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2014 Mazda CX-5: First Drive Page 2

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That said, the CX-5 has a quite firm ride. We wouldn't call it harsh, but it can get busy, or jiggly, on choppy two-laners. That all pays off, of course, as soon as the road turns twisty. The suspension loads up more like that of a sport wagon than that of a crossover—and there's no sudden unloading out of corners or between transitions as in some other taller vehicles. This is a vehicle that, surprisingly, likes the rhythm and flow or snaking backroads and, when you go in a little too hot, is way more forgiving than you'd expect. And its front seats are better than what you get elsewhere in this class—with just enough side bolstering to hold you in place and add comfort.

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.


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