How to Make a Better CX-5

2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring 5
2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring AWD. All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Mazda CX-5

There was that feeling of deja vu.

Back in October, I attended the Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally outside of Chicago. As my return vehicle from the event, I drove back to the Twin Cities in the new 2013 Mazda CX-5. It was one of the vehicles I had my eye on when it was introduced and it not bad at all. I concluded my review by stating that the Skyactiv 2.0litre version of the CX-5 was "a smooth riding, easy to use and distinctive little buddy for commuting to work and back and anything else that needs to be done afterwards."

Good praise is earned, but given with the utmost care. Yet, what kept the CX-5 from being absolutely great was that Skyactiv 2.0litre engine. It is a competent motor, but the CX-5's relative weight called for more capability. We got the idea that fuel efficiency was the key driver to creating the CX-5 in its introductory state, but this market demands a lot more than efficiency.

Move forward to May and the MAMA Spring Rally in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Again, I was presented with a vehicle to drive back home in. It turned to be another Mazda CX-5. It was the same trim level – the Grand Touring with all-wheel drive. This meant I was very familiar with the equipment level, the TomTom navigation system and so forth. Strangely enough, it was the same exterior color – Solar Red.

You might think that they kept the 2.0litre version around for me to drive again. It was a bit different. This version I drove home in is the 2014 model with the new Skyactiv 2.5litre engine. This is where things got interesting…a new engine to test out from Mazda!

Obviously, the question is whether Mazda made the right move by adding the 2.5litre Skyactiv engine to its small crossover offering.

2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring 10

We should start with the engine. Originally, it was designated to exclusively power the new Mazda6. Feedback to Mazda's North American Operations teams on the 2.0litre prompted them to consider having their plant in Japan drop the larger motor under the small crossover's hood.

This was a very smart move. With 185 horsepower available, the CX-5 is transformed into a serious contender in this segment. What the 2.5 does best is to keep up with traffic. The CX-5 feels stronger, swifter and more comfortable in its skin. The drawback is it cruises around 2500RPM at top highway speed, where most in its class drop down below 2000RPM when running along at the same speed. Therefore the larger Skyactiv engine does not feel relaxed to produce higher efficiency. The 2.5 is connected to the Skyactiv six-speed automatic with the CX-5’s all-wheel drive system.

When I was looking around the upgraded CX-5, I was trying to find other differences between the model years and the addition of the 2.5. There is no outward designation of the larger engine anywhere on the CX-5. The reason for this is that, they made the 2.5 standard on the Touring and Grand Touring models for 2014. The 2.0litre is still available – but on the basic model.

You do get plenty of kit in the Grand Touring. Bose offers Centerpoint sound to the cabin while, while the leather seats offers both comfort and support on both short hops and long runs alike.

The 2.0litre gained a fuel economy figure of 25.1MPG last October. The 2.5litre version earned a fuel consumption average of 27.0MPG. It proves the point that not only the 2.5 is a more suitable engine for the CX-5, it is even more efficient.

If you go back to the original review in October, everything else holds true. Therefore, this concludes my look at the 2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring AWD crossover…

2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring 4

No, wait…I cannot leave you hanging.

The irony of picking up the same vehicle with the same color from events held by the same media association had me doing some thinking from that moment I left Elkhart Lake. It seemed that every time someone in my life was looking for a new vehicle, a small crossover was exactly what these people had in mind.

It gave me an interesting thought – why would anyone pick the Mazda CX-5 over any vehicle in this segment?

This question is a good one. It will take some talking through the CX-5 and its new larger engine.

As you could tell, dropping the 2.5 in the CX-5 was the right thing to do for Mazda. It resolved some key problems I had in October. With more power to pull, curb weight is up over 3,500 pounds with the new engine. Since no numbers were found on towing capacity, one would hope the 2.5 could tow more than 2,000 pounds.

There are plenty of things to like about the CX-5. For example, if you like to tend your garden and are finally getting around to the replanting, the cargo hold is great! I am certain there is enough room for a group of transplants, the sod and maybe a new tool or two. Think about what you are not hauling in that cargo hold: Full sheets of plywood, two-by-fours and four-by-fours, enough concrete mix to pave over both lawns and that huge ceramic water feature you saw at Home Depot/Menards/Lowe’s that would look absolutely wrong in the back yard.

You can bring home a new lawn mower – provided it is packed and knocked down for home assembly. Perhaps a new snow blower for when the white stuff returns to the house. Think about it – the CX-5 is great companion to take care of your lawn.

2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring 13

I would rather see it this way…the vacation. After driving both engines over hundreds of miles, I can attest to seat comfort, support, great driving command and wonderful controls. It is a great drive for me, but that really is not what I am getting at.

Vacations should be shared with others. Obviously, the person sitting next to me will enjoy the space the CX-5 has to offer. Rear seat passengers are a different story. Some pundits claim the CX-5’s rear seat is tight for larger adults. Maybe. I am certain I could have a good mix of people – size-wise with personality, good taste in music and a sense of adventure – to sit in these two rows.

Again, that cargo hold is going to help matters here. When I look at the back, I am thinking it would fit enough luggage for a weekend trip with four people. If I had to go alone – probably a week’s worth with the rear seat up.

Now, what about that criticism about how "small" the CX-5 is against the competition…

My point is this: The CX-5's size is just right. The cabin is straightforward and I can do most things within a short touch of my finger. A couple of little quibbles, however – would it be possible to (a) fix the audio system so all three banks of SiriusXM channels change in one action without touching the screen and (b) provide me an easier to cancel route guidance on the navigation system. These are minor things, really, but enough to throw the CX-5 out on the wayside in the marketplace.

2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring 8

Over two CX-5s, with two different engines, the same equipment level, the same color and all that Skyactiv, Zoom-Zoom, KODO-Soul of Motion stuff – one conclusion remains. It is my current pick in its segment. That is all that needs to be said at this point.

It is deja vu, is it not?

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Mazda North American Operations.

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