Unique Look

One of the first things we noticed about the CX-5 is the new "Soul of Motion" styling. Gone is the "grinning" face that has adorned numerous Mazda vehicles in the last few years. A long sloping hood with a protruding chevron-shaped grille gives the front a fresh look. Large projector beam headlamps that extend from the hood give the fascia an almost glancing gaze. Foglamps etched into the edge of the bumper further enhance the crossover's styling.

The result is a car that has a somewhat unique look, especially for a small SUV. In addition, 19-inch wheels extending to the edge of the fenders give the CX-5 a slightly aggressive posture. The CX-5 is finished off with bright dual stainless steel exhausts tips that are tucked into the edges of the bumper. Tail lamps that wrap around to the rear quarter are particular appealing and add to the attractiveness and aerodynamic looks of the vehicle.

Decent Interior

Step into the driver's seat and you soon begin to realize how truly driver focused the CX-5 is. One of the first things we discovered is how close controls, such as navigation and temperature, are within easy reach. Steering wheel controls for amenities such as cruise control, Bluetooth, and audio volume are easy to use and help keep the driver focused on the road. The gauges have a clear, sharp, high-quality look and feel. Well-bolstered, 8-way leather seats with contrasting red stitching are comfortable and include adjustable lumbar support for added back support. Soft-touch materials on the dashboard and doors along with matte black and satin chrome accents further enhance the overall appearance of the cockpit.

A close look at the interior materials reveals a car that borders on having a low-budget feel but never comes off as cheap.

The rear seats are roomy enough but we wouldn't call them spacious. Folding down in a 40/20/40 split make hauling combinations of cargo and people easy. Legroom is adequate for most adults and small children. Storage behind the second row seat is adequate, allowing for a couple of suitcases and an overnight bag for those weekend road trips. One feature we would have liked in the CX-5 is A/C vents for rear seat occupants.

Our CX-5 Grand Touring has plenty of options including navigation and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, these tech features don't always work as well as we'd like. The navigation can be quirky, especially if using voice commands. Programming it manually seemed to work much better. Bluetooth was a snap to set up but when making calls, it had problems understanding names from our address book. We're still learning how to use all the CX-5's features, it's possible some of these quirks will work themselves out.

Power and MPG

We were relatively pleased with the performance of the CX-5. In the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta, the 2.0-liter SKYACTIV engine provides adequate power and the transmission shifts seamlessly without any coaxing from the driver. The SKYACTIV engine isn't what you'd call overly powerful and in some instances it actually feels underpowered. There's good initial response off the line, but the transmission seems too eager to upshift which seems to sap power. The solution is to use the 6-speed automatic transmission's shift-it-yourself feature. Doing this keeps the RPMs up and makes the car feel more powerful, it also makes the CX-5 more fun to drive.

We also got mileage comparable to the stated EPA fuel economy numbers. The EPA rating for a 2013 Mazda CX-5 with an automatic transmission is 28 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. In the city, we averaged 28 MPG and on the highway, we occasionally got better than the EPA estimate ranging from 29.7 and 35.7 MPG. A tank of gas lasted around 450 miles with combined city and highway driving.

Driving Impressions

After several hours on the road, we began to see just how much we really enjoyed driving the CX-5. One thing that really stood out is just how comfortable the vehicle rides. While in the Delta, we decided to get off the beaten path and do a little exploring down some old country back roads. Whether driving on bumpy gravel or potholed asphalt, the ride was never jarring thanks to the independent front and rear suspension. In fact, ride quality is as good as other crossovers we have driven costing thousands more.

Next up for the CX-5, a road trip to see Jason Mraz in Florida. A longer trip and two people means more luggage and more seat time. So far, it seems as if Mazda has built a fuel sipping crossover SUV that's actually fun to drive.

author photo

Tommy Flanagan is a car data analyst with Autotrader.com's automotive content team. He is a General Motors muscle car and pickup enthusiast. His hobbies include attending classic car shows, collecting antique auto memorabilia and weekend road trips. He also has his own muscle car blog, tommyscarblog.wordpress.com.

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