By Shari Prymak

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT - The recipe for the average small crossover is quite simple. Design what is effectively a jacked-up hatchback, give it all-wheel drive, a high driving position, body-cladding, and call it a day. Most automakers have achieved sales success this way. What many fail to do, however, is create something fun or inspiring. Most crossovers are just practical transportation appliances, plain and simple.

The CX-5 is a little bit different. Like many A-B appliances, it excels at crossover things like spaciousness and practicality. The difference is that the CX-5 is not just an appliance for transporting families and their stuff. Like every Mazda, it is a carefully-engineered driving machine. Turning the steering wheel and chucking it into a corner is like an antidote for the burdens of domestic life. When the CX-5 was first launched, Mazda ripped one around Laguna Seca Raceway with a sporty Mazda3, and it kept pace just fine. Everything from the pedals to the steering to the chassis has been tuned for true drivers because, to Mazda, details like that matter.

Thanks to a number of clever weight saving measures and drivetrain efficiencies granted by Mazda’s SkyActiv program, the CX-5 is actually quite fuel efficient. Over my week long test drive in a top of the line CX-5 GT with all-wheel drive, I averaged as low as 8.0L/100km highway driving, and about 10.5L/100km in the city. The CX-5 then is not only nearly as much fun to drive as many compact cars, it’s about as efficient as well, without the need for complicated turbos, CVTs or annoying engine start/stop systems.

Mazda CX-5

That top-notch fuel economy can mostly be credited to the efficient 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission that comes standard on the GS and GT models. With 187 horsepower and 185lb-ft of torque, the 2.5L should be powerful enough for most. If it isn’t, the CX-5 will also be available with an even more efficient and torquey 2.2L diesel engine that should really make it a class standout. The base GX gets a weedy 155 horsepower 2.0L engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox. It probably only exists to allow for a lower advertising price, because I doubt many consumers will be interested in that combo.

In terms of design, the CX-5 has to be one of the most stylish small crossovers to come from a non-luxury brand. I’ve seen one parked next to a Jaguar F-Pace and an Alfa Romeo Stelvio and still have people tell me that the Mazda looks just as nice. It is that good looking. It looks especially sharp in the bright Soul Red Metallic that my test car came in.

The interior is equally impressive. There are handy conveniences like rear seatbacks that can be folded flat with the pull of a latch, with plenty of space for most family needs. The controls for the climate control and touchscreen are nicely laid out and the optional head-up display is a nice luxury touch. Everything looks and feels upscale in terms of fit, finish and use of materials. In fact, the CX-5, as a whole, gives off a premium vibe a class above its rivals, putting many so called luxury crossovers to shame.

As an overall package, the CX-5 has many of its competitors beat. It’s efficient, fun to drive, practical, well-designed, and well-built, all of which make it a superb choice for anyone looking for a well-rounded crossover. An industry-standout unlimited mileage warranty and an excellent reputation for reliability are top selling points as well. And with MSRP’s ranging from $24,900 for a base GX model to a fairly reasonable $36,300 for a fully optioned GT, the CX-5 is also good value. It is a crossover for just about anyone, including the driving enthusiast, and for that, it’s a real winner.