Americans are flocking to compact crossovers for a number of valid reasons, but fun isn't usually one of them. That makes the sprightly Mazda CX-5 something of a class clown, far more entertaining than its peers if not always as practical.

Pricing and Equipment

Like most of the Mazda lineup, the CX-5 comes in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims:

  • Priced at $21,795, the entry-level Sport comes with a 2-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission. You can swap out this setup for a more powerful 2.5-liter and six-speed automatic for $1,400. The available Rear Camera package, a steal at $400, adds the camera plus a vastly upgraded infotainment system. You can also add rear parking sensors ($475), remote start ($500) and foglamps ($350).
  • The $26,465 Touring comes standard with the Sport's options, plus an upgraded interior and blind spot monitoring. The Moonroof and Bose Audio package adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Bose sound system for $1,130. There's also a Technology package ($1,625) featuring navigation, LED lighting and automatic emergency braking.
  • For $28,220, the Grand Touring adds heated leather seats, automatic dual-zone climate control and 19-inch wheels. The Technology package remains optional. Available only on this trim is the i-Activsense package, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beams.

All-wheel drive can be added to any trim level except the Sport when equipped with the base 2-liter engine. The ability to go in the snow will set you back just $1,250, as opposed to $1,500-$2,000 on competing crossovers.

Performance Pros

The 2-liter four-cylinder makes 155 horsepower and comes only with a six-speed manual transmission. Optional on the Sport and standard everywhere else is a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic.

Performance highlights include:

  • Steering/handling: Responsiveness has always been the CX-5's strong suit, all the more so this year thanks to some suspension updates. It's remarkably nimble in everyday driving and athletic enough to take down serpentine roads just for the fun of it. When was the last time you heard that said about a crossover in this price class?
  • Transmission: The six-speed automatic reacts without hesitation, making the most of available power and doing what it can to enhance efficiency.
  • Cheap vacations: The CX-5 achieves 35 mpg on the highway when equipped with the 2-liter engine and 33 mpg with the 2.5-liter, excellent ratings for this class. Even with all-wheel drive, you're still hovering at the 30 mpg mark.

Performance Cons

  • The 2-liter engine feels overtaxed at times, especially with passengers and cargo aboard.
  • Although the 2.5-liter cures any sluggishness, we still wish for more than its 184 horsepower in a crossover of this performance potential.

Interior Pros

  • This year's subtle but effective interior freshening erases the "sensible" look that some buyers might have found too serious.
  • A new electric parking brake and redesigned console create a more open environment.

Interior Cons

  • Regardless of trim level, the interior is a sea of all-black surfaces. The neutral upholstery offered with select exterior colors is as exciting as it gets.
  • Space for people and things is a major virtue in this class, and CX-5 has only an average amount of it.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

Although the CX-5 isn't much different than last year, the tweaks to the interior and suspension—not to mention a prettier grille—are enough to keep it firmly in the top tier of this highly competitive class.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

A fully loaded Grand Touring meets up with many small luxury crossovers in price—though not in horsepower or interior color choices.

The Bottom Line

Some folks will tell you that, if you prize driving enjoyment, you shouldn't be shopping in this class. We say you should be shopping for a Mazda CX-5.