You know, for me, this is a bit of a game changer.

Lots of automakers have tried to make some kind of an SUV that gives you truly good performance and handling.

Until now, only the Subaru Outback came close for me, but Mazda’s smallest crossover, the CX-5, may take the crown.

Start with the looks. Not as swoopy and boy-racer looking as it’s bigger brother the CX 9, the CX-5 is aerodynamic but also a little more squared off, which frankly means, roomier.

Inside, the latest generation of Mazdas reaffirms my faith in designers. They manage to combine practicality with style. It is, in short, a darned nice place to park your carcass.

Under the hood, only one engine choice. A 2.5-liter, inline four cylinder powerplant sends 187-horsepower to all four wheels, and the trip from stop to 60 miles per hour takes about 8 seconds. That won’t put you on the front row at Indy, but it’s not too bad for a small, shapely rolling box.

You can also get the CX-5 in front-wheel-drive as well.

Handling is really, really good. The Grand Touring model we drove takes corners with authority and while it doesn’t stick like glue exactly, it’s pretty good library paste. Compared to many of its wallowing compadres in the SUV field, it’s the sports car of the bunch.

And all this performance doesn’t require as much Middle-Eastern go-juice as many of its competitors as well. 23 miles per gallon city, 29 on the highway are the figures, and for a truck that can carry 4 comfortably, along with most of the debris of modern civilization in the back, it’s pretty darned good.

This combination of efficiency and performance is called SKYACTIV by Mazda. That’s a fancy marketing term for, it works. And loaded up, it works for about $34-grand.

In short, I liked it and the CX-5 is not a machine I expected to feel much about one way or another. That’s called winning you over, and Mazda is making a habit of that these days.


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