New Car Review: 2014 Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv

Blue 2014 Mazda CX-5 front 3/4 view by ocean.

Big changes rarely happen in year two of a new vehicle. But Mazda’s not known for coloring within the lines and, frankly, it can’t afford to hold good stuff back for the mid-cycle refresh three or four years down the road. It needs your attention now. And if the 2014 Mazda CX-5 doesn’t get that attention, it’ll be your loss as well as Mazda’s.

The big news is a second engine option:  A 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G mill brings 29 more horsepower and 35 more pounds per foot of torque to the party than the standard 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G, but gives up only one mile per gallon, dipping from 26 city to 25 and 32 highway to 31 (EPA estimates for automatic transmission front-wheel drive models).

Side view of 2014 Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv in blue at seashore.

Even with the 2.0-liter, the CX-5 we drove last year was no slouch in terms of driving dynamics. Mazda’s fun-to-drive “Zoom-Zoom” philosophy was baked into the bones of this small SUV. It’s easily one of the most driver-oriented machines of its type, with constant feedback and instant response to your inputs of brake and steering.

In the 2014 2.5-liter, the throttle joins the party. 0-60 times fall to 7.2 seconds from about 9 seconds for the smaller engine (both are Mazda’s figures). It’s a difference you don’t need a stopwatch for. You can feel it in the seat of your pants. Peak torque comes earlier, emphasizing the extra oomph. And the engine sounds much more like an eager participant than a stressed underachiever.

To get the fun stuff, though, you have to skip the base model Sport ($21,995). That’s still strictly 2-liter land. Pony up for the $24,615 Touring model or the $27,620 Grand Touring (our tester) and the 2.5-liter powerplant comes as standard equipment. 

Interior view of 2014 Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv

In fact, on the Grand Touring, there’s very little that doesn’t come standard. 19-inch alloy wheels, variable rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, a power moonroof, automatic halogen headlights, fog lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for audio, cruise and Bluetooth, leather-trimmed heated (in front) sport seats (the driver’s is an 8-way power chair with power lumbar) a Bose 9-speaker audio system with HD Radio, and a rearview camera with 5.8-inch color touchscreen are all included.

You can get options. Ours added a rear bumper guard ($100), a retractable cargo cover ($200) and the Grand Touring Tech Package ($1,625), which bundles in-dash TomTom navigation, adaptive auto-leveling HID headlamps and Smart City Brake Support, which reduces brake rotor travel to quicken braking if there’s risk of a low-speed (19 MPH or under) collision, and will automatically brake if the driver doesn’t.

All that put the bottom line on our test vehicle to $30,340 with delivery fee. Not cheap, but not out of line with the competition, and Mazda has a distinct edge with the combination of performance and fuel economy the 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G offers.