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Mazda's CUV is making a splash

Mazda is making a sweeping change in its product lineup, starting with the new CX-5. Its the first Mazda to feature the full range of the new SkyActiv technologies that are redefining this automaker.

Mazda is making a sweeping change in its product lineup, starting with the new CX-5.

Its the first Mazda to feature the full range of the new SkyActiv technologies that are redefining this automaker. The CX-5 is also the first Mazda with Kodo (Soul of Motion), a new design theme that will be adopted by the entire product line.

While appealing to a broad range of buyers, the CX-5 is seen as a natural progression vehicle for current Mazda3 owners. Its a step up to a roomier vehicle with all the connective features a young family is looking for these days. The CX-5 also offers sporty driving dynamics and great fuel economy for a start price of just $22,995.

SkyActiv is a complete re-evaluation of every part of the automobile with an overriding goal of better fuel efficiency. It pushes current technology to a new level without the added cost of electrification, which can always be added at a later date, and it starts with the new lightweight, body structure of the CX-5.

The high percentage of high-tensile steel used in the structure allows CX-5 to weigh only 1488 kg (3280 lbs.) with an automatic transmission. Its lighter than the Honda CR-V (a benchmark competitor) even though its a little larger in overall length and width and has a longer wheelbase.

At the core of SkyActiv is a new 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. It features friction-reducing measures, a unique long-runner exhaust manifold design and a very high compression ratio (13:1), yet it still runs on regular fuel. The highway fuel economy rating is a class leading 5.7 L/100 km (or 50 mpg).

A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard in the base GX trim version, while a 6-speed automatic is an option on that trim and is standard with GS and GT trim levels. All-wheel-drive is standard with GT trim and an option with GS and GX, which gives buyers a good range of drivetrain/trim choices.

The Looks

The so-called happy face front end is gone and a new Kodo design theme is taking over at Mazda. It gives the CX-5 a more prominent and bolder face with a five-point grille and a large Mazda emblem. Kodo is an interesting mix of smooth flowing sheet metal and sharp-angled design elements that supposedly emulate the power and grace of a big cat, such as a cheetah. It certainly is an attractive take on the two-box utility vehicle and you might even see the inner-cats presence in places like headlights, tail lights and those ear-like side mirrors. In addition to a sleek styling exercise, the CX-5 is an aerodynamic design with a drag coefficient of just 0.33. The aero payoff is better fuel efficiency, especially at highway speeds, and quieter operation with less wind noise.

The Inside

The CX-5 comes with standard push-button ignition. A chunky steering wheel and bucket-style front seats, which offer more lateral support than most in this class, add to the sporty appeal. The steering wheel also tilts and telescopes and allowed a nice driver instruments/controls alignment setup that had me purring. Big doors make getting in and out easy and the CX-5 has plenty of room for five people.

A three-way split flat-folding (40/20/40) rear seat comes in the GS and GT trim levels, which is different. So, too, are the remote release handles to fold down the rear seatbacks, which are located in the back cargo area and accessible from outside the vehicle. Unfortunately, the rear seatbacks dont have a recline feature, as do some competitors. A large touch-screen display dominates the centre dash area and can be linked to an optional low-cost TomTom navigation system. The connectivity menu has just about everything and includes Bluetooth, iPod, USB and AUX hookups in the centre console storage bin. A nine-speaker Bose audio system is also available.


The airbag protection package comes with rollover sensors and double-acting auto power door locks are standard. The GS and GT trim levels come with both a rear-view parking camera and a blind-spot detection system.

The Drive

While briskly travelling along a winding country road, we had to check over my shoulder occasionally to remind myself us that we were piloting a utility vehicle and not a sporty car. The light, agile handling and solid chassis fun-to-drive qualities of the driver-friendly CX-5 come to the fore when the road gets twisty. While acceleration is certainly not a head-snapping experience, it does have enough grunt to get past something in a hurry when needed. Our test CX-5 came with the new SkyActiv 6-speed automatic, which is smaller and lighter but functions like a conventional automatic, and is slicker than most. Theres a manual mode feature on the shifter gate, but unfortunately theres no auto sport mode. A MacPherson strut type suspension is up front and the CX-5 uses a multi-link arrangement in the rear, which leaves room for the all-wheel drive components. The all-wheel drive system sends all power to the front wheels during normal driving conditions. This provides best fuel economy and as much as 50 per cent can quickly be redirected to the rear when needed. On an initial cold startup the SkyActiv engine is noisy, but the din disappears fairly quickly as the engine warms up. On the highway the overall cabin noise level is actually quite low and the engine is barely audible at cruising speeds.

The Score

The all-new Mazda CX-5 is a game-changer in the compact utility market. It offers fantastic fuel economy and exceptional road manners in a practical package.

The Specs 2013 Mazda CX-5

Trim levels: GX, GS & GT

Sticker Price: $22,995 to $33,890

Power: 2.0-litre / 155 horsepower

Transmission: 6-speed man & auto

Fuel consumption: 7.8/5.7 L/100 km (city/highway)

Basic Warranty: 3 years/80,000 km

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years/100,000 km

Rust Warranty: 5 years /unlimited km

The Competition

Ford Escape: $21,499 - $37,499

Honda CR-V: $25,990 - $35,090

Hyundai Tucson: $19,999 - $34,349

Kia Sportage: $21,995 - $36,995

Mazda CX-5: $22,995 - $32,495

Nissan Rouge: $23,778 - $34,278

Toyota RAV4: $24,865 - $37,300

Volkswagen Tiguan: $27,875 - $38,375

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