The compact crossover SUV is one of the hottest automotive markets around to day and it’s not hard to see why: Room for four, good fuel economy and extra room for cargo when it’s needed. What’s not to like for the young family or the empty nesters with the need for an occasional hauler?
And one of the hottest vehicles in the compact crossover SUV field? The 2013 Mazda CX-5.
Sliding in under Mazda’s larger crossovers, the CX-7 and CX-9, the Mazda CX-5 is more than a smaller version of its big brothers. As we noted in our first drive of the CX-5, it’s the first full implementation of Mazda’s new “kodo” design theme. Gone are the happy face and the swoopy side panels of the previous design theme which reached full fruition in the Mazda5, Mazda’s practical mini-mini-van.
The new Mazda CX-5 in not only more handsome, with the five-pointed grille and scalloped sides, it also provides elements not part of the Mazda5 scheme. The CX-5, for example, has a higher seat height than the Mazda5, and although front-wheel drive in standard trim, all-wheel drive is available with the CX-5 for those in snowy climes or otherwise traversing slippery surfaces.
The Mazda CX-5 is also equipped with Mazda’s Skyactiv powertrain with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with its world leading 13.0:1 compression ratio direct-injection four-cylinder that runs on regular gas. It’s rated at 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, placing it somewhere down from the top power producers. However, we’ve also found it to be one of the most economical in its class, with an overall fuel mileage of 26.8 mpg during a recent week of real world driving, where the real world included a mix of highway and local driving in a fuel economy-sucking hilly environment. That’s pretty darned close to the EPA rating of 28 mpg overall.
With that horsepower rating, however, the Mazda CX-5 isn’t a stormer, though its performance is definitely satisfactory and the ripping sound of the four when it accelerates hard is intriguing. In our notes, we called the engine when idling “quiet but present.” The performance of the CX-5 is par with is class, but its class isn’t very speedy.
CarBuzzard’s first-drive test of the CX-5 was with a manual transmission, and we found that downshifting of the six-speed manual gearbox—a new design that falls under the Skyactiv umbrella—was frequently required when driving in hilly areas. This weeklong test was in an automatic—again a new Skyactiv transmission—and climbing hills had the tranny skipping several ratios down to get up.
The transmission has a classic zigzag shift pattern, and has the ability to shift gears with the lever. It’s not a particularly quick shifting transmission and the shifts are soft, fitting for a vehicle that’s not overtly sporting.
Handling is a notch up on its class. Mazda if famous for racers taking its cars to the track—on any given weekend, the company claims, there are more Mazdas being raced than any other brand—and while no one will likely put the CX-5 on the race track in competition, the crossover’s handling is sharp and steering precise. Still, the CX-5 is a relatively tall vehicle and while it stays flat in corners, the height can be felt from the driver’s seat.