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Mazda CX-5 – The Most Functional Miata Money Can Buy

CX5(1)Now, before you furiously fire off angry comments about the absolute blasphemy of soiling the Miata’s good name in reference to a crossover, hear us out. Mazda has told us over and over again that everything it has learned from the Miata project has directly influenced its new products.

CX-5 & its styling

Just days after the its official debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Mazda let us loose in some pre-production CX-5s along the sun-drenched roads of southern California. Here, on the twisty roads through the canyons, it’s easy to see what the CX-5 is all about.

As it stands, the CX-5 truly employs the lessons learned from the Miata in its driving engagement. Lightweight materials combined with a nicely balanced, well-tuned suspension and excellent, direct steering

The swoopy-smiley Nagare design has been ditched in favor of “Soul in Motion” styling that incorporates a more aggressive trapezoidal black grille with subtle wings that extend into the wraparound headlamp clusters. From the side, the CX-5′s Kodo styling features a prominent shoulder line that rises up towards the hind quarters, complemented by an accent line above the rocker panel to further draw your eyes upward as they move along the rear doors. Combined with relatively short front and rear overhangs, Mazda says this makes the CX-5 look like an animal up on its haunches, ready to pounce.

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Mazda’s interiors have never been fantastic in its other volume models – the 2 in particular and the 3 on occasion – and we still have plenty of nice things to say about them. That’s because what Mazda does best is driving dynamics (it’s that Miata theory again), and the CX-5 does not disappoint. It’s not because of any sort of overwhelming power – it’s quite the opposite. This CUV garners our praise because of how nicely balanced the whole package is out on the road.

Still, the CX-5′s interior is much nicer than what’s currently offered in the rest of Mazda’s lineup, though that isn’t exactly a huge compliment. A wealth of soft-touch materials has been added to the dash and door panels, and the interior build quality feels solid, but there just isn’t anything particularly special about the cockpit of the CX-5. It doesn’t wow us in the way that the Kia Sportage does, and as soon as the Escape launches with its revised MyFord Touch, the infotainment in the CX-5 – or lack thereof – will be downright embarrassing. Our pre-production test cars had unfinished interiors with lots of ungrained surfaces, and while we’ll wait to pass final judgment until we sit in a CX-5 that’s true to production spec, we still aren’t wholly hopeful for a superb cabin.

Will this work for the majority of crossover buyers? A spruced-up interior and a full suite of tech goodies would be welcome, but for folks who value driver involvement above all, the CX-5 proves to be a rewarding steer that’ll look great next to the Miata in your garage.

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