Los Angeles – Within the greenness of the Los Angeles Auto Show, balancing a public commitment to automotive performance while fully cognizant of which way the environmental winds are blowing is tough. The one volume manufacturer capable of pulling it off would seem to be Mazda, with a Zoom Zoom mantra very much alive – and new SkyActiv technology to sustain it.
The corporate philosophy was outlined by Mazda’s president and CEO Takashi Yamanouchi’s opening remarks at the show’s press day, and underscored in the first U.S. reveal of the 2013 Mazda CX-5 on the show floor. There, Mazda North American president Jim O’Sullivan made very clear that within the more-or-less conventional footprint of Mazda’s newest crossover exists an ongoing commitment to performance in combination with a growing commitment, via that SkyActiv gasoline powertrain, to efficiency.
It’s a three-step program: New powertrains employing direct injection and higher compression ratios extract as much energy as possible from a gallon of fuel; the net improvement approaches 30%. More efficient automatic transmissions increase efficiency some 6-7% over earlier versions, and vehicle architectures are projected to weigh some 200 pounds less than those models that preceded them. The end result is SkyActiv gas powertrains approaching diesels in efficiency, and soon-to-land diesels that will match hybrids in efficiency.
The 2013 Mazda CX-5 is attractively designed, utilizing Mazda’s Kodo design philosophy. This is a much softer, more organic approach than what we see on the current Mazda3 and Mazda6 sheetmetal. According to O’Sullivan the 2013 CX-5 will attract those C-Segment owners (such as their own Mazda3) in need of more space but not wanting to give up the essential goodness of a Mazda platform. To that end, we’re told there remains the same emphasis on handling, braking and acceleration; it’s simply transposed into a vehicle with a higher hip point, generous greenhouse and more cubic volume.
Under the hood of the 2013 Mazda CX-5 is a 2.0 liter inline four with an oh-so-symmetrical 150 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive versions will offer either 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions, while all-wheel drive CX-5s will be automatic only. Fuel economy is closely centered around 25 city/32 highway; 6-speed manuals achieve a highway of 33, while the auto AWD is 10% less at an estimated 30.
With an athletic stance and what we assume will be a responsive drivetrain, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 should be a sweet spot among the usual compact crossover suspects, dominated by Honda’s CR-V and Ford’s Escape. Notably, Honda and Ford are introducing new models at this show, but neither is as driver-focused as Mazda’s interpretation of the segment. May the scrum – and fun – begin.