When the 2014 Mazda CX-5 was introduced, it launched with only the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine, producing 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. Although that motivated the smaller, lighter Mazda3 with plenty of verve, tasked with hauling the larger CX-5, the engine's zest is blunted somewhat. The tradeoff for less than neck-snapping power is its competitive fuel economy, something Motor Trend associate editor Nate Martinez has come to appreciate over the time he's driven the CX-5. In addition to its 30 mpg combined fuel economy, Martinez has been impressed with the engine's smoothness.

Speaking of smoothness, Martinez noted that, although usually a model of composure, it is possible to upset the CX-5's drivetrain into being occasionally abrupt and jerky. Deliberate, smooth inputs are rewarded with smooth performance.

With fuel economy that rivals many compact to midsize sedans, the CX-5's added measure of utility has also come to Martinez's attention, noting the crossover's ability to swallow four passengers and a small barbecue grill in the cargo area, plus all the accompanying good time accessories, while enjoying its thrifty fuel economy.

If the need arose for carrying more cargo than people, the CX-5, like other current Mazda hatchbacks and CUVs, has spring-loaded rear seat releases, that will flop the rear seats forward just by pulling a lever, rather than having to go around to the back seats and pull them forward manually. He asked why these weren't standard in class. Good question.

Also, unlike with your typical Elantra or Corolla, if the road gets a little rough, there's no need to throw it in reverse and declare party over. With the elevated ground clearance and more rugged suspension inherent in a crossover, the CX-5 can venture where most compact sedans fear to tread.

The 2.0 may not have the grunt of the larger 2.5-liter engine now offered, but its outstanding economy is something that can be appreciated by everyone, and makes the case for the CX-5 over a conventional sedan even more compelling.