 2014 Mazda CX-5 may be the obvious choice.