Good For: Mazda Copycat. Essentially every automaker has jumped on the crossover vehicle trend and spawned a variety of tall wagons based on compact car platforms. As a lower volume manufacturer, Mazda has been slower and more selective in how they go about this. This is actually good for the Mazda brand in the United States, which seems to be appropriately focused on affordable sports cars like the Miata instead of carrying trucks and SUVs. The CX-5 rides on the same platform as the latest Mazda 3, and also copies more design elements of the 5-door car than what we typically see within a brand. The association gives Mazda strong links to start pumping marketing brand names such as SkyActiv, Kodo, and Soul of Motion through the lineup.
Compromises: There is nothing revolutionary about a compact Mazda crossover, despite all the new words introduced. Fuel efficiency is average in this segment, at best. I'm not sure which buzz word is aligned with the electronic parking brake, but please leave that one out of other cars. A button also requests the 6-speed automatic's sport mode, but you have to plan ahead. The owner's manual lists a set of conditions that prevent sport mode, including steering input. The CX-5 rejected my request when I was in a cloverleaf interchange; so much for getting into a lower gear in exiting the corner.
Overall reaction - Thumb down: I liked all the Mazdas I have driven over the last decade, including models from previous eras like the Protoge. However, I don't like the CX-5; of all the crossovers I have driven this is my least favorite. The Mazda 3 variation that I do like, the Mazda 5, is being discontinued. Mazda's lineup had always been attractive to me because they were willing to design and offer cars that nobody else would build. The compact crossover is a car that almost every brand has tried already.