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Mazda CX-5 a Standout in Compact SUV Class

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Now in its third year, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 has clearly established itself as a strong entity in a crowded field of very competent five-passenger, crossover sport utility vehicles.

Sure, the heavyweights - Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 - remain on top. But the list of serious challengers keeps expanding. The Mazda CX-5 is definitely on that list, along with the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Mazda definitely made a wise move in 2013, introducing the CX-5 in hopes that it would fare better than its low-selling predecessors - the Tribute and the CX-7.

The Tribute, a knockoff of the popular Ford Escape, never gained widespread acceptance as a compact SUV. Mazda ditched the CX-7 and kept the CX-9, which is larger, but features a substandard third-row seating. The CX-9 hasn't been a sales producer, either.

The attractive looking CX-5 was well received right away and continues to pick up admirers. It's sporty, fun to drive and also possesses a rather thrifty quality, evidenced by its rather low sticker price ($21,545) for the base model and high gas mileage for all three models - ranging 25-32 mpg.

Other than adding a more powerful engine in two of its trim models and a few other additions, the CX-5 remains the same SUV for 2015.

Addressing one of its deficiencies a year ago, Mazda offered an upgraded engine for both its Touring and Grand Touring models. They now have a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. These models travel 0-60 in 8.3 seconds and provide a fun ride.

The engine remains unchanged for the base model CX-5, a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, with 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. It's a bit pokey, going 0-60 in 9.7 seconds.

There may be performance complaints with the entry-level model, but the CX-5 interior gets mostly applause. It's a modernized cockpit that is both appealing and functional. It has the desired soft-touch surfaces and provides comfort and room for all five occupants.

The CX-5 features a roomy second row that seats three and also has a spacious trunk area (34 cubic feet) for this class.

The CX-5 receives high marks for its driving impressions as well. It drives like a well-behaved sedan, absorbs bumps, and the braking is very reliable. Although the engine can get noisy when it's being called upon for instant acceleration, in normal situations one hardly hears a peep.

The bottom line with the CX-5: It's bringing Mazda the compact SUV sales that it has craved for years.

2015 Mazda CX-5

* Performance: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 155 horsepower; 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 184 horsepower
* Mileage estimate: 25-32
* Price: $21,545 to $29,220
* Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance 3 years/36,000; corrosion 5 years/unlimited


Weidel on Wheels author Jeffrey Weidel is an award-winning writer from the Sacramento region who has reviewed automobiles for more than two decades. He can be reached at skiweidel@gmail.com
Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.