The 2018 Mazda CX-5 is both fast and safe, Warren Brown writes. (Mazda)

It was about freedom — going where I wanted when I wanted . . . and dignity. I enjoyed watching my parents or anyone I loved and respected being in the driver’s seat. I enjoyed driving. I still do.

Notions of “prestige” — the kind of vehicle driven — did not come until later and were bound not to last forever. It is a natural development in the life of someone raised in the Roman Catholic Church with teachings of the “impossibility” of “loving things.”

I was a sinner. I loved cars and trucks and all things with motors, and I vowed to learn as much about them, the people who made and sold them, the people who bought them, and the why of it all as I could.

I did.

And I will continue.

But I will end this part of my journey on Christmas Day with my last Wheels column in The Washington Post. It has been a good trip. I love this news organization — its editors and the many people who make it breathe.

It does breathe . . . and change. All living things do. Such also is the case of my beloved automobile industry. It is not the same industry I greeted as a young reporter in 1982. Nor should it be.

This week’s subject model, the 2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring all-wheel-drive SUV, is indicative.

Car manufacturers were playing down safety when I started writing about the business in the early 1980s. Safety was not a favorite marketing prop. It certainly was not prioritized above speed, flash, power, style.

Trouble is, dead people can’t buy those things. Millions of automobile customers and would-be customers were dying in vehicle crashes worldwide. It had to stop.

Governments began forcing car makers to develop safer vehicles. Car manufacturers turned to advanced electronic technology. Models such as the 2018 CX-5 became commonplace and are becoming more so.

It has the necessities for freedom. Equipped with a 2.5-liter, in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine (187 horsepower, 186 pound-feet of torque), it easily moves from place to place any time you want to move as fast as the law and driving conditions will allow you to move. It runs on regular-grade fuel and uses about 29 miles per gallon of it in highway driving.

It is safe, even more so for those of us who are aging. It can be had with blind-side monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, pedestrian and forward-collision mitigation, and all of the things that can protect your body and ego from pain and embarrassment.

We need these things. They should be sold as mandatory equipment, not options.

That is where we are going. I will have more to say on it in my last Wheels column next week.

Nuts & Bolts
2018 Mazda CX-5

Bottom line: The 2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring is a compact SUV, perfect for families of five who travel with light cargo. It is reasonably affordable, about $31,000, which allows you to travel and pay rent or a mortgage.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Ride and handling in the CX-5 are good. Acceleration? You can go to jail, the hospital or the grave in this one as fast as you can in anything else.

Head-turning quotient: The exterior is attractive and will fit nicely in most church, school and shopping-center parking lots.

Engine/transmission: The standard engine is a gasoline 2.5-liter, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder model (187 horsepower, 186 pound-feet of torque) with variable-valve lift and timing. The engine is attached to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. If you want or need more seating space, consider a Mazda CX-9. But the CX-5 is big enough for most of us, including 30.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up. The fuel tank holds 14.8 gallons. Regular grade is fine.

Real-world mileage: I averaged 29 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated front and solid rear; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; post- and pre-collision safety systems; traction and stability control; blind-spot and lane departure warning accident-avoidance systems.

Pricing: The 2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring all-wheel-drive SUV starts at $27,515. Priced as driven is $33,515, including an estimated $5,105 in options and $895 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. Prices on the 2018 models are settling and subject to bargaining.