Review and photos by Greg Wilson

When it was introduced last year with Mazda’s new fuel-saving, weight-saving, efficiency-enhancing, weirdly-named “SkyActiv” technology, the Mazda CX-5 got rave reviews for its combination of fuel economy, nimble handling, and roomy interior. But some critics (like me) felt that the standard 155-hp 2.0L motor was a bit underpowered at times – especially when climbing long hills or pulling out to pass on the highway. As well, consumers couldn’t help but notice that all of the CX-5’s competitors were offering larger, more powerful four-cylinder engines.

Test Drive: 2014 Mazda CX 5 GT car test drives mazda
2014 Mazda CX-5. Click image to enlarge

Somebody at Mazda must have realized there’s a limit to the sacrifices drivers will make for better fuel economy. Only a year after the CX-5’s debut, a new 184-hp 2.5L “SkyActiv-G” engine is available in the CX-5’s upper two trim levels, the same engine now offered in the new Mazda6 sedan. The bigger 2.5L motor offers 19 percent more horsepower and 23 percent more torque – 184 at 5,700 rpm and 185 lb-ft at 3,250 rpm with the manual transmission (4,000 rpm w/auto) compared to the standard 2.0L motor with 155 hp at 6,000 rpm and 150 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. With the 2.5L engine, a CX-5 GT AWD can tow up to 907 kg (2,000 lb).

The bigger engine uses more fuel of course, but not much. The 2.5L CX-5 GS with front-wheel drive and auto transmission is rated at 8.3 city/6.2 hwy, roughly seven percent more than the 2.0L CX-5 GX with front-wheel drive and six-speed manual transmission that is rated at 7.8 city/5.7 hwy (L/100 km). This week’s test vehicle, a fully loaded top-of-the-line GT 2.5 with all-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission is rated at 8.5 city/6.6 highway. According to Natural Resources Canada, even when equipped with this larger 2.5L motor, the CX-5 is still the most fuel efficient compact SUV in its class – except for the all-new 2014 Subaru Forester, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Test Drive: 2014 Mazda CX 5 GT car test drives mazda
2014 Mazda CX-5. Click image to enlarge

With only 1,660 kilometres on the odometer, our loaded CX-5 GT AWD test vehicle was displaying an average of 10.3 L/100 km – probably a result of not being run in and a parade of eager test drivers. A more plausible fuel economy average is about 9.0 L/100 km as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That compares to the EPA’s average fuel economy ratings (L/100 km) for the Toyota RAV4 2.5 AWD auto (9.4), Honda CR-V 2.4 AWD auto (9.4), Hyundai Tucson 2.4 4WD auto (10.2), Nissan Rogue 2.5 AWD CVT (9.8), Ford Escape 1.6 turbo 4WD auto (9.6) and the new Subaru Forester 2.5 AWD CVT (8.7). The new Forester offers the same fuel economy as the CX-5 in the city, but gets better fuel economy on the highway due in part to its low-revving continuously variable transmission. See our First Drive of the 2014 Forester for more info on that model.

To maintain a driving range of approximately 900 km, CX-5s with the 2.5 engine have a slightly larger fuel tank than those with the 2.0L engine: 58 L vs 56 L.

Driving impressions

Test Drive: 2014 Mazda CX 5 GT car test drives mazda
2014 Mazda CX-5. Click image to enlarge

Now that the CX-5 is available with an engine that’s as powerful or more powerful than most of its competitors (with the notable exception of the turbocharged 250-hp 2.0L Subaru Forester XT, 231-hp 2.0L Ford Escape SEL/Titanium, and 260-hp Kia Sportage SX), the CX-5 GT no longer strains going up long hills or feels weak when passing at highway speeds. It’s nowhere near as fast as those aforementioned turbo models or the recently departed and much-missed Toyota RAV4 V6, but the new engine definitely inspires more confidence when you want to get out of the way of a looming semi-trailer; and it gets better fuel economy than the turbocharged fours.

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