$12,355 - $16,004

2014 Mazda CX-5 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2014 Mazda CX-5 was new.


Performance: 8.3

The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is available with two four-cylinder engines, and though reviewers say that the base engine is competent, most agree that the more powerful engine makes the CX-5 one of the most engaging small SUVs to drive. Athletic handling, responsive steering and smooth shifting in both the manual and automatic transmissions add up to a satisfying driving experience.

  • "We can say that the added power that comes with the new 2.5 makes the CX-5's acceleration consistent with its other dynamic traits. Which adds up to a much more satisfying CX-5." -- Car and Driver
  • "By swapping in the peppy 2.5-liter four for the anemic 2.0-liter unit, Mazda has given the CX-5's nimble chassis and communicative steering the powerplant they have been crying out for; one that successfully turns the CX-5 into the Mazda of crossovers." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "2014 Mazda CX-5 Sport models with the 2.0-liter engine have just adequate power and acceleration - not quite the Zoom-Zoom that Mazda prides itself on. Better is the 2.5-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder engine standard in Touring and Grand Touring models. Its higher horsepower and torque are just what the CX-5 needed. This more potent CX-5 still won't outgun a Kia Sportage turbo or Subaru Forester turbo, but it easily stays in step with rivals like the Honda CR-V and offers good off-the-line acceleration." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "It remains one of the most enjoyable little SUVs to drive, as Mazda once again proves that sensible doesn't need to equal boring." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Mazda CX-5 comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is available. Touring and Grand Touring models come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 184 horsepower. According to the EPA, the base CX-5 with an automatic transmission averages 26/32 mpg city/highway. The 2.5-liter all-wheel drive model gets 24/30 mpg. Those figures are excellent compared with other compact SUVs’ fuel economy.

Test drivers say the CX-5’s standard engine is competent. However, they agree that models with the 2.5-liter engine offer a more satisfying amount of pep with a minimal sacrifice in fuel economy. The manual transmission, available only on the base model, gets high marks, with several reviewers saying it’s a joy to use. The automatic transmission also wins praise for its brisk, smooth shifts.

  • "Drivers willing to shift for themselves - and who won't mind a lack of creature comforts - will be rewarded with one of the best manual transmissions we've used in an SUV. With the short-throw 6-speed manual, the CX-5 is even more fun to drive, and this trim's lighter weight adds to its nimbleness. With a manual transmission this good, we wish it weren't restricted to the basest of CX-5 models." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base engine offers competitive acceleration on paper, but in practice it always makes the CX-5 Sport feel a step behind its competitors. There is certainly a suitable amount of power, but we think the available 2.5-liter four-cylinder is a much better choice given its superior power and minuscule fuel economy penalty. Regardless of engine, the six-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly. We're also happy that Mazda offers a manual transmission on the Sport for those who enjoy having greater control of the driving experience (and better fuel economy to boot)." -- Edmunds
  • "The larger engine's 185 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque might not sound like a huge increase over the smaller four's 155 hp and 150 pound-feet, but it's enough to make a difference. This is the engine the CX-5 should have had from the get-go; with it, acceleration is livelier and the little SUV fears no hills." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "A responsive six-speed automatic transmission makes the most of the CX-5's newfound power. Part-throttle kickdowns happen immediately, and the transmission's refinement - especially its shift quality - is top notch." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Test drivers agree the Mazda CX-5 is undoubtedly fun to drive. They write that it handles nimbly with crisp, communicative steering and solid brakes. One reviewer notes that the ride is comfortable, if a bit loud, while another says that the CX-5 could do a better job absorbing road imperfections. While the optional all-wheel drive is capable, some reviewers say that its added weight may not be worth the loss of agility.   

  • "The way the 2014 Mazda CX-5 drives is a dynamic departure from the compact SUV segment's otherwise typical low standards. The brakes, suspension and steering are uncommonly capable, and in general the CX-5 is downright fun and confidence-inspiring on a curving road. On the open highway, the CX-5 isn't the quietest choice available, but it still rides comfortably." -- Edmunds
  • "As before, steering feel, handling balance, ride control, and braking feel are all beyond the norms for this class." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The CX-5 remains one of the most engaging small crossovers thanks to good driving dynamics, precise feedback-rich steering and controlled body motions. Not everyone, though, will be a fan of the crossover's ride, which is unapologetically firm. The firm suspension tuning, regardless of trim level, means you feel all the little aspects of whatever road surface you're driving on." -- Cars.com
  • "If I were buying a CX-5 though, I'd forego all-wheel drive as I think the system's extra weight makes this CX-5 feel slightly less tossable than its two-wheel drive brethren." -- Automobile Magazine

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