Mazda CX-5
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Overall: Combine the CX-5’s “Kodo Soul of Motion” styling with the Skyactiv powertrain and suspension technology and you have a remarkably agile compact wagon. A slightly modified exterior and interior head the list of 2016 changes.

Drivetrain: Base 155-horsepower four-cylinder, or more potent 184 horsepower engine remain; manual and optional automatic transmissions available, as is all-wheel-drive.

The CX-5’s smaller CX-3 relation is one cute and sporty little wagon that’s getting a lot of attention, but it does have its limitations. For a full load of people and cargo capacity, the bigger CX-5 is a better choice — and it looks pretty good, too, with an updated grille — and is just as lively a driver. The vehicle’s mechanical bits are part of Mazda’s “Skyactiv” system that’s more than just marketing puffery; it represents a holistic transformation of the powertrain plus various other components that helps save fuel and turns the entire lineup into exemplary driving machines. For the chassis and suspension, the automaker’s engineers have worked to infuse the CX-5 with some sporting behavior, combined with highly efficient engines and transmissions. The entry-point $22,600 CX-5 with front-wheel-drive and a five-speed manual gearbox uses a high-compression 2.0-liter four-cylinder that operates on low-grade 87-octane fuel and makes 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder increases the output to 184 horses and 185 pound-feet of torque. It also doesn’t penalize at the pump as it consumes only slightly more fuel than the 2.0, even with its mandatory six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is available only with this powertrain combo. Mazda loads up even the most basic CX-5 model with air conditioning and the usual power-operated features, along with cruise control and push-button start. Moving up to the Touring trim gets you Bluetooth connectivity, upgraded seats, a color display monitor, steering-wheel-mounted controls and a blind-spot warning system. The Grand Touring adds a moonroof, leather seat covers (heated in front), power-adjustable driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control. There’s also active smart braking technology that can “see” stopped cars in front and slow you down before a collision. For 2016 Mazda has upgraded the front and rear seats for all trims.