In its first year, the Mazda CX-5 crossover sport utility vehicle won over auto critics with its driver-pleasing handling, comfortable interior and sporty looks.
Now in its second model year, the five-passenger CX-5 promises to garner more compliments, thanks to a more powerful, but still fuel-efficient, engine that puts zoom-zoom into the compact SUV.
New for 2014, the 2.5-liter, double overhead cam, SkyActiv-G four cylinder has a larger displacement than the original 2-liter four cylinder and generates 184 horsepower, an increase of 29 over last year's sole engine. The new Mazda engine also delivers 185 foot-pounds of torque at 3,250 rpm.
The intriguing part is that federal government fuel economy ratings for the front-wheel drive CX-5 with the more powerful engine still are near the top of the non-hybrid, gasoline-powered, compact crossover class: 25 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway.
Add some new features for 2014 and the fact the CX-5 is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, and it's no wonder the CX-5 is Mazda's second best-selling vehicle in America. The CX-5 still offers a six-speed manual, though it is only with the smaller, 2-liter engine in the lineup.
All told, the 2014 CX-5 remains an affordable and noteworthy choice for smaller SUV shoppers.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $22,190 for a base, 2014 CX-5 Sport with front-wheel drive and six-speed manual transmission.
The lowest starting retail price for a base, 2014 CX-5 Sport with six-speed automatic transmission is $23,590, or $1,400 more.
The lowest starting price, including destination charge, for a 2014 CX-5 with all-wheel drive is $24,840. The only transmission available with all-wheel drive is the six-speed automatic.
All base models, which are Sport trim, have the base, 155-horsepower, 2-liter four cylinder.
Buyers wanting the new, 2.5-liter four cylinder must move up to a 2014 CX-5 Touring or Grand Touring model. Starting retail price for a 2014 CX-5 Touring FWD is $25,610, while a Touring model with all-wheel drive starts at $26,860.
The test CX-5 was a top-of-the-line Grand Touring model with all-wheel drive, plus the optional technology package that added a TomTom navigation system, high-intensity-discharge headlamps and advanced keyless entry, among other things. As a result, the test vehicle's window sticker price was just over $32,000.
Drivers can notice quickly the difference between the smaller four cylinder and the new one in the CX-5. The higher-powered CX-5 accelerates more eagerly and moves in sprightly fashion.
Fuel economy was a surprising 25.5 mpg, which is just below the combined city/highway mileage of 26 mpg estimated by the federal government. This translated into a travel range of 390 miles in the all-wheel drive model, which had a 15.3-gallon fuel tank. Regular unleaded gasoline is all that's needed.
The engaging experience for the driver, who, like other SUV drivers, sits a good distance above the pavement, helps set the CX-5 apart. This Mazda is agile, fun and relatively spunky, particularly for drivers who prefer a sporty car ride.
The CX-5 interior isn't as stylized as those of some other vehicles, such as the Ford Escape. But it's handsome and functional.