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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Mazda CX5

Mazda released its CX5 for the 2013 model year after many years of sitting in the shadow of Ford’s Escape-derived Tribute. The CX5 debuted with a 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G motor that delivered over 30 MPG on the highway. However, the small four-banger proved a tad anemic, so Mazda addresses that with its mid- and top-level 2014 CX5 trims.

New for 2014 is the SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter engine that bumps power up to 184 hp, but drops gas mileage by 2 MPG on the highway. Nevertheless, the vehicle still offers a respectable 24 city, 30 highway, and 26 combined MPG rating.

Our test vehicle was the flagship Grand Touring trim with all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. Mazda's part-time AWD system is called Active Torque Split (ATS), and is shared with the bigger CX7 and CX9s. As it constantly monitors traction, the system can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels. During our drive, the CX5 reacted quickly and didn’t exhibit any of the understeering issues typically associated with reactive front-wheel drive systems.

Mazda's CX5 features an infotainment system with TomTom navigation. We had no trouble plugging in the fourth-gen iPad or pairing the HTC Droid DNA. We were disappointed in the display's outdated graphics and poor clarity though. Strangely, the navigation portion of the TomTom infotainment system was not working during the event, so we didn't have a chance to use it. Beyond its infotainment capabilities, the CX5 features a blind spot monitoring system, hill launch assist, and optional adaptive front lighting that automatically pivots the headlights according to vehicle speed and steering angle.

Of the compact crossovers, the CX5 displayed the best driving dynamics. It felt more like a nimble hatchback than a tall crossover, which isn’t surprising given Mazda’s reputation for sporty driving vehicles. The company does a tremendous job with this thing's weight savings. The CX5 weighs in at 3532 lbs, about 250 less than the Ford Escape.

Overall, driving feel was simply fantastic. Throttle and steering response were outstanding. A car this large should not be as agile as the CX5, but Mazda's engineers somehow dial in the suspension perfectly. It was easy to fall in love with how well the CX5 handled turns on the courses and curves on public roads (almost enough to forgive Mazda for the dated infotainment system).

Styling-wise, the CX5 debuts Mazda’s KODO “soul of motion” design language. We find the aesthetic subtly aggressive and a massive improvement over the company’s previous smiley-face Nagare style. This is the best-looking vehicle in its class.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2014 Mazda CX5
Trim levelGrand Touring AWD
Engine2.5 L SKYACTIV-G
TransmissionSix-speed Sport Automatic
DrivetrainActive Torque-Split (ATS) AWD system
Infotainment5.8-inch Color Touch Screen display with TomTom Navigation
Notable featuresBlind-spot monitoring system
Fuel economy24 city, 30 highway, 26 combined MPG
MSRP$31,890
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply