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The look back. That longing glance at your beloved ride as you walk away is a rite of passage for car enthusiasts. One more gaze at the car’s beautiful lines before you walk into the office can help that first cup of coffee kickstart another day of work.

Until I drove the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring, I’ve never looked back at any crossover. Never had the need or desire, since most CUVs have all of the style and personality bred out of them in an effort to attract the widest variety of shoppers. Not the Mazda. The design of this compact crossover is nothing short of stunning.

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Assuming the eco-police haven’t incinerated all internal combustion vehicles in favor of gleaming alloy air cars, I can legitimately see a pristine CX-5 rolling on the lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours in a generation or two. No, I’m not kidding. The $595 Soul Red paint is worth the extra cash, too — I don’t typically choose red cars, but this color is majestic.

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The big shield-shaped corporate grille is prominent, with a smiling chrome moustache that links the narrow headlamps. I’d prefer the hood shutline extended to the end of the sheetmetal — the horizontal line created is a bit distracting. But the contours created by the line that extends from the top of the headlamp, gently rising over the front fender, only to drop gradually along the doors makes the CX-5 look more sporty than a crossover should.

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The interior is well thought out, though I object to Mazda’s continued use of the “iPad glued to the dashboard� infotainment screen. While controlling the audio or navigation is simple enough with the large polished knob located behind the shift lever, creating or changing radio presets is an incredibly tedious process that takes too many inputs for each selection.

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For whatever reason, when press vehicles are delivered, they tend to have the same satellite radio stations preset no matter the manufacturer. Every car I get has the same dozen or so SiriusXM stations, only a few of which I’d typically listen to on my own. I’m just not into classical music. I typically reset those presets to my favorites. Anyhow, the Mazda’s clickwheel requires at least five or six turns, clicks, toggles, and pushes to change a preset. Paraphrasing the meme, I don’t have the time for that.

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Beyond the perplexing audio controls, the CX-5’s interior is a lovely place to spend some time. The plastics on the dashboard feel of a high quality, and the ivory leather trim on the doors and console is soft and supple. I love the plush cushion where my knee impacts the left side of the console, especially. The leather seats on this Grand Touring trim are beautifully supportive, especially in the thigh — where I often feel lesser cushions come up short.

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My usual backseat passengers had plenty of room, even when my bride squeezed in the middle between the kids when we had to haul an older passenger up front. Shoulder room was plentiful even with three abreast, and there were no complaints about leg room.

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On Monday, I looked at another crossover that coincidentally shares a bunch of similarities with the CX-5. Indeed, the Jeep Compass I drove weighs right around 3,600 pounds, much like this Mazda, and produces around 180 horsepower from a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. Dimensionally, the two trucklets are close, and the as-tested price hovers around $35k for each. But the driving experience is surprisingly different. While the Jeep is soft and compliant on the road, the Mazda CX-5 feels a bit more like a sports sedan, with taut handling and a slightly-harsher ride.

While the power-to-weight ratio is quite similar, the Mazda feels more spritely both during launch and when merging onto a fast-moving freeway. Perhaps the gear ratios in the six-speed CX-5 are more suited to acceleration compared to those in the nine-speed Compass, but the differences in driving demeanor are striking.

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Since it seems the traditional family sedan is going away, it’s time I embrace the crossover. While I still prefer the minivan form for hauling a lot of everything, if you aren’t a packrat like me a compact-to-midsize crossover will likely work well for the statistically average four-person family. With the Mazda CX-5, driving one of these tall wagons doesn’t have to mean selling your soul — indeed, enthusiasts might actually enjoy hustling this crossover around the back roads.

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[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]