Mazda CX-5
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Overall

Mazda has the smile-inducing-fun-and-fuel-sipping part down in its CX-5; new engine adds even more power with no real penalty.

Drivetrain

Base 2.0-liter 155-horsepower SkyActiv four-cylinder joined by larger, more potent 2.5-liter with 184 horsepower.

Mazda’s divorce several years ago from Ford was the best thing for both partners, really. Rather than sharing their respective next-generation small wagons as had been done for a decade, they’re now fierce competitors. The attractively designed five-passenger CX-5′s mechanical bits are promoted under the “Skyactiv” name that made its initial appearance with the 2012 Mazda3. More than simply a marketing slogan, SkyActiv represents a holistic transformation of the powertrain plus various other components that help save fuel in addition to making Mazdas better driving machines. From a chassis and suspension perspective, the automaker’s engineers have attempted to infuse the vehicle with as much MX-5 Miata-type sporty behavior as possible, combined with highly efficient engines and transmissions. The base powerplant consists of a high-compression 2.0-liter four-cylinder that, due to its unique design, is able to run on low-grade 87-octane fuel. Output is rated at 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Fuel consumption is pegged at 26 mpg city and 35 highway for front-wheel-drive, manual-transmission models, or 26/32 with the optional extra-quick-shifting six-speed automatic. To stop complaints about its lack of verve before they start, Mazda has added an optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder for 2014. It has 184 horses and 185 pound-feet of torque and doesn’t penalize much at the pump either, being rated only one mpg worse than the 2.0. Both sets of numbers beat league-leaders Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson. Mazda hasn’t scrimped loading up even the most basic CX-5 Sport model. For $21,500, including destination charges, you get the usual air conditioning and power-operated items, along with cruise control and push-button start. Moving up to the Touring gets you Bluetooth audio/communications connectivity, upgraded seats, 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. Also new for the 2014 model year is active smart braking technology that can see stopped cars in front and slow you down before a collision.

Base price (incl. destination): $22,100
Type: Four-door compact tall wagon
Engine (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4 (155)
Optional Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC I4 (184)
Layout: Front-engine, front- /all-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic
Mileage (city/hwy): 26/35 (FWD, MT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability control; traction control
Weight (lb.): 3,210