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Review of: 2013 Mazda CX-5 AWD 4dr Auto GT

8.0

2013 Mazda CX-5: Small, but not always powerful

By Jil McIntosh

Apr. 9, 2012

It used to be that many people primarily chose their cars by such attributes as styling and interior comfort. Of course, these days, fuel prices have taken over as an overriding factor, and size and technology are now the ones playing huge roles.

The all-new 2013 Mazda CX-5 employs both. It’s the company’s smallest SUV/crossover, although it’s just a mere 127 shorter than the CX-7, a model that Mazda will keep in Canada but discontinue in the U.S. due to the size similarity between the two.

The CX-5 also uses SkyActiv, a suite of fuel-saving technologies that includes optimized engines, transmissions, and lightweight construction that is gradually being rolled out across Mazda’s lineup. For the most part, it works, handing back decent fuel economy along with sharp handling and a comfortable ride. Still, you seldom get something for nothing: what you gain at the pumps with this new model, you lose in vivacious velocity.

Pros & Cons

  • + Fuel economy
  • - Acceleration
  • - Navigation system
Read the full review
  • Interior

    Other than a navigation button that doesn’t actually pull up a navigation screen, the top-line GT (without the extra-charge Technology Package) is well-equipped.

    All models come with such features as keyless entry, heated mirrors, cruise control, USB input, air conditioning and split-folding rear seat, while the GT includes 19-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers (I didn’t get the chance to try them out, but I’ve yet to see any that work well in drizzle or light snow), Bluetooth, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring system, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leather seats and a power driver’s seat adjustment.

    Some of those, by the way, are part of the mid-range GS trim line as well.

    The front seats are nice on the tush, and the rear seats have a surprising amount of legroom for the vehicle’s size, especially since there are large spaces under the front seats for putting one’s feet. I could see taking a longer trip in the CX-5 and coming out unscathed at the other end. Those who hate cold weather – namely, me – will appreciate three settings on the heated seats.

    The climate control is extremely easy to use, and it includes dials for the fan speed and temperature, which I vastly prefer to endlessly tapping a toggle switch to make things hotter or colder by the ultra-precise fractions that automakers seem to prefer these days (can anyone really tell if the cabin has changed by half a degree?).

    Simplicity is essential in a vehicle, and the CX-5’s controls are among the easiest I’ve seen in a while. About the only thing I’d change is the clock: wedged between the stereo and the climate controls, it can be tough to see.

    8.0Very good
  • Tech

    Although it’s marginally smaller than the CX-7, the CX-5 actually has more cargo space: 966 litres, compared with 848 litres in its larger sibling. By the tape measure, the cargo hold is 90 cm long when the rear seats are upright, and 160 cm long when they’re folded.

    Folding them is easy, and can be done one of two ways. You can push a button on the seatback, or if you already have the tailgate open, there are two handles in the cargo area: pull each one, and the corresponding seat will fall forward (providing the front seat is far enough ahead, though, if the rear-seat head restraint is still attached). The rear seats fold flat, although there’s a slight riser at their base. The cargo floor lifts to reveal the spare tire, and there are small cubbies on either side behind the wheel wells.

    8.0Very good
  • Driving

    The CX-5 comes in GS and GX trim in front- or all-wheel-drive, while my GT tester is all-wheel only. All use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that makes 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. The front-wheel GS can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission; it can be optioned to a six-speed automatic that’s the only choice in the GX and GT.

    Pricing starts at $22,995 for the base GS with stick shift, while my GT was priced at $32,495. It could have be further optioned with a Technology Package, for another $1,395, which would have added adaptive and auto-levelling bi-xenon headlamps, Sirius satellite radio, and a navigation system that would have given life to the unresponsive “Nav” button on the side of my stereo.

    At 13:1, the SkyActiv engine’s compression is among the highest out there, but thanks to special pistons and a newly-designed exhaust system, it runs on regular 87-octane fuel. It doesn’t require a lot of it, either: against published figures of 8.0 L/100 in the city and 6.4 on the highway, I averaged 8.9 L/100 in combined driving on an engine that had less than 2,000 kilometres “broken in” on it.

    The six-speed automatic is an impressive unit, with a newly-developed torque converter that locks up early to reduce power loss. Mazda describes it as having the benefits of a conventional automatic, a CVT and a dual-clutch. I don’t know if it does all that, but it certainly shifts very smoothly, and switches gears quickly when it’s “shifted” in manual mode.

    About that velocity, though. The 2.0-litre is a unit that’s designed to save fuel. Acceleration isn’t the “zoom-zoom” that you’ve probably come to expect from Mazda, especially if you need a shot of scorch to get around traffic problems on the highway. For most commuters, it’ll be just fine, especially when they’re balancing the performance against what they’re paying at the pump. Those who like their driving a bit spicier will probably bemoan the lack of a “Sport” button to hold the shifts a bit longer.

    The SkyActiv treatment on the chassis and body results in a rigid, lightweight structure that corners and handles beautifully. The power steering is electric, but has an organic feel; steering response is quick and accurate; and the brakes bite smoothly and confidently. With a more responsive throttle, this could be one super-sweet little sport SUV.

    9.0Excellent
  • Conclusion

    Mazda’s been on a roll lately. Its styling has taken a sharp turn into handsome swoopiness, its interiors have been upgraded, and it’s breathing new life into certain segments, such as the subcompact market with the Mazda2, and the mini-minivan with the updated Mazda5. I love the size of the CX-5.

    When I returned it, I switched to a CX-7, which used to be the company’s “small” SUV. It was, back then, but although it isn’t much longer, it felt huge and almost bloated in comparison to the CX-5. It did, however, feel much peppier. The SkyActiv system returns some impressive fuel figures, but at a performance cost.

    Of course, with pump prices these days, that’s a trade-off many drivers are more than willing to make, and the CX-5’s sweet handling and nice ride will undoubtedly have many of them smiling just the same.

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