The Mazda CX5 hangs its hat on the company’s Zoom Zoom driving appeal but also their latest SkyActive suite of efficient power-trains.

As a 2014 model, the new CX5 has the newest Mazda Kodo Styling which has a nicely sculpted look. Its lines run across its flanks like a sheet draped over artwork and finish to a tide look out back with dual exhausts.

Up front is a handsome new front end with wrap through cross bar element. Gone is the crazy Jack Nicholson Joker smiley face of years past. Our Grand Touring tester had handsome HID headlamps with auto leveling and they turn with you at night too.

The interior is a great place to be. Fully loaded, our CX5 had highly bolstered leather chairs, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, as well as the touch screen navigation sound system and backup camera. The nice dark cabin has an upscale feel, that even base models with cloth seating get.

Behind the wheel it was easy for everyone in our office large and small to get comfortable and its tall SUV like view out the windshield is becoming more and more unique.

The dash is well laid out and most important, …. simple. It might seem old school to some but I really love the less is more approach to the design of controls which ultimately makes it easier to live in. The climate control for instance still has three simple knobs to command it with.

The optional SkyActiv 2.5 liter direct injected four-cylinder engine along with its six-speed automatic transmission provides ample power, and better yet excellent fuel economy. EPA estimates are 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined.

We achieved 28 mpg combined in our week of testing which had us very pleased. Unfortunately this fuel economy comes at a price as its high compression engine can be a little buzzy accelerating around town, and its transmission tends to lug in its effort to save gas.

On the pavement the CX5’s handling is simply bliss. It really feels tied to the road with sharp responses and is superlatively fun to drive. Being our second outing with the Mazda CX5 however, I really wanted to see how well it performed deep in the back country.

In doing so however the off pavement adventures soon fleshed out a couple weak spots with the CX5.

It’s Zoom Zoom suspension that satisfies so much on the highway really jars your bones on the backroads. Ruts and bumps really crash though the floor boards hard as the suspension bottoms on its bump stops easily.

Light on its feet, the CX5 can require some skill to keep it pointed where you want at speed around corners on loose surfaces even with its electronic stability control stepping in. Additionally the washboard roads really caused the body structure to resonate. Its light weight hood dances and bounces so much that it can be somewhat distracting.

Bottom line is when it comes to suspension tuning what works for sharp sporty handling on the highway doesn’t always work in the dirt. Mazda has clearly tipped their hat to on road driving superiority.

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