Drive

Peppy 2.5-litre engine makes Mazda CX-5 more fun to drive than 2.0-litre

2014-15 Mazda CX-5

• Type. Four-door, front- or all-wheel-drive compact SUV

• Engines. 2.0-litre four-cylinder (155 hp); 2.5-litre four-cylinder (184)

• Transmissions. Six-speed automatic (six-speed manual available with 2.0-litre)

• Price. $22,995 base, $28,795 as-tested

Fuel economy is an essential consideration in a vehicle, but it has to be balanced with performance. Mazda discovered that the hard way when it introduced its CX-5 with a 2.0-litre engine that sipped fuel but could be sluggish, especially in heavy traffic.

That engine is still available, but Mazda has now added a peppier 2.5-litre four-cylinder that is still efficient (I averaged 9.9 L/100 km in cold weather), but makes it far nicer to drive.

For 2015 models, the base GX still uses the 2.0-litre, in front- or all-wheel drive, starting at $22,995. The mid-range GS uses the 2.5-litre and comes in FWD or AWD. My AWD GS tester rings in at $30,895.

You can also get the GT, which comes in AWD only, starts at $33,495, and adds such features as leather upholstery and dual-zone climate control.

The bigger engine makes 184 horsepower, which is almost 30 more than the 2.0-litre. The CX-5 also has all of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, which includes direct gas injection, lightweight construction and optimized transmission performance for better fuel economy.

Mazda is known for its sporty handling, and the CX-5 delivers, with quick response and pleasantly light steering. There’s none of the tiring over-eagerness some sportier models can exhibit.

The interior offers comfortable seats, with three-stage heating and power driver’s adjustment, and the rear chairs are roomy and fold flat for extra cargo space.

I like the heater’s simple dial controls, and the stereo is easy to use. But the engine start button is wedged in behind the wiper stalk where it’s tough to reach, and only the driver’s window button is backlit, so at night you have to fumble to find the lock buttons and mirror switch.

Of course, some drivers may prefer the smaller engine, so test-drive it in case it is the one for you. But if it leaves you wanting more, take out the GS or GT models with their larger powerplant. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Market position

The CX-5 replaced Mazda’s CX-7, a slightly larger and much heavier model that offered a thirstier turbocharged engine. The more fuel-efficient CX-5 is far better positioned in a crowded segment where mileage is an important consideration for buyers.

Points

  • Mazda has added SkyActiv fuel-saving technologies on its vehicles as they are updated, but the CX-5 is the first model to get all of them.
  • An auto-brake system that applies the brakes if the SUV is about to hit another vehicle can be optioned on the GT.
  • The GS and GT rear seat folds 40/20/40, so you can carry long items and still have room for two passengers.

Interesting features

Available bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, Bluetooth with text message function, blind-spot monitoring system, and a crash-avoidance auto-braking system.

More on Metronews.ca