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2014 Mazda CX5 Road Test Review

2014 Earth Aware Vehicle Buyer's Guide
Featuring Top 10 Green SUVs & CUVs

2014 Mazda CX-5 Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

Road & Travel Magazine's Top 10 Picks

Audi Q5 Hybrid

Mazda CX-5

Chevrolet Spark EV

Mitsubishi Mirage

Jeep Grand Cherokee

OK. You win some and you lose some. Here's Mazda's kicky, flexible, energetic little CX5 crossover.  It's a five-seater hatchback that all of Road & Travel's picky awards testers loved so much it hands-down won the publication's prestigious Earth, Wind and Power green truck award for 2013. Now it's 2014 in car years, and the Mazda CX5 has a not-so-subtle change.

For starters, it appears to have been working out at the gym a bit. That's great for the biceps but what it does for squeezing every ounce of dropkick from a splash of gasoline is another question. But here's why we're not dismayed.

Like so many vehicles designed to be fuel misers that really hit the mark, the CX5 got tremendous applause when it first debuted. But there always seemed to be a little asterisk stuck in the corner. If one dug deep enough, there usually was a comment about it being a tad short on the grunt meter. Despite the gloom of federal regulators peering from the sidelines to capture any tendency to lose rather than gain in the march toward green, Mazda folks made a calculated decision. And considering the need for those of us in the driving public to embrace rather than flee from more fuel efficient cars and trucks, we think it was a necessary one.

Mazda's 2014 major adjustment is adding (shock and awe here) a slightly gutsier, more fun-inspired power plant without a major fuel savings sacrifice.

If a vehicle loses a tiny bit of fuel economy by putting in a little gutsier engine, as Mazda did, who's to lose? Overall the driving consumer who buys one is still getting hands down better fuel economy and a far greener footprint than in some other vehicles. And if the new Mazda CX5 (with an energy boost from its new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder power plant) replaces one of those old rusting out clunkers that sucks down fuel like one ingests a frozen Slurpee freeze on a hot summer day then everyone gains. Who does? Well, start with those who want less air pollution. Add in those who want less dependency on foreign oil. Don't forget those who voted in environmentally conscious representatives at the federal level, and the upcoming more stringent fuel economy regulations. So we think a little smudge here and there has to be a lot better than a bucket full of mud.

Mazda, the "chutzpah" company that invented "Zoom, Zoom," and launched the roadster revival a couple of decades ago with a little two-seater named "Miata," puts it a little more succinctly, stating: "No one wants to drive a slug." Then it adds: "...but a sports car doesn’t fit the everyday needs of most consumers, nor are such horsepower-bloated play things the most affordable of toys." Ouch. We get it.

How did the addition occur? Mazda's checklist begins with its highly touted SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY that was the foundation of the first, 2013 model. The newbie for 2014 (guaranteed to please those earlier mutterers), is the SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter gasoline engine for Touring and Grand Touring editions with automatic transmission, as well as the all-new Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system. Mazda also cites a lighter engine, shorter automatic shifting strokes and a weight-reducing diet for every part and component that could be tweaked.

So how can one improve on the original 2.0-liter's 155-horsepower and 150-lb. ft. of oomph-delivering torque? By adding about 19 percent more horsepower (to 184) and 23 percent more torque (to 185), baby, while still maintaining high EPA mileage numbers of 25 city/32 highway (front drive) and 24 city/30 highway for all-wheel-drive (about a mile short of the 2.0's credentials). That's good for about a 430-mile driving range per tankful regardless of model.

The Sport edition doesn't get the new 2.5-liter engine. But remember, it's the only version that can come with a stick shift. And as any standard trans driver knows, that can cover for a multitude of omissions, especially when the road gets twisty.

In town, there's another consideration addressed by the new, available Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system for obstacle protection at slower speeds. A high-mounted windshield laser beam senses a probable low speed collision (up to 19 miles an hour) and will activate an automatic braking function if the driver doesn't do an evasive maneuver.

Sweet to look at you say? Most Mazdas are lately, an outgrowth of its "Soul of Motion" philosophy (translated from KODO in Japanese) to express serenity combined with excitement. The punch of piano black and satin chrome adds definition to the contemporary interior, laden but not overloaded with the presence of the requisite high tech driving and entertainment elements for high tech living. With navigation, it can display short visual messages when paired with a smart phone.

And how much? you ask. That's what we'd like to know, definitively. While the 4-cylinder 2.0-liter Sport edition should remain a shade over $22K for base, going bolder with the 2.5-liter four should add about $3K to the mix when all the Is are dotted and T's are crossed during those last minute abacus adjustments from the bean counters. So to Mazda we say: Please put the teacups down. There are folks out there who don't want to wait until the new year to buy one.

For more information on Mazda vehicles, click here.