Test Drive: Mazda CX-5

By Barbara & Bill Schaffer

We were disappointed when Mazda told us they would be dropping U.S distribution of the CX-7 crossover.? It was one of our favorite Zoom-Zoom vehicles because its combination of drivability and compact utilitarian attributes . ?However, after spending some time driving the new replacement, we are thinking there is a new favorite Zoom-Zoom in town and its name is CX-5.

Mazda is making a big deal out of its suite of SKYACTIV? technologies and we?ve read about them with interest — especially Bill because he likes that kind of thing.

Most manufacturers develop a variety of systems for their drivetrains, suspensions, chassis, and so on, then put them together in the vehicle. ?Mazda has designed the SKYACTIV system to synchronously collaboration between all the components.? SYACTIV is difficult to define, but it?s easy to experience it behind the wheel of the CX-5.

To start with, the entire SKYACTIV package is a willowy 3,208 pounds making it one of the lightest SUVs in the category. ?This trim package allowed the engineers to use a smaller engine to achieve better fuel economy without taking away from the desirable Zoom-Zoom attributes.

At only 155 horsepower, the 2.0-liter is small compared to most competitors, but it has the enthusiasm of ?The Little Engine That Could?.? With its high 13.0 to 1 compression ratio (the highest of any gasoline powered production car), direct injection and variable valve timing combined the four-cylinder engine produces spirited performance including a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 7.4 seconds for the front drive version.? Through clever engineering, the engine runs on regular gasoline, despite the high compression ratio.? The EPA lists the fuel economy at 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with front-wheel drive model with a manual transmission.? Our Grand Touring test vehicle with AWD and the automatic transmission was rated at 25 mpg city and 31 mpg city.? We actually averaged 28.5 mpg in mostly fast highway driving.

Attached to the SKYACTIV engine is a six-speed manual transmission? (only available on the Sport version)? or six-speed automatic SKYATIV transmission powering either the front wheels or an all-new optional all-wheel drive system.? The gated automatic transmission linkage allows the driver to shift manually for better control.

The CX-5 driving characteristics are more closely related to the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) sports car than the typical compact SUV.? The positive steering is crisp and accurate, brakes are solid and even the styling is more slippery than the typical boxy SUV.

??????????? ??The 2013 CX-5 is the vehicle compact SUV shoppers have been asking for ? that only Mazda can build,? said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO). ?Poised to join a fast-growing and increasingly competitive segment, the all-new CX-5 offers more than just flash and features. Consumers also receive the performance and driving dynamics that have become synonymous with the Mazda brand. With its SKYACTIV underpinnings and best-in-class fuel economy, CX-5 proves that ?fun? needn?t be sacrificed for efficiency and that ?compact? doesn?t mean compromise.?

Most visual of Mazda?s SKYACTIV system is their new Kodo (soul of motion) design language, which is a bit more subtle than the wind-driven Nagare look shown on some recent Mazda concepts.? Kodo may be less dramatic, but it is nevertheless quite fluid.? Mazda officials say Kodo will continue to inspire other future Mazda designs.

The interior has a much more business look than the exterior with simple controls that are well organized.? The interior has more of a quality feel than some previous models, and includes features like soft touch materials and contrasting stitching with the leather seating.

Available in three trim levels, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models, the CX-5 has a high level of standard features for each model.? The front-drive, Sport with manual transmission has a low starting price of $21,490, and includes features like 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, HD radio along with all the essentials like air conditioning, cruise control and power windows.

The Grand Touring trim starts at $27,840 and includes leather seating (heated in front), moonroof, 19-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers and premium audio.? AWD is $1,250 extra. The optional $1,325 Tech Package adds navigation, push button start, alarm, bi-Xenon adaptive headlight system and auto dimming mirror with HomeLink.

SKYACTIVE is an odd and somewhat awkward name, but the result is impressive.? The CX-5 is one of those vehicles you think up excuses just to go for a drive, and you can afford to with the good fuel economy.? Sure, it would be nice to have a little more power, but for 95 percent of the drivers this makes perfect sense.

There is rumor there may be a SKYACTIVE diesel in the works for the U.S. market ? that could make the CX-5 even more appealing to us.? ??