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GET-UP-AND-GO: For its 2014 CX5, Mazda dials in an added dose of ‘zoom-zoom’

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Just last year, Mazda added a new compact crossover – the five-passenger CX-5. It returns for 2014 with just one major change: a new, more-powerful engine for all but the base grade.

Built in Japan on an all-new Mazda chassis, the CX-5 is available in three models: Sport, Touring and top-dog Grand Touring.

The Sport’s engine is a normally aspirated 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, rated at 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. For more zip, the other models receive the 2.5-liter engine, also normally aspirated, with 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque.

All CX-5s feature Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, which is a suite of features that include engine, transmission and even suspension components.

The CX-5 ranks among the best for fuel economy among the compact crossovers, with a rating of 35 mpg (26 city). But that’s only for the Sport front-drive with the manual gearbox, which most buyers will ignore in favor of the optional automatic.

The new 2.5-liter engine brings ratings of 25 city/32 highway with front drive, and 24/30 with optional all-wheel drive.

Our tester – the all-wheel-drive Grand Touring model – easily accommodated five people, with plenty of leg-, knee- and headroom.

The automatic transmission shifted quite smoothly and at the right times to make the best use of the available power. It also offers a handy manual shift mode, activated through the console-mounted shift lever.

But the extra power of the 2.5-liter was welcome, especially on hills when we had a full load of people and their stuff on board. It performed well on uphill freeway ramps as well, allowing us to merge seamlessly into the traffic flow.

166064While driving the CX-5 on a variety of roads, including some fun mountain curves, I found steering to be predictable, and handling to be much better than typical SUVs of the past, with no wallowing in the tight turns. Mazda has taken pains to include a healthy dollop of its trademark “zoom-zoom” into this neat little sport-ute.

Our Grand Touring model came jam-packed with features, along with 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a moon roof.

Also included were leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Bose Surround Sound system and satellite radio.

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