The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is about the same size as most models in the compact crossover class--including vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4. While the CX-5 doesn't feel like it makes the most efficient use of its exterior footprint (that award would definitely go to the cavernous Mazda 5 wagon/van), the CX-5 boasts great seats, a versatile interior, and decent ride quality and cabin refinement.
Most will find the seating, and the seating position, about ideal. It's halfway between that of a car and a sport-utility, and high enough for good visibility and confidence, but low enough so occupants don’t have to step up but can simply swing themselves in through the opening. The seats themselves are comfortable both front and rear, with good bolstering in front to hold occupants in place. Hollowed-out seat backs in the front give enough rear-seat legroom for four six-foot adults to sit comfortably without contortions. Mazda says rear-seat legroom is the best in the class, though we don't feel like the front seats go back quite as far as they do in other models and that may have something to do with it.
The interiors include a handsome soft-touch dashboard top surface, and otherwise upholsteries and trims are typical for the price. We like how the shift lever is in just the right place for most arms, and there's a bottom-hinged accelerator pedal that helps cut foot fatigue on longer trips. A cell phone fits into the arm-rest recess, which has a rubber mat at the bottom, and there’s a console bin, a sunglasses holder, and another flat tray at the front of the console.
Liftover height is typical for the class--quite low and uninterrupted, but the cargo floor is maybe a bit higher than you might expect for such a vehicle; that's perhaps related to the presence of a spare. Single-pull releases for the 40-20-40 split rear seat-back cushions are standard in the cargo area, though the system (which moves the rear seat cushion forward and down) requires the rear headrests to be removed first. On the other hand, Mazda provides two dished trays outboard of the load area into which those headrests fit neatly—a very nice touch we wish every maker would copy.
Noise is well suppressed until the engine has to rev—which it will do often to move the car along expeditiously—and at higher speeds, it’s quiet enough inside that wind noise from mirrors is apparent. It’s particularly silent at idle, when a glance at the tachometer may be needed to see if the engine is running.
As the sportiest compact crossover on the market, 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; otherwise it's solid and reassuring. And it all pays off, of course, as soon as the road turns twisty.