2013 Mazda CX-5 Review By Larry Nutson

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2013 Mazda CX-5

2013 Mazda CX-5
Station Wagon in a Ute Suite

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

You can count the number of station wagon offerings on the market today almost one hand. And most of them are from luxury brands. Now the reason I mention station wagons before I get into details on the all-new Mazda CX-5 is that the nice thing about wagons is that they are cars. That is, they provide a comfortable ride, with easy-to-slide-down-into seats, roomy seating for five and yet, spaciousness with versatile cargo carrying ability.

The alternative today for most all buyers needing the cargo carrying ability of a station wagon is an SUV…be it large, small or one bearing the crossover designation. About 30% of the new vehicles sold this year are SUVs of varied sizes. The industry has been moving away from truck-based, body-on-frame, SUVs to unibody car-based platforms. This is good for the car buying public since they will get better riding and driving vehicles with lighter weight and improved fuel economy.

Now about the 2013 Mazda CX-5. This is an all-new vehicle, it supplants the somewhat larger CX-7 (both are 5-seaters) and is the first vehicle equipped with Mazda’s suite of Skyactiv Technology. The Skyactiv program includes engine, transmission, suspension and body structure technological improvements. The CX-5 is so car-like in its driving dynamics, comfort, ergonomics, and fuel consumption it makes me…a station wagon guy…extremely satisfied and not wanting. Yes I’ve got to climb up a bit into the seat versus sliding down, but that higher perch has its benefits.

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The CX-5 is offered in three models, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, and each is available in front wheel drive or all wheel drive. The only engine is Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.0-L 4-cylinder mated to a Skyactiv 6-speed automatic or, rather uniquely the front-drive Sport model is also offered with a 6-speed manual.

My test car for a week was indeed the 6-speed manual Sport model, the lowest priced CX-5 at $20,695. Touring models start at $23,895 and Grand Touring at $27,045. Hauling around Chicagoland was comfortable and fun with the manual with its light and precise shifting. However, as a buyer I would opt for the automatic to better deal with the in-city frequent stops and starts. I most likely would not opt for the all-wheel drive, since Chicago is relatively flat and snowy streets become passable relatively quickly after a big snow. However, if frequent ventures should take one into hill country especially with unpaved roads the all wheel drive might be a good choice.

As I mentioned, the CX-5 seats five, all quite comfortably. Cargo room behind the rear seat is around 34cuft and expands to 65cuft with the 60/40 split rear seat folded. My test car was not equipped with a rear cargo cover but Mazda offers it as an accessory for all CX-5s. A roof rack with cross bars is also available for hauling bikes, kayaks or whatever.

The 155HP Skyactiv engine makes use of technology that typically is found in high-performance vehicles and race cars. The compression ration is 13.0:1 and yet the engine operates on 87 octane regular gasoline. Sophisticated design tuning of the intake and exhaust system helps make this happen. EPA ratings are 26 city mpg and 32 highway mpg for front drive models and 25 city and 31 highway for all wheel drive models. So here you see the fuel economy penalty for the added friction and weight of all wheel drive. The manual transmission Sport model gets 26 city and 35 highway mpg. The fuel tank holds around 15 gallons…it varies slightly between the two drive systems…and should allow for around 480 miles of highway cruising.

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The other components of the Skyactiv suite of technology include refinements and enhancements to both the automatic and manual transmissions, front and rear suspension redesigns to improve ride, handling and overall vehicle dynamics, and basic platform architecture design changes including a new Skyactiv body-ring structure.

On the inside the seats are very supportive and comfortable. Noise level is also very comfortable and suited to easy conversation. Steering is well-weighted with good feel and feedback. Brakes are responsive and balanced. Overall, driving dynamics are very car-like.

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Comfort and convenience features abound, depending on model, from power everything, to a variety of audio systems including satellite and HD, Bluetooth, a navigation system, rear view camera, alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, alarm system, keyless entry, leather seats, and the full array of safety equipment and features that buyers expect in a vehicle today.

With an overall length of around 179 inches and a 2000 pound towing capacity, not only is the CX-5 fairly city-friendly but also well suited to carry a load off into a weekend adventure to the mountains or lakeshore.

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There are a host of formidable entrees from American, Japanese, German and Korean brands in the compact SUV market today that provide many good choices for American drivers that will suit an individuals taste and budget. The Mazda CX-5 may just be at the top of the list for many buyers.

A little less-smiley face on the outside but sure to keep you smiling on the inside.

Larry Nutson

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