If the burgeoning compact crossover segment appears to be getting better all the time, that’s because it is. We recently tested the 2014 Mazda CX-5, but when Mazda had originally invited us out last year to test drive the–at the time–all-new Mazda CX-5, we were excited, but didn’t know what to expect. Camp Zoom-Zoom was undergoing transition. The sporty Mazda RX-8 was ending production, the Hiroshima-based automaker suddenly started touting this futuristic-sounding Skyactiv technology, and the Mazda CX-7 was even getting the axe, to avoid buyer-confusion and make way for the all new CX-5 crossover.
After a full day with the CX-5, we were convinced Mazda was on to something. The attractive, modern crossover was the most fuel-efficient in the class. And while the automaker was using more high-tensile steel, and rethinking ways to save weight, it still retained the Mazda fun-to-drive, characteristic DNA. But we had one gripe with the CUV: “the downside is most easily recognized on the automatic transmissions. The Skyactiv automatic transmission consistently opts for a higher gear than you would likely put it in yourself, certainly as a measure to achieve better fuel economy. The result is a ride that feels underpowered, a casualty of the good gas mileage. But this is largely rectified with the manual transmission, where you can keep the car in lower gears when extra power is desired.”
The problem was, most buyers were getting the automatic transmission model, and therefore were getting the low-end of the power spectrum. And row-your-own buyers, while not deficient on power, weren’t getting the highly-touted fuel economy if they were driving below the optimal gear. Something had to give, and it did. You can read our 2014 Mazda CX-5 Quick Drive, to find out.