Back in the 2007 model year, Mazda
debuted the CX-7, a compact/mid-size five-passenger crossover powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. That same year, the automaker introduced a full-size, three-row, V-6 powered Mazda
CX-9 crossover seating seven. Now Mazda
gets an early jump on the 2013 model year, unveiling one of the most fuel-efficient, non-hybrid compact five-door crossovers available.
The nimble automaker has carved out a marketable niche by crafting dependable small and mid-size, affordable family transports. Big SUVs and pickup trucks are not part of the Mazda
mantra. No gas-electric hybrid or plug-in electric vehicles adorn the 2012 or 2013 model-year portfolio. Instead, the automaker chose to pour limited research dollars into fine-tuning its internal combustion engines, both gasoline and diesel powered, to maximize their fuel-extending potential. Mazda
also continues generating extended mileage from the iconic yet very affordable MX-5 Miata two-seat roadster debuting back in 1989.
Now that the 2013 model year has rolled around at Mazda
, the CX-7 is opting for early retirement after six years of worthy service, giving way to a mechanically advanced, all-new CX-5
. Joining the ultra-competitive and hugely popular compact crossover segment, CX-5
encounters such worthy rivals as Nissan's Rouge, Chevy Equinox, Kia Sportage and segment sales champ Honda CR-V.
Visually, both CX-5
and the outgoing CX-7 incorporate an attractive two-row hatchback design. Uni-body architecture adorns both entitling on-road travel rather than body-on-frame designed off-road sessions. The CX-5
is about five inches shorter and considerably lighter than CX-7 resulting in a more responsive experience. Although badged as a 2013 model year vehicle, CX-5
has been on sale since the first quarter of 2012, so Chicago-area Mazda
dealers now have ample supplies. In June, an impressive 4,551 units were sold in the U.S. paving the way for an increase in CX-5
production at the Ujina Plant in Japan from 200,000 annual units up to 240,000.
starts life with three trims (Sport, Touring, Grand Touring) all offering the choice of front-wheel or Midwest friendly all-wheel drive. Standard equipment is plentiful with a minimal number of factory option packages simplifying the buying process. A Bluetooth connectivity package is optional in Sport (while standard in the other trims). Both Touring and Grand Touring offer a 'Tech" package with in-dash navigation and auto-leveling Bi-xenon headlights (which move slightly in the same direction as the car turns, helping illuminate what's important to drivers). A moon roof package with nine-speaker stereo is optional in Touring while standard in Grand Touring.
An improved six-speed manual offered solely in base front-drive editions while an all-new, six-speed automatic is standard in all other models (and optional in base Sport with front drive). An all-new, fuel-friendly 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine replaces two outgoing four cylinder powertrains offered under hood of the retiring 2012 CX-7. Mazda
has also introducing a new marketing modifier into the automotive lexicon to highlight its latest technologies..."SkyActiv."
What's up with SkyActiv? It's an umbrella philosophy covering several next-generation technologies related to gasoline engines, diesel engines, six-speed automatic and manual transmissions along with body and chassis structure. The CX-5
's SkyActiv gasoline engine incorporates a higher compression internal combustion environment pimping maximum mileage out of its lightweight, normally aspirated four-cylinder powertrain.
While the gas-powered SkyActive engine made its U.S. debut in the compact Mazda
3 sedan last year, the 2013 CX-5
's first vehicle to incorporate all SkyActive nuances (chassis, transmission, etc.) in one package. Low-end torque gets enhanced, resulting in quicker starts and improved efficiency at lower speeds. The next Mazda
in the U.S. to envelope a complete SkyActive redo is the next-generation 2014 mid-size Mazda
6 sedan scheduled to go on sale early in the 2013 calendar year.
The 2.0 SkyActiv four cylinder generates a smoothly competent, but far-from-class-leading 155 horsepower. While the Honda CR-V's 2.4-liter four cylinder pumps out 185 horsepower, it falls short of the CX-5
's superior fuel economy numbers.
Front-drive sport models with six-speed SkyActive manual transmissions now offer the segment's best non-hybrid gas mileage at 26 mpg city and 35 highway. Our all-wheel tester with SkyActive six-speed automatic broke the 30 mile-per-gallon highway barrier, generating 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. Front-drive models with SkyActive automatic transmissions generate one biscuit better in each category. Regular 87-octane fuel is CX-5
's petro of choice. This SkyActive engine is 10 percent lighter than the outgoing CX-7's naturally aspirated, base four-cylinder powertrain. Mazda
supplied an up-level Grand Touring with all-wheel drive and a $28,295 starting price. After factoring in the $1,325 Tech Package (in-dash navigation, auto dimming rear view mirror, HID headlamps) the bottom line swelled to $30,415 with $795 destination charge. The lowest-priced Sports trim with manual transmission checks in at an enticing $20,695, well below the segment leader Honda CR-V starting salvo of $22,495 (2012 editions).
Headroom is huge in front or back even with the optional moon roof. Intuitive, logically-arranged controls contribute to a welcoming ambiance. Ventilation functions include three smallish-sized dials monitoring fan speed and dual zone temperature (single zone is standard in other trims). A push plate alters fan direction. The fuel tank release lever is floor bound left of the driver's seat. The easily scanned instrument panel includes three semi-flat analog dials with center odometer, left-side odometer and right-side digital messaging all shaded by a half-shell canopy above. Push-button start comes standard. A USB port supporting portable electronic devices situates inside the center arm rest along with one of two power plug-in sources (the other located beneath the ventilation controls) A hand-operated mechanical parking brake resides between front buckets. The optional navigation system incorporates a comparably small 5.8-inch screen with bright, easy-to-interpret graphics.
The driver's door is home base to power windows, door locks and side mirrors all conveniently placed at a 45-degree angle. The three-spoke steering wheel is home to cruise control and secondary audio functions. Blind-spot monitoring amber icons, which illuminate within the side view mirrors when vehicles pass by or reside alongside, come standard with Touring and Grand Touring.
Cloth seating is standard in Sport and Touring while our Grand Touring tester included cozy leatherette-type material. Interior color choices available in all trims include all black or a black/sand combo. Second row seat backs fold down with a 40/20/40 split enabling an already comparably spacious cargo area to grow larger. While three smaller-framed riders could squeeze together for short trips, the second row is better suited for two adults.
Exterior side widows are longer than what's found the outgoing CX-7's narrower versions, while the small side plate in the cargo region's D pillar ends with an arrow-head type point. Drivers have decent perception with minimal blind spots. Averaged-sized side view mirrors smartly incorporate secondary blinker bands. Moon roofs, standard in Grand Touring are optional in Touring and not available in sport. The CX-5
's band-like, wrap-around tail light housing replace a squared-design from the outgoing CX-7. Similar narrow band front headlight housing wraps around to the side and plays a part in CX-5
retaining a 'happy face' front end. The center circular nose-like Mazda
logo along with air-dams screams 'have a nice day.' Seventeen-inch alloy wheels come standard in Sport and Touring while a 19-inch variety adorns Grand Touring.
comes with a 2,000-pound towing capacity, excellent for this segment and important to weekend warriors transporting necessary equipment.
2013 Mazda CX-5
Price as Tested: $30,415
Engine: SkyActive 2.0-liter four cylinder
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 179.3 inches
Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway
Curb weight: 3,426 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles