Review: 2013 Mazda CX-5

Reviews I By Winding Road Staff I November 17, 2011
This is the Master Landing Page for the Mazda CX-5. From now on, as we further review this car, we will be updating this page with whatever fresh content we create. Future drive reviews, updated specifications, videos, and other relevant information will all be found right here, in one convenient spot.
Mazda is jumping into the small SUV/CUV foray, and getting ready to take on vehicles like the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V. The advantage the CX-5 will have going is that it will come to market with the same Skyactiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder that we tested recently in the Mazda3.
The CX-5 Skyactiv will net 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, with power going to the front wheels either through a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is also available, but only with the six-speed autobox (darn!).
Those power figures are lower than some of the competition, but the extra mileage netted by the Skyactiv engine should make things tolerable. Manual-transmission-equipped CX-5s will net 26 city and 33 highway miles per gallon, while the automatic robs one highway mpg from that. Opting for all-wheel drive will net drivers 25 city and 30 highway mpg.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, but we expect to see the 2013 CX-5 in showrooms before the Spring of 2012.
Please scroll down for the official press release from Mazda.
– Compact SUV Features Full Suite of SKYACTIV Technologies, Offers Best-in-Class Fuel Economy –
LOS ANGELES (November 16, 2011) – Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) today unveiled its all-new 2013 CX-5 compact SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The North American debut is the first Mazda to fully encompass SKYACTIV®1 TECHNOLOGY, the brand’s engineering-focused philosophy toward improving all-around vehicle efficiency; the segment newcomer also offers best-in- class fuel economy. A sneak peek into Mazda’s new generation of vehicles, CX-5 embodies the perfect balance between the best of all worlds: captivating design, dynamic handling, unexpected efficiency, flexible functionality and first-class safety, with a dash of Zoom-Zoom.
“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, MNAO. “Entering an extremely competitive segment, the all-new CX-5 has to offer more than just flash and features, but also has to perform and provide consumers with the dynamic response they’ve come to expect from Mazda – and it does. With its SKYACTIV underpinnings and best-in-class fuel economy, CX-5 proves that fun needn’t be sacrificed for fuel efficiency and that compact doesn’t equate compromise.”
Reach for the Sky
As the new kid on the block, the 2013 CX-5 had to do more than simply dress to impress on its first day in class. The vehicle needed to walk and talk that it belonged with its peers, but at the same time still evoke a level of emotional connection and driving passion worthy of the Mazda badge. This begins with SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY.
Developed solely by Mazda, SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is not a package or trim level, but an all- encompassing, deeply embedded philosophy that obtaining more power, torque and miles per gallon does not need to come at the expense of fuel economy, design and safety. Its first application was in Mazda’s best-selling Mazda3, refreshed for 2012 with a SKYACTIV engine and transmissions. CX-5 is the first vehicle to receive all SKYACTIV components
1 SKYACTIV is a registered trademark of Mazda Motor Corporation (MC).

Under an expansive hood lies the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine. At 13:1, SKYACTIV-G features the world’s highest compression ratio for a mass-produced car. With its all-new 4-2-1 exhaust system, the 2013 CX-5 delivers 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, torque is measured at 150 lb- ft at 4,000 rpm and redline is reached at 6500 rpm. With a choice of transmissions in either the SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual or SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic, a 2,000-pound towing capacity and an optional all-wheel drive, the 2013 CX-5 truly offers a little of everything for everyone.
And the competition is not nearly as competitive to the CX-5’s best-in-class fuel economy. Compared to the compact SUV segment’s other gasoline-power makes and models, the CX-5 is not afraid to make a statement by matching the best highway figures and trumping the competitive set’s city mileage. Estimated EPA fuel economy for the CX-5 is 26 city/33 highway for a front-wheel drive equipped with SKYACTIV-MT. When equipped with SKYACTIV-Drive, the front-wheel drive model garners 26 city/32 highway. The all-wheel drive version, only available with SKYACTIV-Drive, also is a fuel sipper with an EPA rating of 25 city/30 highway.
Striking Style
A new “signature wing” front grille dominates the front fascia. Its black elongated trapezoidal pattern adds masculine depth, while wing-shaped, wraparound headlamps extend out, seemingly flirting a head-turning “hello” to passersby. This is KODO.
KODO, or “Soul of Motion,” is a design language inspired by nature which evokes how both startling beauty and immense power can be captured within a single motion. First unveiled in 2010 on the SHINARI concept car, a long and lean four-door sports coupe, and then on the MINAGI concept SUV earlier this year, from which CX-5 is based, KODO exemplifies the future direction of Mazda’s striking sheet metal strokes.
The CX-5’s sculptured body features taut, compact lines. Shapely front and rear fenders hug the sporty SUV’s available 17- and 19-inch rubber-and-rim packages, projecting a wide, low-slung stance. A sweeping swoosh line bridges the four corners with sleek, artistic expression. Topside, a pronounced crease begins at the A-pillar and darts sharply across the side panels, eventually wrapping itself around stylized tail lamps. The sharply raked A-pillar is matched by the angles of the C-pillar and rear window, topping an aggressive profile which, at the same time, affords all occupants one of the widest fields of view in the segment.
All these cuts in the sheet metal, the rounded surfaces and edgy creases, are as much for finesse as they are for function. With a targeted coefficient of drag of 0.33, the CX-5 aims to be the most aerodynamic compact SUV in the field. Not just for Zoom-Zoom but for the added benefit of improving fuel economy.
Sensible Purpose
Just as the exterior stirs the soul, the CX-5’s interior sparks the senses. Intuitive, with a multitude of frequently-used controls within reach, there is nothing you can’t do while ensconced in utmost comfort. Long and luxury-laced, the CX-5 sits on a segment-leading 106.3-inch wheelbase, seats five and offers a cabin that is undeniably flexible in order to accommodate the demands of today’s active lifestyles of all work and all play.
Rear cargo room is not only cavernous but clever. With a three-piece independent 40/20/40-split fold- flat second row, the CX-5 shows that whatever is thrown its way, it will catch – with room left to spare. A single-action topside button releases the left- and right-side seats to fold down while a looped handle frees the middle seat, which also folds flat – a segment first.
While the driver delights in all the glee of driving one of the most dynamically fun and satisfying compact SUVs on the road, there is no reason passengers can’t be allowed to enjoy the ride as well. Amongst the roomiest cabins in the segment, legroom for the second row is ample at 39.3 inches with an equally generous knee clearance of 2.6 inches. The wide cavity under the front seats also offers abundant rear passenger foot space and can be used as additional cargo room to hide personal belongings. Rear headroom is 39.0 inches for vehicles not equipped with a moonroof.
Up front, both the driver and passenger can enjoy 40.1 inches of headroom (when not equipped with a moonroof), 57.5 inches for the broadest of shoulders and 41.0 inches to stretch their legs. Six- and eight-way power-adjustable seats will be standard on all but the entry-level models.
Whether battling those curvaceous roads alone or rolling through town with a full house, commanding the sound studio on wheels is easily within reach for either the driver or front passenger. An all-new 5.8-inch touch screen becomes the center of attention with intuitive phone, audio and navigation functions. Streamlined steering wheel controls also enable a more straightforward operation of the infotainment system. Mazda’s advanced keyless entry system and push-button start get the CX-5 going.
Other available features on the all-new 2013 CX-5 include Bluetooth® phone and audio connectivity and iPod® audio playback. A nine-speaker Bose® Centerpoint® Surround Sound system with AudioPilot® was jointly developed with Mazda to please even the most discerning music enthusiasts. The CX-5 also is available with HD RadioTM Technology, a subscription-free digital AM and FM broadcast radio service which provides crystal-clear sound, on-screen information and additional programming choices via HD2 and HD3 channels.
In a first-time partnership with Mazda in North America, a TomTom® technology-based navigation system also will be offered and features premium North American maps, advanced lane guidance, intuitive voice recognition and real-time traffic. USB and auxiliary jack connections can be found in the center console storage bin and be accessed via the infotainment touch screen.
Secure in Safety
While safety never comes second, having the peace of mind to never have to worry about it in the first place is just as important. Being a compact SUV that doesn’t compromise, CX-5’s SKYACTIV-Body and SKYACTIV-Chassis ensure a vehicle structure as reinforced and quiet as it is rigid and absorbs impacts.
Re-examining the suspension and steering systems, the lightweight construction of the SKYACTIV- Chassis includes a front strut suspension and a multi-link rear format along with an assortment of design changes. Precise and predictable, drivers will feel secure in a vehicle that reacts as they react and balances agility, stability, comfort and safety.
The SKYACTIV-Body is comprised of 61 percent high-tensile steel, creating a lighter, stronger body with superior handling. As a result, the overall structure is eight percent lighter than previous Mazda models. The all-new CX-5 also has the distinction of being the first vehicle ever to utilize 1,800MPa ultra-high tensile steel in manufacturing. Located in the front and rear bumper beams, they are 20 percent stronger and 10.6 pounds lighter than previous generation bumpers. With the all-new CX-5, from the inside out, Mazda has spared no detail.
Standard safety offerings include six airbags (front, side and full side-curtain), four wheel disk brakes, anti-lock brakes (ABS), daytime running lights, active headrests, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), a Traction Control System (TCS) and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Also available are a Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system, Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFLS) with auto-levelling bi- xenon headlamps and a rear view camera with distance guide lines.
Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
For more information on Mazda vehicles, visit the online Mazda media center at Product B-roll may be ordered online by visiting The News Market at
2013 Mazda CX-5 Sport FWD 6MT
Engine: Inline-4, 2.0 liters, 16v
Output: 155 hp/150 lb-ft
Top Speed: 122 mph
Weight: 3208 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 26/35 mpg
Base Price: $20,695
2014 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD 2.5
Engine: Inline-4, 2.5 liters, 16v
Output: 184 hp/185 lb-ft
Weight: 3532 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 24/30 mpg
Base Price: $24,615
There are certain classes of vehicles that are, well, boring. It’s hard to get excited about minivans and soccer-mom crossovers. When you are Mazda, though, excitement isn’t just a necessity, it’s a part of the brand’s DNA. This is, after all, the brand that revived the roadster segment with the MX-5, produced rotary-powered masterpieces like the RX-7 and RX-8, and builds what is probably the angriest hot hatch on the market, the Mazdaspeed3. It has applied its fun-to-drive character to more mundane entries as well, such as the Mazda5 people-hauler. The 5 was Winding Road’s Best Minivan of 2012, because it did all the things that people haulers should do, and was more than happy to be driven as if it were stolen. Now, Mazda is working to apply that same character to the small CUV market.
“Ah ha!” you may be saying, “Mazda already builds a small CUV, called the CX-7.” Well, yeah, there is the CX-7, but the Zoom-Zoom brand’s first attempt at a tallish five-passenger vehicle met with some mixed results. It was a polarizing vehicle, from the way it was styled to its Mazdaspeed3-derived 2.3-liter, turbocharged engine (and its propensity for scarfing down dino juice faster than anything else in the segment). Even when a more conservative 2.5-liter was applied, it still failed to really catch on, due to a combination of high-ish price, not-great fuel economy, and, in the 2.5-liter model, a lack of all-wheel drive.
With the 2013 CX-5, Mazda is starting with a blank slate. This clean-sheet design will be Mazda’s volume crossover, as the CX-7 and Ford Escape-based Tribute will be (or already have been in the Tribute’s case) phased out.
The CX-5 will be the brand’s first vehicle to fully utilize the Skyactiv engineering philosophy. If you aren’t familiar with Skyactiv, you can get up to speed here and here. Suffice it to say, Skyactiv manages to blend efficiency with the same fun-to-drive character that’s been a Mazda hallmark ever since some little kid uttered “Zoom-Zoom.”
One of the tenets of Skyactiv is lowering curb weight and reducing the model-bloat that’s become a trend in the industry. As such, the CX-5 is considerably lighter than the CX-7. In fact, the heaviest CX-5 available (the all-wheel-drive Grand Touring model) is 575 pounds less chubby than the equivalent CX-7, thanks to a lighter body structure, lighter transmissions, and lighter drivelines. All of this good work makes for avfive-passenger crossover, capable of an segment-best 35 miles per gallon, that has a driving character that reminds us of the fantastic MX-5 Miata roadster.
That the CX-5 is actually a bit smaller than the CX-7 helps here, too. The new CUV is around five-inches shorter, one-inch narrower, and, interestingly, a few inches taller than the outgoing CX-7. And yet, cabin space is pretty decent. Your author’s six-foot-one-inch frame had no problems getting into either the front or back seats. Once in the front, there’s enough adjustability to really get situated. Shoulder and headroom are quite good as well.
Despite its smaller stature, we were surprised to find that overall space in the CX-5 is better than the CX-7 by about two cubic feet. This is immediately noticeable in back, where the smaller Mazda has an extra three inches of legroom. The trunk doesn’t have quite as much usable space as we remember from our last CX-7 (the CX-5’s load area is taller but shorter), but we suspect that it’ll serve most people well. The CX-5 can also be had with a center-seat pass-through (making for 40/20/40 seating) for longer items, rather than the standard 60/40 split.
The CX-5 will be available in three trims, Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring in ascending order. The base Sport comes standard with seventeen-inch alloys (Mazda’s quite proud of the fact that the CX-5 won’t offer a steel-wheel option in the United States), push-button start, tilt/telescopic steering, and cruise control. Moving up to the volume Touring model adds a power driver’s seat, blind spot monitoring, a 5.8-inch touchscreen display, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and HD radio. The top-spec Grand Touring comes standard with nineteen-inch wheels, dual-zone air conditioning, Bose audio, heated seats, and a sunroof. Front-wheel drive will be standard, but all three trims will be available with all-wheel drive. A six-speed manual will be available on the front-wheel-drive Sport, while all other trims will feature a six-speed auto.
The CX-5’s design is based on the Minagi concept car, and is Mazda’s first production vehicle to utilize the Kodo design language. It’s a nice looking vehicle this, with pleasing proportions. The A-pillar appears further back, and gives the CX-5’s the long-hood-look of a roadster like the MX-5. The roofline cuts aggressively down into a pleasant fastback shape, and helps the car feel more compact than it actually is. Finally, the new five-point grille gives a real feeling of width, as it cuts into the headlights before leading to the lower center portion of the front grille.
The interior is modern and clean, with soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels. There’s a strip of piano black trim running across the dash, dividing the upper and lower portions, which as Mazda North American Design Director Derek Jenkins accurately stated, is there because, “People like shiny stuff.”
The driver-centric cockpit features a small, sporty steering wheel, with nice bolsters at the ten and two positions. The shifter falls naturally into the right hand, and the major controls of the center stack are logically laid out and within easy reach. Seats are cloth on the base model and leather on upmarket trims, and, despite what Mazda says, are designed more for comfort than aggressive driving. A bit more side bolstering to hold us in place would have been welcomed, especially when we were pushing it on roads of our drive route.
We tested both automatic and manual CX-5’s around the Monterey peninsula and Carmel Valley, before heading to the legendary Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for some autocross time and a few laps of the track (more on that in a bit). The road surface around Monterey was delightfully varied, with a combination of great twists and turns, decent straights through farm country, and road conditions that ranged from track-like to Detroit-like over the course of a 90-mile loop. While we did spend some time in the all-wheel-drive model, we’ll be saving that one for a proper test from our Detroit-based crew, and have focused our impressions here on the front-drive CX-5.
The difficult thing about reviewing the CX-5 is that it’s so unlike other crossovers in the way that it drives. It’s the least powerful vehicle in its class. With 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, it’s overpowered by such mundane crossovers as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, both of which boast anywhere from 20 to 30 more horsepower and 10 to 20 more pound-feet of torque. It’s also not substantially lighter than the competition, weighing between 3208 and 3426 pounds, depending on the driveline. Based on stats alone, it shouldn’t be an endearing car for the enthusiast.
Except it totally is. What those numbers don’t tell you is that the 2.0-liter engine is a rev-happy little hooligan, gleefully zipping towards the redline. The meatiest part of the rev range is from 3000 to 5500 rpm, which is plenty accessible due to the quick-revving engine. Mid-range punch is excellent, and makes for an addicting passing experience. Runs up to redline are equally fun, as this engine delivers a smooth, bossy engine note. The only area where we found the CX-5 struggling was on a very steep grade, called Laureles Grade Road, near the track. It’s a roughly ten-percent incline, climbing around 1000 feet over the course of a few miles. The Mazda is spritely on level pavement, but its lack of torque relative to its curb weight really showed through on this stretch of pavement.
In the bends, the CX-5 is a total momentum car. It’s meant to stitch together turns by carrying as much speed as possible through them. It excels at this, as we found out on the roads of Carmel Valley. The suspension tuning has delivered a well-balanced vehicle. Squat, dive, and body roll are present and accounted for, coming on smooth and progressively, but never in such a degree as to compromise the handling confidence. On the turns, you can feel the CX-5 kind of dig in, and grip through the bend. On rougher patches of road, it is a bit choppy thanks to its stiff suspension, but considering its outright fun-to-drive handling profile, we’re willing to accept a bit of roughness. If you are more interested in comfort, we’d recommend avoiding the nineteen-inch wheels. The stock seventeens look plenty good, and felt considerably smoother over bumpy patches.
Mazda spent a lot of time tuning both the front suspension and the electric power steering system to get the most feedback from both. The result is probably the most communicative steering we’ve ever seen on small SUV, and easily the most talkative EPAS system we’ve ever tested. The quick, linear tiller features a 15.5:1 ratio, so it’s quick, without feeling overboosted or artificial. When pushing around turns, the steering feels attached directly to you, as it relays information on what the front tires were doing.
We ended the day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where we had the track and a temporary autocross course at our disposal. Running the legendary course was good fun, but our biggest issue was building up enough speed in the CX-5 to really string turns together. In a car as slow as this, a high-speed track like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca just isn’t a great indicator of performance. The slower, more technical autocross, on the other hand, was more its speed (as it were). The CX-5 felt light on its feet, and handled the twists and turns of the autocross with relative ease. It was here that we really got the full indication as to how communicative this car is. There’s a lot of feedback, even at the low speeds of the autocross, coming through the suspension and steering.
When some of the Mazda folk called this a five-door MX-5, we thought it was just typical PR talk, trying to build up their brand’s newest product by referencing the perennial favorite. After driving it on some great roads and on a tight and twisting autocross course, we think the comparison is actually pretty accurate. This is a light, fun-to-drive, affordable vehicle that relies more on handling than outright speed to entertain its passengers. At the same time, it’s economical, versatile, and comfortable. It feels like a winning combination to us.
We’ve already driven the base-model Mazda CX-5 recently, and found it to be a really great handler on the track. For the segment, it is especially well suited to transitioning from corner to corner, carrying speed. Roll is controlled pretty well, and the car communicates information about grip and road surface through the suspension and the tiller. Steering is rather responsive, and when pointed mostly dead ahead, always feels prepared to jump into the next curve at your command.
It takes some work in the CX-5 to build a lot of momentum. Our front-drive tester sported a six-speed manual transmission. Its 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder (the same Skyactiv powerplant found in the Mazda3) engine produces just 155 horsepower and 150 pound feet of torque, making it feel downright slow a lot of the time. With a light-feeling clutch, it’s easy to get a good start off the line, but one really has to wring this engine out to make the most of its power. The engine is happy to climb the rev ladder, but starts to sound a bit harsh as you get into those higher reaches. Plus, this engine struggles whenever you need that extra bit of power, such as on steep grades or in passing maneuvers.
There is a definite upside to this little engine, though, in that it is very fuel-efficient. Achieving 26 miles per gallon in the city, and an impressive 35 mpg on the highway, the manual-equipped CX-5 is a class leader when it comes to sipping fuel. We found stretching out the life of a tank of gas to be surprisingly easy on a long highway trip, even with two other passengers and the cargo area packed pretty tightly. We saw nearly 32 mpg over the course of 535 miles, during our week of use.
The CX-5 feels nicely spacious, despite its compact footprint. The amount of luggage we were able to fit behind the rear row of seating—while still being able to see out the back—was rather impressive. With the seats up, there is 34.1 cubic feet of cargo volume, which expands to 65.4 cubic feet with the rear seats down. There’s no lack of head or legroom either, and ingress and egress for both rows was relatively easy. Plus, the standard interior of the CX-5 is pretty inviting, with decent hard and soft plastics materials attractively laid out.
Long-term comfort was a small issue in the CX-5, though. As we said, the motor does sound pretty buzzy when taken into the higher reaches of the revs. Depending on the surface of the road, the CX-5’s tires and suspension do transmit quite a bit of sound into the cabin. Vibrations through the steering wheel, while communicative for enthusiastic driving, do become fatiguing over the long haul, as does having to work so hard to keep the speed up (we found ourselves resorting to using the standard cruise control whenever possible, to give our legs and right arm a break). Finally, the seats in the base trim aren’t as supportive as they could be, particularly in the upper torso, neck, and head.
In general, we found this entry-level CX-5 to be a wonderful little package. It adheres to—champions, even—Mazda’s formula of efficient, practical, yet fun-to-drive vehicles. It’s a good value for those who want a communicative handler without sacrificing space, and its utterly impressive fuel economy means it continues to be a value even after driving it off the lot.
2014 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD 2.5
The Mazda CX-5 wormed its way into our hearts on our first outing, and continued to impress from there. We flung it around Laguna Seca Mazda Raceway, tested it on the winding roads of the Carmel Valley, and finally, spent some time with it around southeastern Michigan.
Throughout those adventures, the tossability and fun-to-drive nature of the CX-5 remained a talking point. A bigger talking point, though, was the absolute lack of power. Mazda built an entertaining crossover, but it was too underpowered to live up to its suspension’s potential.
Thankfully, that’s been solved for the 2014 model year. Joining the 155-horsepower, 150-pound-foot, 2.0-liter Skyactiv four-pot is the brawnier 2.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder from the Mazda6 (review coming very soon).
In all honesty, this is the engine that the CX-5 should have had in the first place. It packs 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, yet its fuel economy is only slightly penalized: front-drive models only lose one highway mile per gallon, while all-wheel-drivers lose one mpg in the city and one mpg on the highway. The sole transmission choice is the same six-speed auto found in the new Mazda6.
Power is reasonable throughout the rev range, with a particular heartiness at below 4000 rpms. The throttle response is manageable, and the downshifting switch on the gas pedal has just the right level of resistance. It even makes a rather nice sound.
We’ll go into more details of this transmission in our write-up of the Mazda6, but suffice it to say, it’s one of the best autos we’ve seen in sometime. There’s no hunting for gears on downshifts, and it’s more than willing to hold a gear when climbing grades. The version found in the CX-5 hesitates ever so slightly compared to the Mazda6, and the lack of both paddle shifters for the auto and a dedicated manual option is rather annoying.
Regardless, the 2.5-liter is a natural fit for one of Mazda’s fastest-selling vehicles. Its performance matches up with the competition, while still achieving over 30 mpg on the highway. There’s really not much more that we need in a small, affordable crossover.


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