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Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / The 2020 Mazda CX-5 is one of the most attractive small SUVs on the road.

True story: I was driving north on Highway 27 one day this week in our Mazda CX-5 tester when something remarkable happened.

I glanced down at the speedometer, and, to my surprise, Mazda's compact SUV was traveling fully 20 mph faster than my eyes and ears were registering. I've had this happen before, but only in a luxury sedan like a Mercedes S-class. I immediately throttled down and activated the cruise control.

Three things have to happen to cause this result. The car has to be much quieter, significantly more powerful and a lot more stable than my senses are trained to detect. This was is an almost unbelievable measure of refinement in a small SUV costing less than $40,000.

Bravo, Mazda!

It pains me that more Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4 buyers don't at least test the Mazda CX-5 before pulling the trigger. Both of those mass-market SUVs are excellent vehicles, but the Mazda feels like a class above.

Mazdas are available locally at Tim Short Mazda at 6015 International Drive. Late this week the dealership had 15 CX-5s in digital inventory.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD

* Exterior color: Soul Red Crystal Metallic

* Interior color: Caturra Brown

* Engine: 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, turbo

* Horsepower: 227

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 27 mpg highway, 22 mpg city

* Local Dealer: Tim Short Mazda, 6015 International Drive

* Price (as tested): $38,820

 

WHAT IS IT?

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD is a compact SUV with seating for five. Our tester has the model's top-of-the-line, 2.5-liter, turbocharged engine that makes 227 horsepower. Some lesser-trim CX-5s have a normally-aspirated, four-cylinder engine that makes 187 hp.

 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Our tester rings up at $38,820, which includes a $595 upcharge for the Soul Red paint and a $1,045 delivery fee. A base, Sport model starts at $26,135 and a mid-trim Touring model begins at $27,725.

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Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / The interior of the 2020 Mazda CX-5 is stylish but a bit dated.

 

WHAT WE LIKE

In our view, the CX-5 is the best-looking compact SUV on the road today. Its styling is elegant but compact. And by all means, spring for the $595 Soul Red Crystal paint job, one of the most luscious automotive hues available.

 

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

The CX-5, like all vehicles, has room for improvement. The infotainment system, while adequate, feels five years old. And the 8-inch color display protruding from the dash looks so-2015. The gauges could use an infusion of color.

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Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / The Soul Red paint is a $595 upcharge on the 2020 Mazda CX-5.

 

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

The turbo-equipped CX-5 accelerates from zero-60 mph in 6.2 seconds, according to Car & Driver. Cabin isolation is superb, and aside from the aging telematies system, the interior is still stylish and comfortable. Our all-wheel-drive tester handled a mountain snow dusting this week without a slip.

 

BOTTOM LINE

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 is an excellent small SUV that exceeds expectations. It's a solid value at every trim level.

Online: In the market for a new vehicle? To access hundreds of Mark Kennedy's Chattanooga Test Drive columns visit www.timesfreepress.com/testdrive.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.


View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy



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