Swooning over steering
While the suspension is nicely tuned, the steering we'll call pretty much perfect—and by far the best in this class. The ratio is quick; it's well-weighted; and overall, it has a precise feel that's better even than many other compact and mid-size sedans—and more road feel, my co-driver and I agreed, than the Mazda6 we'd driven the day before.
We had a chance to almost do a back-to-back, with the loaded 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring model that we spent the most time with totaling just over $30k and roughly compared to the 2013 Ford Escape Titanium EcoBoost that we'd driven just before hopping a plane to go drive the new CX-5. Despite being nearly identically dimensionally, the CX-5 feels far more light and nimble—and at 3,732 pounds for the Escape, the Ford weighs more than a couple hundred pounds more.
The model lineup remains quite simple, even with the second engine. You can still get a manual transmission—definitely our preference if you go with the smaller engine, and the way to get the CX-5's top 35-mpg highway rating—but only with front-wheel drive, in the base Sport model. CX-5 Sport models all come with the 2.0-liter engine, while Touring and Grand Touring models step up to the 2.5-liter engine.
We've found models with front-wheel drive to be capable for most uses and perhaps a bit more fun to drive; the all-wheel drive system in the CX-5 isn't a performance system, so having it mainly uses a little more gasoline and adds a bit of weight—and more snowy-driveway capability if you need it, of course.