Driving Experience

Like my much-beloved first car, a 1990 Mazda Miata, the CX-5 was peppy and responsive, though a little lacking in terms of power. The handling was just what I remembered from my first Mazda -- agile without being jerky, possessing a small enough turning radius to pop a U-turn with ease in tight spaces. I definitely felt the zoom-zoom spirit while driving this car.

Comfort and Convenience

As far as comfort, my husband and I had different opinions. I enjoyed the feel of the seats -- they were supportive and great for the extended road trip. However, he found the seat shape to be a bit uncomfortable, and he had to remove his wallet from his back pocket due to the angle of the sides of the seat. However, he did find it to be much more spacious than my RAV4.

The cargo space in the CX-5 was perfect for our trip -- and we don't pack lightly. Two suitcases, a beach bag, an acoustic guitar in a hard case and two big camera bags all fit nicely in the back, with room to spare. And with the privacy screen being attached to the rear lift gate, it was easy to pack and access our gear. That?s a big departure from my Rav4, where the back gate opens like a regular door and the privacy screen is stationary, forcing me to hunch over or dig blindly in a bag when I need something.

With the exception of a few minor inconveniences such as the USB input being inside the storage compartment of the center console, the cup holders being too close together to accommodate two large drinks, and the occasional interference with the Bluetooth when playing audio, the CX-5 turned out to be an ideal road trip vehicle.

Feature Rich

Since the model in the AutoTrader long-term fleet has the Grand Touring package, it had every feature on my must-have list for my next vehicle, such as keyless entry, remote start, heated seats, sunroof, backup camera and dual climate control (which is a BIG deal for my husband and me on long road trips).

There were even some features that I didn't think I wanted in a vehicle that turned out to be invaluable, such as voice-activated navigation, Bluetooth integration (which I used for my phone and music) and a surprisingly smart blind spot monitoring system.

The Bose sound system was also particularly nice to have for the trip. We both love music, so my husband set the audio levels as soon as we hit the road, and we rocked out the whole way to Orange Beach enjoying crystal-clear sound with great bass.

Being Green

One reason I was excited about taking the CX-5 to the beach for the concert was that it is definitely greener than my usual ride.

We averaged around 31 mpg on the highway -- that's one mpg below the EPA rating for the automatic version. I'm chalking that up to the fact that the southern summer heat kept us blasting the A/C more often than not. Even so, we only had to fill the vehicle up a couple of times throughout the long weekend.

By the time we returned to Atlanta, the CX-5 had skyrocketed from being not on my short list to occupying the top spot for my next car. The final verdict was that it was fun to drive, spacious, and comfortable, and the technology made the experience even better.

author photo

Julie Shipp is a public relations manager at AutoTrader.com. She loves writing, photography, technology and driving new cars. She may drive a crossover now, but she feels most at home behind the wheel of a convertible.

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