2014 CX-5 New Owner Observations: Detailed Review (2.5L Touring AWD)

maxwax

CX5 Road Tripper
:
2014 Sky Blue Touring AWD
Hi,

First, thanks to all the past posters who have contributed to these forums. I did a lot of research reading through your threads prior to buying my CX-5 and the information you provided really helped me make the decision to buy the CX-5. Your real-world experiences shared here are far more rewarding than anything a salesperson can do! Thanks, again!

I've had my CX-5 for about twenty four hours driven it about 150 miles so far. I thought I'd record all the little observations I've made for others who are lurking, considering the CX-5. Do read all the other comprehensive reviews and watch the many youtube video reviews to for good, overall information, but I hope my comments here will provide some personal observations and smaller details that quick 20 minute test drives don't provide.

My background: 1993 Honda Civic LX (1.5L 103HP Manual) driven to 200k+ miles until 2006. 2007 Honda Fit Sport (1.5L 109HP Manual) driven 126K miles until an accident in 2013. Went coast to coast 4 1/2 times in in the Fit and it is my baseline for a good, reliable, fun to drive vehicle. A lot of my observations are compared to my Honda experience. I'm new to Mazda, but it appears going from one Japanese manufacturer to another is a lot easier than going from Japan to American or European. For the last three weeks I drove 2012/13 Ford Focus Auto (1.5L? ~155 HP Auto).

PUSH START

Clearly the weirdest thing about this car, and that's good because so much else is good and right about the Mazda CX-5.

Here's a simple table showing how people normally operate a car with a key for the ignition and the CX-5 with Push button start. The two methods aren't different on paper but something seems off when adapting to push start:

Key StartPush Start
1. Pull out keys and unlock car with FOB1. Pull keys out and unlock car with FOB.
2. Put keys back in pocket. WEIRD. Feels wrong after 25 years of driving where you need a key.
3. Get in Car3. Get in Car
4. Get settled in car & put key in ignition4. Get settled in car & stop reaching for the key in your pocket!
5. Turn the key to start the car5. Press down on the brake pedal and push the START button to start the car
Later,
6. Park the car, turn the key to stop the car and remove the key from the ignition.6. Park the car and press the START button to turn the car off. Stop reaching for your keys.
6a: Don't forget to turn the car off. Your trained to do this by reaching for your keys, but your keys are in your pocket.
7. Exit the car, lock it with the key FOB and put the keys in your pocket.7. Exit the car, get the keys from your pocket, lock it, and return them.

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It's likely that to fully appreciate this, you'd have to try it. But after spending a day with this, it became clear to me why Mazda offers the Advanced Keyless entry on the Grand Touring. I don't have this feature but I undersand it as: You can keep the keys in your pocket the whole time and never remove them.. yet still operate the car!

If I understand correctly, the proximity of the keys to your car authorizes you to push a button on the door one or two times which then unlocks the car, and later, locks the car. So you just walk up, push a button to unlock it, get in, push the START button and drive. When you're done, push the START button to turn the car off, exit the car, and push the door button again to lock it.

The efficiency and naturalness of this process is beautiful and something I would become very fond of in just a few days. Meanwhile, I'll re-train my brain to work with keys in my pocket some of the time and using a button to start my car.

ENGINE and TRANSMISSION

I test drove the 2.0L engine Sport Manual (twice), 2.0L Sport Auto, and 2.5L Touring AWD models. I focused on two things: is it fun to drive and can it climb mountains -- roads, for now -- in Colorado? I live at about 5000 feet elevation and normally travel to 9000 feet to see friends. Occasionally I drive up to 12000 foot passes with a lot of gear on road trips.

I love manual transmissions and the Sport Manual has a really comfortable feel. On my second test drive with it, after the first shift, it felt like home. If Mazda made a model with a 2.5L engine, Manual transmission, and AWD, I would have definitely bought that. I was also impressed at the 35 MPG highway of the 2.0L manual and didn't want to give that up since my lifetime average MPG with the Honda Fit was 33 MPG.

By the way, the Subaru Crosstour manual transmission: not like home, like someone else's house. I remember a long press clutch pedal and clunky stick locations. Not bad, but not the quality and comfort I'm used to. If you get the Mazda manual, enjoy it!

The 2.0L Sport Auto was good but the limits of this engine make the Auto feel a bit sluggish. With the manual I can just rev higher and shift later (something I did a lot in my 109hp Honda Fit.) With the Auto, you notice the lower engine power a bit more. Switching to the 2.5L Touring model perfectly matches the size of this crossover with the size of the engine. Put another way, 2.0L is good, not bad, but 2.5L is better. It's comfortable.

For those of you like me who love manuals, let me make this really clear: this is the best automatic transmission I have ever driven. It's incredibly smooth and nearly transparent most of the time. Really, truly, beautiful engineering.

As an MPG conscious driver, I like the fact that if I press the pedal at a stop light the car quickly wants to run like a horse with the gates suddenly open, but, when you relax your foot, the car aggressively shifts to whatever nearby gear will get you maximum fuel efficiency. This is the best of both worlds for me. Heavy foot = fast car, light foot = high MPG. Perfect.

I found, at least in my first 24 hours, that I could very slightly ease up and down on the pedal to make the transmission shift gears for a little more or a little less power. I'm hoping this means that when I want to sip gas I can stay in a high gear to a good extent. This isn't the same as shifting into neutral and coasting the way we manual transmission drivers normally do to perform hypermiling, but close?

Driving the Ford Focus for three weeks helped me forget how much I love driving a manual transmission. I still miss that regular interactive partnership with the car as I shifted regularly during a drive. Putting the CX-5 in into the mode where you control the gears is a great feature to have, but it doesn't replace the muscle memory and "rightness" of using a clutch pedal and a stick shift to control the car.

I am hoping that when I take this vehicle on very rocky, muddy dirt roads in the mountains that crawling and maneuvering with this excellent Automatic transmission will be easier than using a manual.

So overall, I'm happy and satisfied with the Automatic Transmission and the 2.5L engine. It's far better than the typical automatic like the Ford Focus I was driving and more natural than the Subaru Crosstour's CVT (which I thought was very nice, btw.)

Finally, floor the pedal from a dead stop and you'll feel a nice strong G force as you're pulled into your seat. Just enough to be proud. (Not so much in the Honda Fit!)

STEERING & WHEEL functions

Steering in the CX-5 under normal conditions is very good: strongly centered, steady and sure while driving down most roads at slow or high speeds. It's when I make sharp, slow turns or U-Turns that I notice the steering system. The size of this crossover is new to me so much of the time it feels like a truck... but it turns like a car. I'm surprised when I make sharp turns at how small and driver-friendly the vehicle feels. Very nimble and easy on the hands and arms, requiring just a little effort and providing plenty of good feedback. I did several U turns today with one motion when my mind expected a two point turn.

The size of the steering wheel is just right for me in radius and hand feel. It's got subtle enlargements at 10 and 2 like my Fit and I think that feels natural. The steering wheel is physically better than others like the Ford which have odd shapes and take much more getting used to.

The positioning of the cruise control is just like a Honda and better than the Ford. It stays on without needing to be turned on after stoping and starting the car. Just get in, start driving and set your speed. I didn't like the operation or position of this on the Ford.

Controls for turn lights and wipers feel good too. I couldn't figure out the ford's rear wiper control at first until I realized it was a rocker switch on the tip of the wiper knob. The Mazda's controls are consistent with each other compared to the Ford's and that consistency helps you learn one method and apply it to all knob functions. That's the right way to do it.

The controls on the left side of the dash are a bit new to me, but so far using them has been fine. I've raised and lowered the volume easily and used the next track button to control audio playback. I expect these to get better as I practice and muscle memory kicks in.

DISPLAYS

I'm so happy the display for the speedometer, tachometer and MPG display are in a soft white and not red, or, black on white like I've seen on other cars in the past. The Fit had a nice white+blue that I really liked. The CX-5's is a simple white that's easy on the eyes and neutral in color. I like it during the day and I like it during the night.

The clock, in orange, is mistake. It looks like somebody had some spare clock dash parts in a warehouse from the 80s and slipped it in. An inconsistent color and old style display, but.. it's just a clock, so ignore it. Except you Mazda: change it for 2015.

INTERACTIVE DISPLAY / RADIO / ETC

The flat panel display in the center of the dash handles the radio, CD and phone audio + bluetooth as well as some other features like voice commands and providing a real time display for the back up camera.

My Honda didn't have any of this and the Ford Focus SYNC by Microsoft was functional but confusing and unimpressive. This panel's features weren't very important to me and I initially thought that without NAV this would be pretty much just the audio playback, so I lowered my expectations.

But it's a lot better than I thought. Using the Bluetooth functionality on my iPhone, I can run the KCRW Radio streaming Music app on my iPhone which sends not only audio wirelessly to the car but also content data like artist/album/track info. So regardless of whether the source is HD radio or my iPhone, I can go to the same place to answer: Who am I listening to? This is really nice, and a surprise to me.

The touch screen interface seems simple enough and quick enough to respond. It lacks the organic features of an Apple IOS device like being able to flick a finger to scroll a display, but it's not bad. When not driving, it's comfortable to use by tapping on various buttons to navigate through menus. I haven't used it much, but I'm optmisitic I'll like it a lot in the long run.

I've used the bluetooth phone connectivity as a speaker phone once. To my surprise, those I'm talking to sound mechanical and tinny like they're on a bad low-bit digital connection, but they report that they can hear me very well. I'm happy to be ditching the Apple earbuds with embedded microphone with the hope of doing most of my in-car calls using integrated bluetooth.

INTERIOR

I think the seats are made for a slightly bigger American driver. I'm not as slim as I used to be, but I like seats that have more support on my sides to make me feel more held in place. More like a sport car than a big sedan. The seats are still very comfortable and I have the manual lumbar support increased all the way to support my lower back. In the Honda Fit I used a thin but helpful lumbar cushion to do the same. So far this is good enough, but the power lumbar on the Grand Touring would really be nice for me. If you have back problems, compare the two models and consider this feature of the GT.

I sat in the back seat tonight after driving with the front seat in the same position for over 150 miles. Sitting straight, at 5'11" I had about 2 1/2 to 3" of space between my knees and the driver seat back. This is a normal amount of room and I'm thrilled to have it. More would only be found in a vehicle that is much bigger overall. Relaxing and putting my feet foward and under the drivers seat was easer on my thighs and still left me plenty of room. The rear seats don't recilne, but their angle seems comfortable for relaxing, possibly even a nap on a long drive. A major improvement for my guests over my Honda Fit!

This is a four person vehicle. You can take a fifth person to lunch if it's a short trip, but that middle back seat is uncomfortable. First, the base and back have less cushion and more firmness than even an econo car. Second, the drive train raises the center of the floor so your middle passenger's feet and legs are forced to the left and right. Kids could tolerate this, but not adults. Not for long, at least.

My Honda Fit's interior was good quality, but not luxury so I really didn't pay too much attention to the CX-5's interior on test drives. Now I notice the pleasing, soft materials on the the door's interiors and top of the dashboard. These were hard plastics in the Fit -- not bad, just less friendly to the touch. I really like the softer material on the middle of the doors which feels kind of like thin neoprene. Everything feels high quality, well fit together and nicely designed. I'm sure I'll come to appreciate this more and be proud of what I've got in my car.

If you get a Sport model you get no cup holders in the backseat. If you get a Touring or Grand Touring, your cup holders are in the middle seat fold-down feature. There are no cup holders in the backseat doors or in the center armrest/storage that sit between the driver and passenger. My Honda Fit had three for the backseat and one was accessible by driver or passenger.

Placing the cup holders in between the two rear passengers' seats seems to suggest Mazda made clear design choices that this is four seater car. Accept that limitation and the fold-down cup holder and arm rest is a nice feature for your passengers. If they had put a USB port into that cup holder for my guests to charge their phones I'd be really impressed. Two ports? Wow. Maybe in 2015.

There are storage compartments in the backseat doors that can hold bottles and at angle so if you have soda or water, there is a place to put it. They won't work with coffee from Starbucks.

The storage compartment/armrest that sits between the driver and passenger is something I haven't had in a long time. This one offers plenty of space with a line-in AUX jack and a USB jack. It'll be nice to stash a phone in there and let it charge out of the way, but I'm guessing it'll get a little cluttered, too? Points to the first manufacturer that adds a retractable USB cable to this area. The armrest is pretty comfortable while driving, too.

The ability to completely straighten my legs using open space in the drivers foot area is wonderful. Many other cars have this, but my 2007 Honda Fit: nope, way too small. I've driven thousands of miles across the USA in the Fit without the ability to stretch my legs out. I'm 5'11" and I got used this problem in the (2006-2008) Honda Fits, but having this space back is a pleasure. I don't even have my seat back all the way so if you're up to 6'2" or so you should expect the same room.

The interior cabin lights are bright and clear. There are two for the drivers+passenger, two for the back seat. This is so much better than a single central dim light. If you are lost in the middle of nowhere trying to find your way to a campsight, reading a map and taking a break with the interior lights on will make you feel safe and secure. A little detail like this helps reinforce the sense of value and quality I feel in the overall vehicle.

SPECIAL FEATURES

There are two things I would not have paid money for and considered unnecessary luxuries before trying them but now I'm hooked: the backup camera and the blind spot monitoring.

The backup camera works to provide a real time video display of what is behind your car while you are in reverse. For those used to driving smaller cars with big windows like my Honda Fit, backing up a larger vehicle with some significant blind spots can be a discomforting and nervous experience. Quick glances at the backup camera display overcome the blind spot issue and reassure you that you can continue on with nothing in your way. Already I can see that this is going to be something I'll miss when driving other cars.

The blind spot monitoring uses some sort of radar to identify when vehicles are present on your left or right sides which might be an obstacle for you during lane changes. If you signal a lane change and the BSM feature notices a vehicle that is near your path, it will illuminate a yellow icon in the side view mirror and signal a subtle but friendly audible alarm. This is just enough information to provide a hint to look closely and consider your lane change carefully. I like this a lot because blind spot monitoring is implemented just enough to be useful but not bothersome. This will definitely help me avoid accidents. A great feature and a great implentation of it!

FUTURE

I've got a lot more to explore about my new CX-5, but I wanted to capture these first impressions while I'm still adapting to the car. Soon they'll be normal to me and I won't realize the need to mention them. But for all you lurkers who are studying your options and anxiously wanting to pull the trigger, I hope this has helped you.

I'm writing this on the night of my first full day of driving and I'm a little tired. My apologies for typos: Please clarify and correct for others benefit if I've described something incorrectly. I hope you enjoyed this!
 
:
2014 CX-5 Touring AWD, Liquid Silver
I'll be honest, I was only able to read through the key section, but here is one tip...I use the door button to lock it when I get out, so that eliminates the need to take your fob out of your pocket again. So I unlock the car on the way to it, and then don't use the fob again until I am walking to it again next time. It is quite convenient once you get used to it. I can't count the times I sat there looking for the key to put in the ignition when I first got the car though.
 

MikeM.

MoMo
:
2013 Mazda CX-5 Touring AWD 2.0L
Thanks for a great review - you picked up on some things I had forgotten about after 8 months of ownership.

Regarding the keyless ignition, you will automatically adapt very quickly if you drive the car regularly. After you do, the problem will reverse itself if you also drive other vehicles in your household. Specifically, I get into my other vehicles, get comfortable in the driver seat and reach forward to the dash only to remember that I need to reach in my pocket to retrieve the ignition key. Aggravating!

With the keyless ignition I have found I don't need to remove my keys from my pocket to lock/unlock the vehicle. Just remember that lights flashing once means car is locked -twice, car is unlocked.
 
:
was 175ps Mazda CX-5 Auto AWD Sport Nav, now 190ps DSG Tiguan 4M
I've had a smart key system now for over 4.5 years. But on a xtrail.

For the first few weeks I found the system weird, but now I wouldn't have any other system.

My keys never leave my pocket. I just use the door handle push buttons to lock and unlock, and just check the cars locked with a quick pull on the handle.

With the Xtrail the same applies to start push on the brake pedal, but I have a little plastic switch to turn, just as you would if the keys were in. And its in the same place.

I find the push button a bit strange, and just hope that it never fails and sticks in, the old turn to operate switch I would still prefer given a choice.
 
:
Virginia
:
2021 CX-5 White
I agree. I have had a smart key since 2006, and it is great. The door lock request buttons seem to work well, as you had to be trained to use my older car system. Touch the outside of the handle and it locks. Touch the inside and it unlocks. People unused to the car would grab the handle touching the inside and the outside and the car would be locked or unlocked depending upon which surface was last touched.
 

SayNoToPistons

Wheels, not rims...
:
CX-5 GT AWD w/ Tech, RX-8 GT 6spd w/ 'goodies'
This is by far one of the best reviews from a typical consumer I have read on a forum. Very concise, not biased, and hit all the critical points.
 

CX-SV

Contributor
:
2013 CX-5 GT AWD w/tech (Mar'12-Jul'14)
Congrats on new CX-5. The keyless system will become habit later.
 
:
2014 CX-5 Touring White
Nice review

I've had mine now since Monday and the keyless system has been my biggest stumbling block so far. I am getting a little more used to it everyday for daily driving, but I am still struggling as what to do when I am cycling and leave my car in a parking lot somewhere.

Yesterday I finally got the key fob stuffed into a very small seat bag. With a regular key it was still a challenge to get it slipped in, but the biggie for me was having a backup key in a magnetic holder stuck underneath the truck and now I guess I cannot do this. I've got to take the key fob with me and the difficulty is I am usually either drenched in sweat or riding sometime for hours in the rain. The sales agent made it a point to tell me that the key fob is fragile, sensitive to dirt and wet and cost $300 to replace.....ugh!!! Makes it a little tougher for us outdoors types where every ounce of weight makes a difference and tend to get dirty and wet often.

The days of getting a bag full of backup keys cut for cheap are gone.

I know I will get this figured out and make a routine out of it eventually.
I enjoyed your observations.
 
:
2014 Mazda CX-5 Touring AWD
The key system - I don't have any issue with it. Now, I lock/unlock without even taking the key out of my pocket. It would have been nice if the lock button felt different, like in other vehicles. I do prefer to lock using the door switch.

Automatic transmission - It is pretty good, though it does not 'read my mind' like the Honda Accord I used to drive. The CX-5 sometimes picks a too high gear such that RPM drops below 1500, then insists on not shifting for too long. With 6 gears, I expected that cruising a highway at ~70MPH @ 6th will yield lower RPM. It also has some quirks, such as when pressing hard for a short time, it will keep a low gear and high RPM for several seconds after I've completely released the pedal. It's not a 'bug' in the system, it is on purpose but feels weird.
In manual mode, especially in traffic (yeah, wrong place to use it) the engine is too quiet to know when to shift by ear. Also, after some driving I tend to forget the stick is in manual mode and then shift too late :)

Internal storage (not cargo) - the CX-5 definitely has less storage space near the passengers. The doors have space for cup-holders but that's about it. Other cars I've owned had places to put maps or other longer items. The rear passengers can put their drinks slanted in the doors or in straight in the center.
 

maxwax

CX5 Road Tripper
:
2014 Sky Blue Touring AWD
Automatic transmission - It is pretty good, though it does not 'read my mind' like the Honda Accord I used to drive. The CX-5 sometimes picks a too high gear such that RPM drops below 1500, then insists on not shifting for too long. With 6 gears, I expected that cruising a highway at ~70MPH @ 6th will yield lower RPM. It also has some quirks, such as when pressing hard for a short time, it will keep a low gear and high RPM for several seconds after I've completely released the pedal. It's not a 'bug' in the system, it is on purpose but feels weird.
In manual mode, especially in traffic (yeah, wrong place to use it) the engine is too quiet to know when to shift by ear. Also, after some driving I tend to forget the stick is in manual mode and then shift too late :)

I noticed a similar "quirk" like this today on a 3 hour drive. On flat or down sloping roads I tried to ease up or take my foot off the gas pedal to see how it would react. A couple of times when I very, very gently put some pressure on the pedal, it felt like it was in a too high gear and revved but didn't react. A little more pressure and it "woke up", downshifted and gave a slight amount of gas to go faster. I'll be watching for this because it feels like the transmission/engine is asleep and takes a second to react.

Now if I push "normal" to "heavy" it would react immediately, so I'm not complaining. Just learning the character of this system.
 
:
was 175ps Mazda CX-5 Auto AWD Sport Nav, now 190ps DSG Tiguan 4M
The 2014 cars have a kick down switch, you should feel a resistance just before it operates, from what I've read.

So planting to the floor should give you the reaction expected.
 

MikeM.

MoMo
:
2013 Mazda CX-5 Touring AWD 2.0L
A couple of times when I very, very gently put some pressure on the pedal, it felt like it was in a too high gear and revved but didn't react. A little more pressure and it "woke up", downshifted and gave a slight amount of gas to go faster.

Programming the automatic transmission shift points is, like most aspects of configuring a car design, is an exercise in compromise. It would have been easy for Mazda to make the transmission to be more eager to shift up or down based upon subtle clues from the accelerator pedal but then you get a transmission that feels spastic, always changing gears at the wrong time, dropping down a gear and revving higher when the driver is just trying to cruise along in traffic and shifting into too high of a gear through a corner so it must then drop down again to accelerate out. Thankfully, the CX-5 does not lean towards this nature.

I think Mazda hit the right balance, when you want to accelerate you signal it by giving the pedal a good press. Otherwise it holds a higher gear and assumes you just want to maintain your current momentum. It is different from most other automatics but it doesn't take long to learn how to adjust so the car does what you intend. Just don't be shy with your right foot when you know you want to accelerate. I find that pushing the pedal down to a moderate level all at once will effect a gear change immediately while gradually easing the pedal to the same point will not cause any downshift. And I like the way the car automatically shifts to lower gears when slowing down. This often leaves the transmission in the perfect gear to ease on the accelerator out of the corner without needing to downshift further. But if you know you want a fast exit, just use the accelerator to tell it as much and it will almost seamlessly drop down another gear (or two depending upon your input). It doesn't hesitate for but a split second once you learn how to "talk" to it.

My CX-5 returns really excellent mileage and I don't baby the accelerator when I need to reach a new speed. Actually, I think I generally use less fuel when I accelerate at a higher rpm, more quickly, for a shorter distance compared to easing it to the same higher speed using lower rpm's and a higher gear over a longer distance. Of course flooring it and taking it all the way to redline will burn more fuel than either method. Moderation is key. In this sort of situation when the driver gradually eases on the accelerator and the transmission does not shift down, I do not believe it's because it's programmed to save fuel so much but, rather, the programming is conservative to avoid unwanted and awkward downshifts. Moving the pedal decisively will achieve the desired result.

I do not have a good feel whether the behavior I've observed is tied to a transmission that "learns" a drivers habits or not because I've never disconnected the battery to see if this would clear any potential "learning" and change the shift behavior. My guess is I could get in any 2.0L CX-5 and it would behave similarly.
 

maxwax

CX5 Road Tripper
:
2014 Sky Blue Touring AWD
I just caught this old-but-new-to-me "The Fast Lane Car" youtube video of a 0-60 MPH test of the 2013 CX-5 2.0L Manual.

Their original video of the 2013 CX-5 2.0L Automatic got a fairly slow score of 13 something seconds, partially attributed to altitude. This is one of the factors that pushed me towards the 2.5L engine which also meant away from the Manual transmission.

In this video they've got a manual and outrun a Subaru imprezza with it and get a 0-60 MPH time of 10 something seconds.

So, like I said in my review above, the 2.0L engine isn't bad, the 2.5 is just better. If you really want a manual and don't need the extra features in the Touring or Grand Touring, save some money and enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZcuIizv-b9I