PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — The compact crossover market is a crowded one. Small families want cars that have the room of a Sports Utility Vehicle, all-wheel drive and car like driving features including gas mileage. Most folks that buy an SUV never go off the pavement and the compact SUV is designed to stay on the road and keep out of the woods.

The latest edition of the Mazda CX-5, the 2013 CX-5 fits the criteria above nicely and adds a very big bonus…sports car DNA! The CX-5 actually is fun to drive. Peppy, tight, responsive with solid steering and excellent road manners the CX-5 gives you a combination of attributes that you just don’t find in this class of car!

The CX-5 with SkyActiv technology I drove for a week was about as roomy as it gets in this class with a total length that was just short of its big brother the CX-7. That meant plenty of room behind the seats and good rear seat leg room as well.

The CX-5 has plenty of rear seat room. Photo credit Vinnie Richichi

The CX-5 has plenty of rear seat room. Photo credit Vinnie Richichi

Gone is the old Mazda smiling grille in favor of a more conservative toned down front look. The flowing lines of the Mazda  fit well with its brother and sister cars and id quite pleasing to the eyes. Interior material quality was high end. I was especially fond of the seating position which hovered higher than a car but lower than an SUV. Hit me as just right!

Only real problem was visibility out of the quarter windows…make sure you get the back-up camera…you are going to need it.

SkyActiv Technology is Mazda’s name for getting everything they can power and mileage wise out of their four cylinder engine. The CX-5 has one engine choice, a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four that produces 150 lb-ft of torque, mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. The six speed manual in the  car I drove was sharp, concise and slipped in and out of gears easily. All-wheel drive is available with all trim levels but only with the automatic transmission.

This results in spectacular fuel economy for an SUV, with both front-wheel drive versions rated at 29 mpg combined by the EPA, and 28 mpg for the all-wheel drive model.

This is where the Mazda CX-5 really shines! Photo Credit:Vinnie Richichi

This is where the Mazda CX-5 really shines! Photo Credit:Vinnie Richichi

First impression on the road is that the Mazda keeps you engaged, interested and makes you feel like you are part of the driving experience as opposed to pushing an appliance. Steering is concise, handling is athletic and the ride gives you good feel of the road without jarring your kidneys. There is more than just a bit of engine noise in the cabin but I’m thinking most families that are driving this car are going to have the DVD or ipod cranked up.

The version I drove stickered at $20,995 and as  I said before, mileage 26 city 35 highway for a combined mileage of 29 mpg.

Word is that there is a diesel version on the way for 2014.

When you look at the other cars in this class…Ford’s Escape, Toyota’s RAV 4, Honda’s CR-V and the Chevy Equinox they all have great features but none of them deliver the driving experience that the CX-5 does. If you are looking for economy, space and connection to your car the CX-5 should be at the top of your shopping list!

For more information on the CX-5 go to: http://www.mazdausa.com/MusaWeb/displayPage.action?pageParameter=modelsMain&vehicleCode=CX5#/home

Follow Drivetime on Twitter @dttweet and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DriveTimeRadioandTV

Reviews, news about cars and the people who drive them, interviews and tips on how to get more out of your driving experience all on Drivetime with Vinnie Richichi and Rob Pratte Saturday mornings 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Newsradio 1020 KDKA. Also listen to Vinnie on The Vinnie and Cook Show Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.

Watch & Listen LIVE