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It's easy to see why the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is one of the best-rated crossover wagons on this site. The CX-5 is stocked with plenty of features, has excellent handling, and is sized to suit a wide range of families and single drivers. It's also one of the safest vehicles in its segment, and has a rather elusive combination of SUV utility and sport-wagon charms.
The Mazda CX-5 was introduced in 2013, when it replaced both the turbocharged CX-7 crossover and the smaller Mazda Tribute. It now competes with cars like the Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4.
The CX-5's lines are typically Mazda, with expressive design, large wheel arches, and a rising window line. Up front, however, Mazda has thankfully ditched the grinning "smile" look for a handsome trapezoidal grille shape. Inside, the look is businesslike, with restrained silver trim and sporty red piping on the high-level leather seats.The car is sensitive to colors, though, with lighter shades accenting the height of its doors and darker tones making it lower and sportier.
For the most part, the CX-5 is pleasingly versatile, and its front seats are probably the best-bolstered you'll find in this kind of vehicle; there's good seating space in back, too. But this is one of the more compact models in the class, and its cargo floor is a bit higher than rival models it seems (perhaps due to the presence of a spare tire). The load floor is long and flat, and for the most part (save for some engine noise occasionally), the CX-5 has a quiet, refined interior.
New for this year, the smart key with keyless entry and start is now standard on both Touring and Grand Touring models.
Driving enjoyment gets a little more emphasis in the CX-5 than it does in other models in this class--as is the case with most Mazda models. Last year Mazda addressed one common complaint with the earlier models: It handles so well and hits all the right marks otherwise in driving enjoyment, but it could use more pep.
In the 2015 Mazda CX-5, in addition to the 155-hp 2.0-liter four, still offered with either a six-speed manual gearbox (in front-wheel drive only) or a six-speed automatic (which can be ordered with all-wheel drive as well) on Sport models, Touring and Grand Touring models also offer a 184-hp, 2.5-liter four. The larger engine is only offered with the automatic, but in either case the entire powertrain and vehicle are tuned for maximum efficiency, under the company's SkyActiv initiative.
For this kind of vehicle, the gas mileage is great. The EPA rating for the base Sport with a manual gearbox is a best-in-class 35 mpg on the highway, and the new 2.5-liter models lose only about 1 mpg combined, with those automatic versions still getting 25/32 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Key to that efficiency, in part, is that the transmission is so willing and well-matched, with very little slip, very quick upshifts and downshifts, and the smarts to hitch onto a higher gear when the revs aren't needed, to reap better efficiency. Otherwise, we've found the CX-5 to be the best handling crossover we've driven. If you've come out of a sports sedan or a hot hatch and are moving up to a compact crossover, this is probably the way to go.
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. Touring models get the Blind Spot Monitor system, upgraded audio, fog lamps, rear cupholders (and an armrest), a rearview camera, steering-wheel controls, and upgraded upholstery, while top-of-the-line CX-5 Grand Touring models get leather upholstery, nine-speaker Bose audio, dual-zone climate control, a power driver seat, front heated seats, and Sirius satellite radio. However the navigation and touch-screen system remains a disappointment, with its rather sluggish responses and odd menus.