Strengths and weaknesses:
- Rear passenger space; fuel economy; styling.
- Uninspired interior; weak seat heaters; small power numbers.
Sky’s the limit for Mazda compact ute
Automakers are often forced to do whatever it takes to stand out in a crowded and competitive industry, and it can be difficult to judge what’s a legitimate new feature or technology in a vehicle, and what’s nothing more than a gimmick. Mazda’s new Skyactiv technology is the real deal, and there’s no better proof than the 2013 CX-5.
Simply put, Skyactiv is the umbrella term for Mazda’s re-engineered engines, transmissions, platforms, and, well, vehicles. While many automakers are implementing hybrid technology and/or electrification in their vehicles, Mazda believes the good ol’ fashioned internal combustion engine still has decades of worth ahead of it, and as such, Skyactiv works around that tried-and-tested technology, using gasoline and diesel as fuel.
The brand new CX-5, which replaces the Tribute in Mazda’s line-up, is the first vehicle to use, and to be built around, a full suite of Skyactiv technologies – engine, transmission, and platform.
Mazda has made it clear time and again that Skyactiv exists not just for the sake of improving fuel economy, but also to allow for a fun driving experience. I’ve had the chance to take the CX-5 on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California, and as far as crossovers go, this vehicle shows a seriously fun side when chauffeuring duties aren’t required.
This is my first time taking out the CX-5 for more than just a few hours and naturally, I’m curious how it behaves on a day-to-day basis. Because let’s be honest – while some owners may certainly appreciate how it handles, few of them will ever take the CX-5 on a world-renowned race track. I’m willing to bet, though, that every driver will be taking it to a shopping mall, grocery store, or sports arena hundreds of times over the course of ownership.
Mazda has said that while it wants the CX-5 to offer space and usability, it doesn’t want the vehicle to scream UTILITY – and it doesn’t. It has an almost roadster-like look, with a long snout and compact-looking back-end, and a couple of swooping character lines to go along with its curvy exterior.
That said, the exterior gets a healthy dose of plastic to go with a lack of cheesy-looking chrome to hint that this vehicle can do some more heavy lifting when required. I open the liftgate and I’m presented with a generous area in which to store items – complete with a rubber mat that keeps things from rolling around, and that looks easy enough to remove and clean. It’s not quite as spacious a cargo area as many competitors, but it gets the job done.
The CX-5’s wheelbase is larger than that of competitors, and judging by the interior dimensions, a lot of the extra space went to rear passengers. As mentioned earlier, cargo space is generous, and my time in the front seats proves to be comfortable, but the rear seats are certainly large enough to hold two adults very comfortably. And there are worse places than the rear middle seat in which to sit.
There are a couple of issues I have with the interior – one, that the cockpit is an expanse of black with very little to break up the monotony, and two, the seat heaters – which come standard on the GS and GT trims – have three settings, and none of them are very warm.
If power is a priority, you’ll want to compare closely and carefully. Some may consider the CX-5 underpowered, but despite power numbers that are lacking when stacked up to competitors, it is a light vehicle, all things considered. It’s a very “Mazda” thing to do – offer a light, nimble vehicle to make up for what some may say are sub-par power numbers. And I’m perfectly okay with that.
The CX-5 is a great package. Yes it’s stylish and fun-to-drive, but it also offers excellent real-world fuel economy, along with features that still aren’t common in this segment, such as a blind spot alert sensor.
2013 Mazda CX-5
Trim level: GT
Price as tested (before taxes): $32,750
Options on test vehicle: none
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cyl./ 6-spd auto. with sequential shift
Power/torque: 155 hp/ 150 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (58L)
Fuel economy ratings: 8.0 L/100km city; 6.4 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 8.9 L/100km over 571 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 80,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Ford Escape; Honda CR-V; Subaru Forester; Suzuki Grand Vitara; Toyota RAV4