Driving the Mazda CX-5: No Compromises For Economy or Comfort

Mazda Cx-5
The mid-sized Mazda CX-5 SUV combines capability and great gas mileage

The Compact Mazda CX-5 SUV Offers the Best of Both Worlds

Choosing an SUV often means sacrificing fuel economy for comfort. But Mazda, the darling of many car critics and a favorite among families for its larger three-row CX-9, accommodates both in the the 2014 Mazda CX-5. It lets you feel good about the environment while commanding the road with all wheel drive, sitting up high in leather bucket seats and getting 30 MPG on the highway.

The fuel economy has won the CX-5 best in class designation and it’s nice to know this economy can be achieved in a regular gas engine. Mazda‘s SkyActiv technology is what achieves the great fuel mileage: the technology draws more power out of a smaller engine, thus getting better gas mileage.

True, you don’t have a third row of seats. But unless you have an unusually large family, by American standards, most of your car trips will be with less than the car’s full capacity, 5 adults.

My children—teens and young adults—were perfectly comfortable over many hours in the car, all three of them in the back seat, and the large trunk space gave us ample room to bring clothes for two weekend trips. Also, that trunk is under a hatchback, leaving us plenty of space to bring the dog.

Mazda Cx-5

The easy to read – and use – touchscreen puts info & entertainment at your fingertips

The large moonroof gave us daylight to read (texts and email, of course – who reads books in cars, or almost anywhere, anymore?) and the easy to connect Bluetooth let the driver talk safely on the phone.

Safety Features That Have Your Back—Or Front

The CX-5 is loaded with safety features: back up camera, navigation system with voice commands, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitor.

Best of all is the Smart City Brake Support, (SCBS) which helps you avoid a front collision when driving at low speeds in the city or in slow traffic. We were mostly in traffic-free highway conditions, so we didn’t test this out (and I would be too nervous that it wouldn’t actually work) but the idea is that a laser sensor automatically activates the brakes if the driver fails to. The sensor also has Acceleration Control, in case a new or distracted river accidentally uses the accelerator instead of the brake pedal.

Mazda Cx-5

All smiles in the back seat of the Mazda CX-5

The AWD came in handy as we started our road trip to Washington, DC, in a snow storm.  Then we had thunder sleet – who ever heard of such a thing? We also drove upstate New York on windy roads and the sporty SUV handled the curves beautifully.

More Conveniences At Your Service

Many of the interior features are intuitive; built to make sure you are comfortable and safe. For instance, the fuel indicator counts down so you always know about how much gas you have left; you don’t just get a last minute warning, and the air conditioning system (which we didn’t try because, you know, it was 12 degrees outside), has a pollen filter to keep the cabin air clean. This would be great for my allergic, asthmatic kids.

Tech That Takes Care of You and Keeps You Moving

Mazda Cx-5

View thru the moonroof of the Mazda CX-5

We used the navigation system pretty extensively during our test drive, and were happy that the directions it gave were mostly spot on. When we were approaching the Holland Tunnel, we were directed along city streets to avoid a traffic build up. But another time, on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, we were advised about a huge delay and given a new, suggested route that led to a roadblock and even longer delay. So I would say proceed with caution in a totally unfamiliar area, or stick with the pre-arranged route. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.

Using the voice activated feature was a little entertaining; our voices were not always recognized, or wildly divergent suggestions were made. Also, the passenger couldn’t override the hold on the navigation system while the car was moving, so we had to set the destination address in advance.

What We Loved

Fuel economy – we got 30 mpg on highway driving


Our dog had room to spread out in the trunk, even with groceries

The moonroof is  included at no extra cost. There was a brief weather blip – we had the car when it was below freezing, snowing – and, for a few hours, 60 degrees in February in NYC! We enjoyed the balmy breeze.

Heated seats: since it was mostly crazy cold while we had the car, this was a useful feature.

Safety features

Uses regular gas

What You Need to Know

Base price for the Grand Touring AWD is $29,070

Mazda Cx-5

The Mazda CX-5 I drove, in Soul Red

The Grand Touring Tech package (remote keyless entry, navigation system and Smart City Braking Support) adds $3,000 to the price of the car

Price of the model we drove: $32,075

36 month / 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty

60 month, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty

Disclosure: Mazda provided the car for our test drive. Opinions expressed are my own.

Judy Antell, who is TravelingMom.com's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell