2013 Mazda CX-5 new car reviews

This is Mazda's first car to explore their new design language. It has much broader appeal than the love-it-or-hate-it smiley styling of the outgoing cars.
The CX-5 did everything well, including swallow our big bag of luggage.
Mazda's first ground-up Skyactiv design is a success: We averaged 33 mpg with this one in stop-and-go Los Angeles-area traffic.

Better than: Honda CR-V
But not as good as: Three Mazda MX-5s
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 77.01

Mazda has launched an all-new model for 2013: the CX-5 crossover. This is Mazda's smallest SUV, and also its first vehicle to be built from the ground up with Mazda's new SkyActiv design philosophy.

SkyActiv is Mazda's latest design kick. It revolves around light, direct injection, high compression engines and lightweight vehicle construction. The CX-5 is the lightest vehicle in its class, and it gets the best fuel mileage. However, does it really drive like a Miata? Find out in the counterpoints below.

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Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

The problem with using phrases like “sets a new standard” and “utterly revolutionary” in car reviews is that they’ve been played so hard that everyone just writes them off as hyperbole. Which is a bummer, because the Mazda CX-5 is completely at home having those praises heaped upon it.

When Mazda designed the CX-5, they started with a clean sheet—there’s no parts bin engineering here—and the result is a small SUV that not only blows the competition out of the water in terms of driving dynamics, but drives well enough to rival some sports sedans.

Look, I’m not going to lie to you and say the CX-5 throws down crazy handling numbers, because it doesn’t. Although it was clearly well-designed, it must still obey the laws of physics, and it is a tall-in-the-saddle utility wagon type deal. It’s not going to win a skidpad challenge or a slalom-a-thon. But there’s more to handling than numbers, and when I tell you that the CX-5 reminds me of my 944, I’m not blowing smoke up your butt. The steering response is as sharp and crisp as anything you’re likely to drive, and the experience is more rewarding than any SUV should be. Even the seating position is sporty—supportive, with plenty of leverage for all the controls, and with a good sense that YOU are in control, not a passenger with route suggestion rights.

The interior is typical late model Mazda, which is to say functional, attractive and durable feeling. Nothing blows you away about the materials or ergonomics, which makes it sound like we’re damning with faint praise, but it’s a bit like a strong character actor in a good movie: the better he or she does his job, the less you notice. Passenger and cargo space is typical for the class, which is to say good for four, tight but doable for five.

If we wanted to pick nits, we’d say that the 2.0-liter Skyactiv four cylinder is a little weak for this application. It sometimes needs a heavier than expected foot to keep pace in traffic. But the flipside of that is absolutely retarded fuel economy. In three days of heavy OC and L.A. traffic, I averaged 33mpg. Yes, this has been proofread.

So, yeah, two major thumbs up here. I won’t say anything like “Best small SUV ever” because you’re jaded and wouldn’t believe me anyway, but I totally could.

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