We rather enjoyed the 2013 Mazda CX-5 Touring we bought and tested last year. But there was one complaint: the super-efficient 2.0-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder engine was down on power at just 155 horses. Scratch that gripe off the list. Most 2014 CX-5s will come with a more-competitive 184-hp, 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine.
It's a mixed bag when automakers introduce a car and then make major changes just a year later. Improving products is great for the consumer, except for the poor guy who will regret buying that first-year car. And since Consumer Reports buys all of the cars that we test, we really hope to get more than a year's worth of data publishing out of a test vehicle. But sometimes quick changes mean that we need to write another check. The damage: $28,090 sticker price (we paid a bit less) for our Soul Red 2014 CX-5 Touring AWD with the moon roof/Bose audio package.
Now is a great time to be shopping for a fresh-off-the-shelf small SUV. The new Toyota RAV4 is currently on sale, the 2014 Subaru Forester goes in sale in a few short weeks, and now there's the updated CX-5. Compared to those revamped competitors, our CX-5 comes in at about $2,000 more than the 2014 Forester Premium with a CVT and about $1,200 more than the 2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE we bought. You gain some/lose some with the options. The CX-5 has blind-spot monitoring and that Bose stereo with voice commands; the Forester has a giant panoramic sunroof; and the RAV4 adds automatic climate control (lacking in the CX-5).
So this Mazda may be priced at a premium, but it also brings something less tangible to the class. With its nimble handling, the CX-5 is really fun-to-drive. Well-sculpted seats and a sports steering wheel suggest that the Mazda intends to make twisty back roads enjoyable, even if most small SUVs serve as suburban errand shuttles. Our tests will tell if the added power comes with a fuel-economy penalty.
There's quite a battle brewing to see which small SUV tops our Ratings. We'll see if the Honda CR-V still holds that position after the dust settles. (Or, thanks to Nemo, after the snow settles.) With a few more weeks of winter, we welcome the newly invigorated AWD CX-5 into our test fleet.
Mid-level 2013 Toyota RAV4 joins our test program
First drive: 2014 Subaru Forester improves on a practical package
2013 New Car Preview
Best and worst used cars
Complete Ratings for 200 cars and trucks
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Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on MSN. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.