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The 2018 Mazda CX-5 might not offer every available feature of some other competitors, but its is still one of the best looking, riding and handling compact crossover SUVs.

MAZDA NORTH AMERICAN OPERATIONS - After five years of production, the 2018 Mazda CX-5 is still one of the best looking compact crossover SUVs on the market.I have tested the Mazda CX-5 every year since it was first introduced in 2013, and it seems like I'm driving the same one over and over again. They have all been bright red top-of-the-line models with white interiors. Although Mazda completely redeigned its compact crossover SUV last year, the look and feel were largely unchanged.

And yet, every time I got behind the wheel of the 2018 Grand Touring version, it felt fresh and new. That says a lot about the staying power of a fundamentally good design. Mazda got the CX-5 right the first time, and has only needed to tweak the trim levels and option packages to keep it competitive.

MAZDA NORTH AMERICAN OPERATIONS - The 2018 Mazda CX-5 looks good from all angles.

How much longer this continues to be the case remains to be seen, however. With crossover SUVs replacing cars as the preferred vehicle around the world, manfacturers are stepping up their game, especially in the popular compact category.

For example, the 2018 CX-5 offers only one drivetrain, a 2.5-liter inline four cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Although the 187 horsepower is adequate under most circumstances, some competitors are availlable with more powerful optional turbocharged engines. And I averaged under 25 miles per gallon in a week of test driving, far less than models now available as hybrids and even plug-in hybrids.

MAZDA NORTH AMERICAN OPERATIONS - Five people can ride comfortably in the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

Still, for most buyers, the CX-5's strengths will outweigh any minor weaknesses. With its mix of flowing lines and sharp angles, the KODO: "Soul of Motion" exterior design is still the most striking of any affordable crossover SUV. The clean interior also seems more upscale, thanks to the use of high quality materials, including the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob that are now standard on even the base Sport mode. And the ride is also comfortable over rough surfaces but sporty when pushed, thanks in part to the precise steering.

The 2018 CX-5 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Each can be ordered with all-wheel-drive, which is recommended for the Pacific Northwest. The Sport starts are a very reasonable $24,150 ($25,450) and my fully loaded Grand Touring AWD version was listed at $34,685, which is within the range of similarly equipped models from other manufacturers.

MAZDA NORTH AMERICAN OPERATIONS - The six-speed automatic transmission in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 features Sport and manual shift modes.

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 might not offer every available feature of some other competitors, but its is still one of the best looking, riding and handling compact crossover SUVs. If you're interested in such a vehicle, it should be near the top of your shopping list.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

Base price: $24,150

Price as tested: $34,685

Type: Compact crossover SUV

Engine: 2.5-liter inline 4 (187 hp, 186 lb-ft)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Sport and manual shift modes

EPA estimated mileage: 25/31

Overall length: 179 inches

Curb weight: 3,527 to 3,655 pounds

Final assembly: Hiroshima, Japan

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