2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 quick spin
There was only one thing wrong with the 2013 CX-5, and Mazda has fixed it
In Austin, Texas.
What is it?
New for 2013, the CX-5 compact crossover was Mazda’s first all-its-own-work new vehicle after parting ways with main squeeze Ford in 2009. While CX-5’s predecessor, the Tribute, had been essentially a clone of the Ford Escape, the CX-5 introduced Mazda’s new flexible architecture that also supports the 2014 Mazda6 sedan. As if that wasn’t enough “newness” to carry on its shapely shoulders, the CX-5 was also the first full expression of SkyActiv – Mazda’s strategy to holistically improve the fuel economy of every new product by painstakingly optimising the efficiency of conventional hardware.
Although the CX-5 has been a worldwide hit since it went on sale a year ago, Mazda couldn’t leave well enough alone. For 2014, the mid-level GS and top-drawer GT models now receive the same 2.5-litre mill as on the 2014 Mazda6 sedan (only the base GX keeps the original somewhat wimpy 2.0-litre). The benefits of the added 490 cc are meaningful: horsepower jumps from 155 to 184 hp and maximum torque from 150 to 185 lb.-ft. The larger engine comes only bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission; AWD is optional on the GS, and mandatory on the GT.
Also new for 2014 is Mazda’s Smart City Braking Support system. Available only on the GT as part of the extra-cost Technology Package, SCBS can detect a possible frontal collision at speeds between five and 30 km/h, and “pre-loads” the braking system for faster response when the driver hits the pedal; if the driver fails to take action, SBCS will initiate braking automatically.
What’s it like to drive?
According to the government data the fuel-consumption hit is modest. Speed for speed, the 2.5 FWD and AWD respectively burn 7.4 and 7.7 L/100 km combined, about five percent more gas than the 2.0 equivalents. The scrooge-meister of the family remains the 2.0 front-driver, at 6.9 L/100 km with manual transmission and 7.0 with automatic.
Of course, the 2.5’s fuel-consumption would increase by more than five per cent if you regularly indulged in the extra performance. We estimate the larger engine would lop almost two seconds off the 0-100-km/h time (10.7 sec measured for the 2.0 AWD automatic by AJAC at TestFest). As in the Mazda6, the 2.5 delivers linear horse-push across a broad rev range accompanied by a nice sporty buzz that only turns a tad raucous when the hammer is fully down.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mazda left the gearing unchanged, so 120 km/h is delivered at the same 2,500 rpm as on the 2.0 – pretty relaxed for a small SUV. And the 2.5’s greater torque means upgrades or part-throttle passing moves are less likely to trigger unwanted downshifts.
As Mazda vehicles move to electric power steering they have lost the delicate on-centre response we used to love, but once it starts to turn, the CX-5 is still a deft handling SUV; heck, my co-driver and I even thought it was more engaging than the 2014 Mazda6 we drove on the same roads the day before. And our CX-5 was on the base 17-inch tires, not the chunky 19s installed on the GT. Our Texas test route wasn’t much of a test of comfort, but past experience of other CX-5s on home ground suggests that it resides at the firm end of the ride spectrum.
The inside story is almost all positive. Comfort at the wheel is easy to find (more so, for more people, in the GT, which has eight-way seat adjustment versus six-way on the lower grades) and the dashboard is a model of no-nonsense functionality. Passenger room and cargo space (seats up or down) are above-average for the class, with a usefully lower-to-the-ground floor than most; as well, the rear seat-back folds flat and flush, and is 40/20/40 split on the GS and GT trims. Just one downer: there’s not exactly a wealth of stow-and-stash space up front.
Should you buy one?
The CX-5 was already one of our favourite small SUVs even with the under-achieving 2.0-litre that it originally launched with. The new engine emphatically addresses that issue, with virtually no downside. It’s still one of the most fuel-frugal options in its category. Unless your spine is exceptionally sensitive to ride quality, this 2014 Mazda deserves to be a finalist on any crossover shopper’s short-list.
2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5
Price: $28,650 - $35,095 (2.0 from $22,995)
Type of vehicle: Compact FWD or AWD crossover
Engine: 2.5-litre, 16V, DOHC, Direct-injection I-4
Engine Power/Torque: 184 hp/185 lb.-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
0-100 km/h: 9.0 seconds (est.)
Fuel consumption (city/hwy): FWD: 8.3/6.2 L/100 km; AWD: 8.5/6.6 L/100 km
Competition: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Kia Sportage, Kia Sorento, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan
QUICK SPIN SUMMARY
Faster than most, yet still frugal
Loads of versatile space out back
Limited stowage up front
Ride on the firm side
Satellite radio only on the most expensive model