Mazda first showcased its full suite of SkyActiv technology – the auto maker's name for its refining of nearly everything, from the engine to the chassis, to produce a more efficient automobile – on its CX-5 crossover. The result, when coupled with Mazda's Kodo "Soul of Motion" design language, was a hit.
The Mazda CX-5 debuted as a 2012 model and quickly became a head-turner. To Mazda's credit, the design hasn't faded at all in three years.
For 2014, Mazda made a few tweaks to address some negative distractions – mainly the CX-5's power output as the 2012 model felt a bit underpowered. Attempting to blend performance and efficiency is incredibly difficult and Mazda mainly achieved it; but it decided to introduce a 2.5-litre engine, which produced 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, as an option. Suddenly there was a CX-5 for anyone in the crossover market.
And that brings us to the 2015 Mazda CX-5. Mazda made major changes last year, which means the 2015 version remains largely the same – and that's the best news about this model.
The CX-5 was fun to drive in 2012 and is even better today. I tested the top-end GT AWD model, which features the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission – and I really felt the difference. The extra power (the standard 2.0-litre engine outputs 155 hp) comes through noticeably. Gunning up to highway speeds happened a second or two quicker and it responded to my input with eagerness. Handling is typical Mazda – sporty yet light and easy to manoeuvre. This is one of the liveliest crossovers to drive in this price range.
The extra power and AWD diminishes the CX-5's fuel economy when compared to the 2.0-litre FWD iteration, but still comes in at a respectable 8.9 litres/100 km combined. During my test week the CX-5 burned fuel at a rate of 10.9 litres/100 km. Not bad at all, especially considering most of the week was spent on city roads.
Mazda shows off its styling ability in this top-end CX-5. While it doesn't have the finesse of luxury crossovers – and it never attempts to give you that impression – it gets quite comfy in this trim level. Leather-trimmed seats, power moonroof and premium materials around the cabin give the CX-5 a leg-up on the competition.
Space upfront is more than enough, with room to stretch and settle in for longer drives. Rear legroom is adequate for adults but, like in most crossovers, you're not afforded much more space when compared to family sedans.
This is where it gets dicey. Mazda teamed up with TomTom to introduce a navigation system, available through the Technology Package, that's well beyond its previous iterations. I've heard some complain about the functionality of it, but I had no problems. Entering destinations via voice commands is a breeze – say the full address all at once and it gets it every time. A lot of other systems still have issues doing that.
However, once the vehicle is in motion the touch screen becomes touchless. Want to quickly change a setting? Can't do it – at least through the quickest means possible.Mazda got it half right; maybe this will be one of the next tweaks Mazda makes.
Everything else is displayed brilliantly. There are three chunky HVAC controls with a small screen that shows all of the vitals, and the speedometer and trip computer are bright and easy to see above the steering wheel.
The CX-5 starts at $22,995 with my GT AWD tester coming in at $35,095, which includes Mazda's $1,795 Technology Package option. For all that's included in this trim level, it feels like a worthwhile number for arguably the best looking vehicle in its class with great fuel economy and a well-designed interior. But, if you don't mind dropping a few of the frills you can safely take a step down to the GS trim without losing the more powerful engine. Either way, though, you're in good hands.
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