Crossover SUVs and fuel economy seem like they don't go together, but the high-miles-per-gallon 2014 Mazda CX-5 is out to change that perception. It's got plenty of other strengths, too, including a more powerful optional engine for 2014 that barely affects those big mpg numbers. Here are five reasons why this well-rounded crossover is one of our faves.
1. Frugal yet Frisky
Our test car was a Grand Touring model, which has the new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine under the hood. Thanks to Mazda's fuel-saving SkyActiv technology, the 2.5-liter engine gets an EPA-rated 32 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive. That is actually the same rating as the considerably weaker 2.0-liter base engine. That's almost unheard of for a crossover SUV, especially one with a healthy 185 horsepower on tap. And with a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission handling the shifting duties, the CX-5 Grand Touring is always ready to move when you are.
2. Tasteful Styling Inside and Out
The CX-5's exterior is sleek but not audacious, tough-looking but not over-the-top. It's a restrained design that seems more expensive than it is. Inside, the understated dashboard contours and high-quality materials remind us of BMW -- no gimmicks here, just user-friendly controls and solid construction. Some affordable crossovers look as though they're trying too hard, but the CX-5 is comfortable in its own skin.
3. Excellent Ride/Handling Balance
If you've seen Mazda's commercials, which tend to involve racetrack-style driving scenarios, you may be concerned that the CX-5 is too sporty for its own good. In truth, though, Mazda has hit the sweet spot here, providing both responsive handling and a smooth, comfortable ride. It's fun to drive, absolutely, but the CX-5 is also remarkably refined. Whatever you're in the mood for, this Mazda always seems up to the task.
4. Spacious, Feature-rich Cabin
Despite its relatively compact dimensions, the CX-5 offers an elevated rear bench with enough legroom and headroom for full-sized adults. Unless you're willing to wrestle with a much larger vehicle, the CX-5's back seat is about as good as it gets. As for front passengers, they're treated to ample space all around, and our CX-5 Grand Touring test car also featured cool standard luxuries, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, heated sport seats with 8-way power adjustability for the driver and a 9-speaker Bose audio system.
5. Ample Cargo Capacity
For hauling, the CX-5 can swallow a healthy 34 cu ft of stuff behind the rear seats -- and if you flip down the rear seat backs, that figure jumps to 65.4 cu ft. Again, for a vehicle this size, that's mighty impressive. What's more, if you only need part of that space, the rear seat backs are split 40/20/40 and fold independently, so you can keep a seat or two open for passengers even while you're schlepping longer objects.
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is one of the most likable crossovers. If you're shopping in this category, the CX-5 has got to be at the top of your list.