Few vehicles are truly all-new, but the “flexible, thoughtful, sharp-looking” CX-5 really has been built from a blank sheet of paper. The result is a fun-to-drive and efficient compact utility that stands out in a category that’s “not known for innovation, style, or performance.” Unfortunately, this Mazda trades in some zoom-zoom to achieve its class-best fuel economy. A vehicle with a chassis and steering this good “deserves a livelier power train, even at a cost of 1 or 2 mpg.”
For driving enthusiasts, the best news is what this vehicle says about future Mazdas. The CX-5 is the first to make full use of the automaker’s new Skyactiv suite of engine, transmission, and chassis technologies, and that package impresses. The base-model CX-5, with its manual transmission, may actually be “the sweet deal of the bunch.” The manual shifter “shames many a dedicated sporting machine,” and pushes highway fuel efficiency up to 35 mpg.
The attractive interior means that even if you don’t opt for leather seats or a moonroof, “you’ll never feel stuck in a low-rent penalty box.” Everything about this vehicle is well conceived, including cargo space and passenger comforts. Still, “we’d love it even more with another 30 hp on board.”