2013 Mazda CX-5 GT Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on August 21, 2012

Published on August 21, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

There was a time when being hitched to Ford probably didn't seem like the best thing for Mazda. Certainly the larger automaker had a lot of platforms and powertrains to choose from when Mazda wanted to expand into a new segment, but some of those platforms and powertrains weren't exactly state of the art. How times have changed. Now Ford is a tech leader and Mazda is enjoying the fruits of its good associations, while delivering up some unique technologies all on its own.

The latest darling of the Hiroshima-Dearborn partnership is the CX-5, a compact crossover that replaces the old Escape-based Tribute. I was on the Tribute launch a dozen years ago and it was an impressive SUV back then, but it hadn't changed enough over the years to keep up with its many rivals, so once brisk sales eventually slid off the chart until the little SUV was discontinued last year. Now that the CX-5 has arrived, the Tribute is quickly becoming a distant memory.

The CX-5 is a very good compact crossover. In fact, it's one of the nicest I've tried. I normally have a fairly full garage of test vehicles, but despite a 300-plus horsepower sports coupe and a $70k luxury ute at my disposal, not to mention an ultra-frugal pint-sized city car that could have saved me a lot on gas, I kept hopping into the little Mazda to run errands. Even for the longer runs it was my vehicle of choice. It's just so comfortable, so easy to drive and so practical.

It looks pretty nice too. There's no mistaking it for the new Ford Escape that shares its underpinnings, or any other compact SUV for that matter. It looks like a Mazda through and through, although its smiling grille isn't as pronounced as with the compact 3 sedan and hatchback models and it's overall stance isn't quite as swept back as the particularly pretty CX-7. Of course it's more difficult to make a smaller crossover look sleek, but I like what Mazda's design department has done from front to rear, with my favourite styling element being the way the chrome trim around the lower edge of the grille flows up to the headlamps and almost seamlessly melds into the chrome trim within the light clusters themselves. It's a nice piece of design, showing that Mazda took some care and attention in putting this little SUV together.

That care and attention is immediately evident inside, too. What an attractive cabin, especially my GT trimmed tester that was finished in Sand perforated leather, the perfect complement to its Zeal Red Mica exterior paint. Some nice buffed aluminum-look trim on the doors and dash added flavour, while soft-touch surfaces improved the look and feel where used while dampening ambient noise.

Being a GT, my CX-5 included some premium features that enhanced life behind the wheel, such as more leather wrapping the steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake handle, as well as leather-like vinyl door trim, not to mention a proximity sensing keyless remote to get inside in the first place. That remote also connects through to the keyless pushbutton ignition, which when pressed lit up an attractive set of primary gauges along with a nice colour-graphic infotainment display featuring climate and audio controls, not to mention a NAV button that doesn't do anything after repeatedly pressing it. Turns out it's a workable dummy that will always remind that you were too cheap to buck up for navigation, unless of course you opt for the nav system when purchasing. Then again, I'm guessing your local Mazda dealer can install it anytime, as they sell it as a dealer-added accessory for only $704.95.

Satellite radio is dealer-installed too, but the 9-speaker Bose stereo comes standard in the GT and sounds great. You can plug in your phone or music player via an auxiliary or USB port that are standard on any CX-5, or go the traditional route with the AM/FM radio or CD. The same interface works the dual-zone automatic climate control, and I have to say it might just be the fastest-cooling air conditioning system in the west.

As I mentioned previously, the CX-5 is mighty comfortable, my tester made more so thanks to an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat that includes a powered lumbar support. The seats are heated, but despite perforations they're not cooled. Just the same, perforated leather helps to pull the sweat out on hot summer days.

On hot summer nights you'll appreciate the GT's auto-dimming rearview mirror, and I must admit to liking this model's 19-inch alloy rims on 225/55R19 tires, day and night. They add grip to an already well-sorted chassis, mine fitted with all-wheel drive for that extra measure of foul-weather assurance. Of course, traction and stability control come standard across the line, as do four-wheel discs with ABS along with all of the expected airbags, useful if the CX-5's brakes can't get it stopped in time.

Under normal conditions stopping shouldn't be a problem, but despite only having four cylinders under the hood the CX-5 can get moving at a brisk pace. Its humble 2.0-litre engine puts out 155-horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to direct-injection, and this is a vehicle that only weighs 1,554 kilos (3,426 lbs) so the six-speed automatic doesn't have to work all that hard to maximize forward movement. Mazda offers a 6-speed manual too, but only in the lowly front-drive model, which is a shame as it would no doubt be fun to play with as the straight-ways end and corners begin.

But Mazda knows that only a fraction of its customers would want a fully-loaded CX-5 GT with a manual, so they don't bother paying the expense of bringing a mere handful of models in for the few dedicated enthusiasts. Rather, most CX-5 buyers will be more concerned about fuel economy, which is where its SkyActiv technologies come into play. Unlike the 3 SKY I drove earlier this year, which was a special trim level within the compact model's lineup, all CX-5s use the same fuel-friendly SkyActiv engine and transmission combination, as well as efficiency advancements made in other areas like its body structure and undercarriage. The engine features an ultra-high 12:1 compression ratio, as well as precise multi-point injector technology and uniquely shaped piston cavities for a more fully controlled burn process, while the manual and automatic transmissions are as slick shifting as anything in the class and smoother than most (although paddles would be a nice addition) while more efficient thanks to that extra tall final gear ratio. Mazda's SkyActiv body structure includes a lot of lightweight materials for significant weight reduction, while it's extremely rigid aiding handling and crash worthiness. And lastly, the CX-5's chassis has been massaged for great response in the corners and good stability at high speeds yet less rolling resistance.

It's good for 8.0 L/100km city and 6.4 highway in my all-wheel drive version, but front-drive CX-5s with the same automatic get an even better rating of 7.7 and 6.1 respectively, while the base manual gearbox improves highway mileage to 5.7, but increases city consumption by a scant 0.1 to 7.8 L/100km. Still, no matter which CX-5 you choose you'll be getting a thrifty companion with plenty of fun built in. That's the SkyActiv philosophy in a nutshell. Fuel-saving technologies that don't take away from a vehicle's performance, like, say, a continuously variable transmission would.

While it's great to have fun, a crossover SUV needs to be practical too. To that end I was able to load the CX-5 up with plenty of gear. It holds up to 996 litres (34.1 cubic feet) behind the 60/40 split-folding seatbacks, which is more than twice the size of an average midsize car's trunk, or 1,852 litres (65.4 cubic feet) when those seatbacks are dropped forward. And the seats are easy to lay flat, needing only a quick flick of the sidewall-mounted levers located within easy reach of the rear hatch. You just need to make sure the front seats are far enough forward to allow the rear seat headrests to sneak past, and to do that you either need to be a very short person or have a good memory so that you move your seat forward as you exit the car, or like me you'll be heading back to the front seat controls to pull them forward. This problem is hardly unique to the CX-5, mind you, and don't worry because once you've tumbled the rear seats down you can go back and set the front seats to more comfortable positions.

Yah, as you can tell I really had to dig deep to find anything to complain about, the CX-5 is that good. Even the warranty is better than average with an extra 20,000 km of basic coverage for a total of 80,000 km, or 3 years. Powertrain coverage is 5 years or 100,000 km, which is average.

Although I don't like using the word average to describe anything about the CX-5. Like I said in the beginning, it's a very good compact crossover. That it starts at only $24,890 is a bonus. My luxurious CX-5 GT tester came to $34,540, destination in.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Mazda, 2013, CX-5, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

Organizations: Mazda

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