Following the defunct Mazda Tribute and CX-7, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 debuted internationally last September at the Frankfurt Auto Show and two months later for the United States market at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.
Neither of Mazda's first two attempts at sport utility vehicles were particularly successful. But the CX-5 has a modern look and feel, and its design and standard features provide plenty of evidence Mazda has made its best effort to make a difference in the crowded segment.
Like the Tribute, the Mazda CX-5 is a compact, crossover SUV. It's Mazda's first offering with Skyactiv Technology — a rigid, lightweight platform, combined with a new series of efficient engines and transmissions resulting in reduced emissions and fuel consumption.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
Available in front and all-wheel drive, the CX-5 is powered by a two-liter, four-cylinder with 155 horsepower. It's unique when a compact SUV is offered as a review vehicle with a manual transmission. But it was refreshing to shift the gears of my front-wheel tester. It gave the CX-5 a sporty feel. (A 2.2-liter two-stage turbocharged diesel is also expected soon.)
The EPA rates the CX-5's gas mileage as the best in its class, averaging 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Mazda claims the averages are best of any non-hybrid SUV.
The CX-5 also has surprisingly ample cargo space. Combined with its six-speed manual transmission and appealing mpg averages, the CX-5 has three distinct positives that shouldn't be overlooked.
But the new Mazda also has one overt downside. It's not particularly responsive and nor does it offer power prowess in any situation.
On several occasions, while negotiating lane changes or merging onto the freeway, the Mazda CX-5 simply could have used more horsepower.
Excellent fuel economy for its class.
Keen cargo room.
Well-designed simple interior (instrument panel, side panels, front seats).
Like idea of a six-speed manual in an SUV crossover.
Quiet, particularly while idling.
Like competitors, tight second row.
Facts & Figures: 2013 Mazda CX-5
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 9.3 seconds.
Airbags (6): Front and side front-seat occupants, and side-curtain bags that cover the window openings for both front and rear passengers.
First aid kit: No.
Fuel economy: 26 mpg (city), 35 mpg (highway), manual transmission.
Government Safety Ratings: NTHSA, Not rated; IIHS, Frontal offset, side impact, roof strength, rear crash, all good.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $20,695.00.
What Others Say:
"There are several really good compact SUVs on the market. After our first chance to get behind the wheel, we think the 2013 Mazda CX-5 can be added to that list. CX-5 feels a bit sportier than its main rivals, with little penalty in ride quality or overall practicality. We also like the tastefully finished interior and promising EPA fuel economy estimates. The base Sport model with the 6-speed manual transmission is surprisingly fun to drive, nicely equipped, and we think it's a particularly good value for the money." —- Consumer Guide.
"The steering is quick and direct without being nervous. The handling is sporty and secure without being edgy. And the four-wheel disc brakes are strong and predictable." —- Edmunds
"All considered, CX-5 seems a really well-done machine that cries for another 20 or even 40 hp." —- USA Today
The Weekly Driver's Final Words
With the CX-5, Mazd has made a strong bid to get pertinent share of the market. But superior fuel economy and cargo space aside, the CX-5 needs better acceleration and/or a V6 option to make any memorably difference in the segment.
Text/Images © James Raia/2012