2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring HD Video Review

Everyone wants great gas mileage.  No one wants to give up the sport ute lifestyle.  It’s just human nature, we hate to compromise.  Mazda thinks their new compact crossover, the 2013 CX-5, is a win-win solution.  Make that win-win-win, since in addition to being fuel efficient and practical, it handles like a Mazda.  And for those who love to drive, that is a good thing.

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You know the competition, right? Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, and Toyota RAV4.  When it comes to getting the most out of a gallon of gas, Mazda crows that CX-5 is best in class. Go with a front-drive six-speed manual transmission combination and the EPA rates it at 26 mpg city, 35 highway.  My Grand Touring tester has a six-speed automatic tranny and all-wheel drive.  It scores 25/31 highway.  This is, in technical terminology, not too shabby.

How Does It Do That?

One word- SKYACTIV.  SKYACTIV is Mazda’s marketing term that describes a whole bunch of techniques and technologies that make their cars cleaner and more fuel-efficient. Simply put, a SKYACTIV Mazda gets a sophisticated engine, transmission, plus optimized weight and aerodynamics.

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The CX-5 Sport with manual transmission is 73 pounds lighter than a Mazdaspeed3 hatchback.  Impressive.  This is done in part with a new high-strength steel that’s stronger and lighter than anything on the market.  Only Sportage and Tucson are lighter, and only by a smidge.

The 2.0-liter SKYACTIV G engine helps too (G stands for gasoline, the SKYACTIV D diesel is not available in the USA).  Topped by a pretty blue engine shroud, the four-cylinders make 155 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM and 150 ft-lb or torque @ 4000 RPM.

Most consumers could care less about the special direct fuel injection with multi-hole injectors, unique piston cavity shapes that allow a shorter combustion time, a 4-2-1 exhaust system, and a high compression ratio of 13:1 which is higher than Ferraris.  They’ll just be happy about better fuel economy and the fact it runs on standard grade gas. CX-5 is the first to get the whole SKYACTIV shebang.  The special manifold couldn’t be wedged into the bay of the Mazda3.

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Mazda says the six-speed automatic combines the key advantages of a conventional auto box (smoothness), a CVT (efficiency), and a dual clutch transmission (crisp gear changes).  I like it.  Like most modern cars these days it upshifts aggressively to max out gas mileage to the point where it sometimes feels as if the engine is bogging down a touch.  The same can be said about the 2012 BMW 328i I drove a few weeks back.  Welcome to the new normal.

Does Fuel Efficiency Mean Pokey?

Not really, though this isn’t an RX-8 (may it RIP).  0-60 in around 9 seconds is similar to Honda CR-V.  As a brand, it can be argued that Mazda’s reputation for driving dynamics is bested only by expensive marks such as BMW and Porsche.  CX-5 keeps the flame alive.  No, it’s not a Miata but for a crossover it keeps the grins coming in the corners with little body roll.  The suspension is on the firm side but won’t rattle your fillings loose.

The structure is solid and moderately quiet.  Brakes have excellent modulation.  Do much towing?  The 5 can tug up to 2,000 pounds.  The 5 rides on an all-new platform, one that is not related to any Ford product.  In case you haven’t heard, the two companies have gone their separate ways.

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CX-5 easily goes from city slicker to Woodsy Owl when all-wheel drive is ordered. My tester endured a full day of what can only be called abuse during the 2012 Mudfest SUV competition.  25 automotive writers pounding on it over rough terrain for a full day is like a lifetime of off-road use for most owners.  No squeaks, no rattles, no parts falling off.  In the end CX-5 won for Best Value.

Best Interior Award

My tester is a top-of-the-line Grand Touring model and the cabin looks great. Crisp gauges and high quality materials give it a rich appearance.  The dashboard is soft to the touch, piano black inserts and metallic accents dress up the space.  A USB port is standard, and here’s a concept, the touch screen interface is easy to understand so an owner can tailor the features to their liking.  The Tom Tom navigation system is easy to use.  Comfortable heated leather seats have healthy side bolstering for support when driving hard on twisty roads.

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The Bose surround sound system is quite good, though not as good as Acura ELS or Lincoln THX.  Again, the Mazda is more affordable.  Small touches like sun visor extensions and a glasses holder make it easy to live in.  Climate control is automatic and dual-zone.

A blind-spot warning system is standard on Touring and Grand Touring models (something not even available on the new Acura RDX). The Tech Package option includes self-leveling adaptive bi-xenon headlamps.  Ward’s AutoWorld has named this cockpit to its “10 Best Interiorslist for 2012 if that helps your brain get a read on it.

Room For Friends, Family and Gear

Moving to the back seat, two large adults or three 12 year olds will be quite comfortable and CX-5 is the only crossover in-class with available triple split seatbacks.   2013_mazda_cx-5_037  There’s a folding armrest too.  Foot room is especially generous because of raised front seats, a slightly raised driveshaft tunnel isn’t overly intrusive.

There’s a good amount of storage with two seat pockets and door storage but no adjustable air vents.  Folks in back can use the power port in the front center console to charge iPods and phones.

My gripes are few and minor. Base models don’t get standard Bluetooth and I’m a firm believer that every new car should have this.  It looks like a secure space could have been designed for it, but there’s not dedicated storage spot for the optional security cover when it’s not I use.  It either rattles around in back or stays in the garage.  Stylistically, I prefer one color of lighting to tie the interior together (the center stack is orange, the gauges are white), and the wiper stalk is in the way of the start button.

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The big kahuna in both sales and cargo space is the Honda CR-V.  It holds 12 packs of my trunk measuring metric, Kirkland brand bath tissue.  CX-5 holds 10 and it has to be cajoled in.  Under the load floor is a space-saver spare, crossovers head off-road and it’s nice to have more than a repair kit on board.  There’s a power port in the rear as well.

CX-5 Speaks KODO

This is the first production vehicle drawn up in Mazda’s new KODO design language.  It bodes well for upcoming models like the upcoming  Mazda6.  In the week I drove this rig, a lot of people came up to ask about it and compliment the lines.  It manages to be both crossover chunky and stylistically svelt at the same time.

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A base CX-5 Sport runs $21,490 with destination.  The loaded Grand Touring I’m driving stickers for  $30,415.  That means the Mazda CX-5 is not just fun, capable and fuel efficient, it’s a pretty good deal.  That’s pretty much what we’re all looking for these days.  Shopping for a compact crossover?  Definitely put CX-5 on the test drive list.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  ALL STILL PHOTO.S PROVIDED BY MAZDA.

29 Comments

  1. pucco says:

    Great review tom,
    I really like this car, i am choosing between cx5 and crv but after test drive cx5, i feel like the suspension is a little harsh, if you score it from 1 to 10 between honda crv and cx5
    What score will u give for the comfort of cx5 and Honda Crv? Because i haven’t tryHonda Crv.

    Thanks

    • TV says:

      CR-V is set a bit more for comfort than the Mazda. I find the CX-5 more fun to drive though. You’ll have to be the judge on which dynamic you prefer personally. Best of luck!

  2. krb0905 says:

    I love this new small crossover SUV and I’ve always been a big fan of Mazda ever since my first car, a 2000 Mazda Protege. It would appear that Mazda really did a good job with this new design to integrate the skyactive tech into a larger platform than just the Mazda 3 and I’m really excited to see how they incorporate it into a more powerful V-6 Mazda 6. I am considering buying a CX-5 and have test driven it already but I have some concerns with the engine size. It runs fine brand new but does anyone have an insight on how the CX-5 holds its power with the 155HP after like 50,000 miles? Thanks!

  3. bikebudha1 says:

    Tom,

    Any idea why you can’t get the 5-speed and the all-wheel drive in the same vehicle? Seems backwards to me, I want the stick and the all wheel drive combo for the snow (Spokane). That I can’t get that combo takes this vehicle off my shopping list. And while we are at it, why aren’t we getting the diesel engine here in the US? (Did you hear anything about getting it at a later date)? That would be my dream combo – stick, all-wheel, and diesal.

    Thanks.

    • TV says:

      Talking to Mazda, they say the AWD / manual combo isn’t going to happen. Could be a dozen different reasons for this. My condolences to you.

      As for SKYACTIV-D, it is coming but Mazda declines to pinpoint which model and when it will arrive. Both Mazda2 and CX-5 have diesels in Europe, those are your two best bets.

  4. harleypan86 says:

    Hello Tom: there are 2 reviews on YouTube saying that CX-5 has loud wind noise/road noise in high speed. Its cabin is not quiet. What do you think about this? How is that compared to the new 2012 CR-V? Which one is quieter?

    • TV says:

      Without using a decibel meter, I thought the sound level was competitive with CR-V. Both of them seem quieter than I would have expected consider both brands are known for their road noise. I took a bunch of teens up to a Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Vancouver BC, road and wind noise was not an issue. I’m a little surprised that it is something others point out. I specifically remember thinking it was fine.

  5. DCR says:

    Tom,

    There must exist a huge difference in ride quality between the 19″ Toyos on the CX-5 GT and the 17″ OE Yokos that Consumer Reports drove their review on. Was your GT as annoying as they made it sound? Just curious?? btw, Noisy tires can easily be fixed. Just have the dealer replace them with quieter ones within the Yoko family or your favorite brand of tire. Do you agree with CR’s NVH assessment? Does the GT carry more sound insulation than say the Touring?

    • DCR says:

      btw, of all of the CX-5 reviews I have viewed thus far which were all assessed on a CX-5 GT, CR’s CX-5 Touring NVH assessment was the harshest, so threw me off of my seat a bit if you know what I mean?

      • TV says:

        As I wrote above, it was not an issue with the vehicle I drove, even on a long road trip. It kind of surprises me that CR finds it an issue. Different tires? I shrug my shoulders…

    • Zoom0815er says:

      Noisy tires. I have a loaded Grand Touring and love this car EXCEPT the Toyo tires are noisy and make a whirring noise under 40 mph especially. 1500 miles on it. Taking to dealer next week to have a look/hear. Wondering if it is the tires or perhaps the roof rack I had added. More later.

  6. kenwenzel says:

    Wasn’t the CX5 developed while Mazda & Ford were splitting? I thought the CX5 & new Escape/Kuga were based on the same under stamping. I was suspicious that the new Evoque had an Escape base, although a highly modified base. Another good review. I sat in a CX5 at the Dallas auto show and was impressed. I also sat in the Evoque in Austin. The Evoque was a bit crowded in there if you are 6 foot tall, but an awesome interior.I like the fact that some car companies actually can actually paint in colors other than black, white & silver. It would be nice if the HP rating was 200 or above. It seems they may have lost a Zoom from their Zoom-Zoom.

  7. CanuckRuss says:

    Hi, Tom.
    Love your auto reviews, btw. Great mix of humour and information. I was debating whether to get the entry-level GX or get a Subaru Impreza 5-dr (watched your review of that one recently). Leaning toward the CX-5. Did you find the rear visibility in the CX-5 to be a problem? The rear pillars are kinda thick.

    • TV says:

      Not any worse than any other vehicle these days. Obviously, I don’t know your height or how you position yourself when driving and that’s a huge factor. It’s best to test drive them and see for yourself.

      You should also check the ground clearance or the two if you live in a place where there’s a lot of snow. I’m just assuming by your handle you live in the Great White North…

      • CanuckRuss says:

        Hi, Tom. I test drove the CX-5 and found the rear visibility a bit reduced at the corners, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. If the Subaru Forester had the same fuel economy as this vehicle, then I might have a difficult decision to make, but after sitting in many wagons and CUVs recently, I was pretty happy with the overall package.

        I thought AWD in a Subaru would be great in the days we get snow up here just north of the border, but it’s a fair bit more expensive for the Forester compared to the CX-5 or Impreza 5-dr. And with 3 pre-teen boys, I’m going to need the extra room that a CUV affords, for sure.

        Thanks for you feedback!

  8. augaug says:

    Hi Tom, Did you ever get the feeling that it feels underpowered compared to it’s competitors? There’s a LOT that I like about this car, but I was wondering if the lower horsepower number compared to it’s competitors really made a difference in the seat of the pants type feel? Thanks!

    • TV says:

      It’s a tick less quick that the CR-V but it’s probably not a deal breaker for most people. If you test drive the automatic you will notice it likes to find the higher gears and stay there. As always, these reviews as guides to see what the vehicle has to offer. Nothing is a substitute for getting out there and driving.

  9. Ken says:

    I will take this one over Hyundai or Kia, I haven’t tested this car, but I have driven Mazdas before, they have have much better road feedback than Hyundai or Kia. The exterior design is catching up to H and K, but I will give up some exterior design for better steering feedback.

  10. WorldCarFanatic says:

    Instead of simply saying that two adult will be quite comfortable in the rear seats, could you please show the front/rear seat leg room like you used to? The way you did in your Acura RDX video is perfect.

    I really appreciate you telling us your height as you sit in the rear and show the car’s interior leg room. This is a very crucial piece of information that is often missed by car reviewers!

    I’ve subscribed to almost every car review channel on YouTube, and so far I honestly think yours is the best. Why? Because you almost always covered everything that matters:

    1) Straightline acceleration.

    2) Handling/Cornering ability.

    3) Ride comfort.

    4) Interior passenger room.

    5) Cargo room.

    6) Interior noise.

    Also, you really did a great job at maintaining a good volume and clarity of voice/sound in your videos. There are too many car review videos out there with music that’s much louder than the reviewer’s voice and/or the voice being poorly recorded (w/ wind noise, fluctuating volume, etc.). Those are extremely annoying and unprofessional!

    Please keep up the great work! Both on the videos and your website.

    And just so you know, I do click on the ads to support your effort!

    • TV says:

      I actually though of this post while I was driving the Dodge Dart today. Should have printed it out so I knew what to talk about!

      Glad you like the reviews, thanks for the atta boy!

  11. JcHnd says:

    Great review, I always watch them in youtube, but here they come earlier, so I decided to register. Now, I really like the design of this car, but it looks kind of low in the ground clearance department, do you think the same? because its a real deal breaker for me, my country (Honduras) owns some really bad roads for driving so I decided a small SUV is my choice of car, and another question, can you recomend a car with higher ground clearance in this category?

    • TV says:

      Ah, yes you are right. I post them here a week earlier.

      Honduras? I hesitate to give any numbers because a) there’s a good chance you have choices we don’t and b) the possibility that with your rougher roads, the specs may change from the US.

      What are your buying options down there and what are you leaning towards?

      • JcHnd says:

        is not that I live in a canyon or something, is not really that rough but i have the problem that i scratch the bottom of my sedan all the time (honda civic) and i hate that, so im looking for a car in the same category as the mazda cx5, a crossover, not that big and not a gas vamipre… i mean on the fuel efficient side, im not looking for a too expensive car either… here i have most of the brands as usa… about the specs I think you’re right, the honda crv came with a sticker that said “specially tuned for latin america” wich I dont really know what it means… so, can you give me any choices please?

        • CalgaryGuy says:

          Ground clearance is about 8.5 in. / 210 mm (I’ve got Canada/US numbers only). So it is higher than competitors like Honda CRV (but about 2 inches) and Toyota RAV4. A fraction of an inch shorter than Forester (195 mm). Actually, as a car guy, I’d prefer the CX-5 to be a bit lower — but that would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

          I found a very comfortable interior, when I visited my local dealer. Bigger and more luxurious than what I’m used to (No, I’ve never driven a Lexus). Equivalent fuel economy to Ford Escape Hybrid, and my Toyota Matrix.

          • JcHnd says:

            hmmm thank you so much then, that clears a lot, I’ll just wait to the next generation RAV4 to see if it delivers, but right now the CX-5 might be the next addition to my family, Thank you so much to both CalgaryGuy and Driven! :D

            • TV says:

              Yeah, you’ll be looking at the popular choices like RAV, CR-V, Escape, Outback and the rest.

              The Mudfest event where I shot the off-road video has moderately rough roads and water that was around a foot deep in places. Every car entered did fine and some of the writers really hammered them through the course. I was fairly hard though not overly abusive and not a one of them scraped the undercarriage. Sounds like any of these would be fine for you. Best of luck!

  12. motorstreet says:

    This is one of my favorite small SUVs. I think the interior and exterior styling is better than just about anything under $30000. The cargo space, big back seat, fuel economy, and handling is great. The diesel version should be great. It is expected to have about 170hp and 300lb.ft. It should also get fuel economy in the high 30mpg to low 40 mpg range and the reviews of the European diesel models have been great. My only gripes with the CX-5 are the pricing and the manual transmission is FWD only. I guess the car tested here has a lot of features for $30000, but competitors like the Tiguan and Ford Escape offer much more powerful turbocharged engines for that price without giving up too many features. The diesel model should be better value for money because with 300lb.ft. its performance will be much better and the money saved in fuel will make up for the price premium.