2013 Mazda CX-5 Road Test Review
The all-new 2013 Mazda CX-5 jumps into the compact crossover segment and makes a big splash.
Scores High: Sporty handling and styling, flexible interior design, fuel efficiency
Scores Low: Substantial road and wind noise, Lacking power in certain situations
Total Car Score Analysis
Replacing the Mazda Tribute (which was last sold for the 2011 model year), the 2013 Mazda CX-5 is a strong contender in the Compact SUV & Crossovers segment. It receives a "recommended" rating in our analysis, scoring well above the segment average.
While the segment is quite crowded, what is most impressive about the Mazda CX-5 is that it competes effectively with several well-established crossovers, including the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. Where Mazda aims to differentiate the CX-5 is by attracting buyers who would prefer sportier cars yet still need an SUV for its passenger and cargo-carrying capabilities. With an emphasis on Mazda's reputation for "zoom-zoom" driving dynamics, plus a host of new gas-saving technology, Mazda has created a crossover that is both fun to drive and among the most fuel efficient in the category.
The CX-5 is Mazda's first design from the new "Kodo" philosophy, which means "Soul of Motion.” It provides clues for Mazda’s future styling direction. Gone is the Mazda "smile" up front, replaced by a bolder look with an upright, five-point grille and sweeping headlights that lead to a longer, prominent hood. Sweeping bodylines over the fender and doors give it a sporty profile.
Mazda wants the CX-5 to be one of the sportiest compact crossovers available, and its responsive steering and confident handling confirms the brand’s success. The 2013 Mazda CX-5 feels stable on twisty roads, moreso than its competitors. It is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine making 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The engine can be paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is available on all trims.
One feature that increases its fun-to-drive rating is the manual setting for the automatic transmission that holds the selected gear until the driver initiates a gear change. This feature is also helpful for those situations where the Mazda CX-5 feels underpowered, such as uphill highway on ramps. In these circumstances the 2.0-liter engine doesn't have quite the "oomph” necessary to feel confident in traffic. It has a maximum tow capacity of 2,000 pounds.
The CX-5 is Mazda's first vehicle to feature its new SkyActiv technology, where essentially every part of the drivetrain was designed for top fuel efficiency and reduced weight. Engine features like a super-high combustion ratio of 13:1 and all-new 6-speed automatic transmission give the 2013 Mazda CX-5 best-in-class fuel economy in the segment, among non-hybrid models. The CX-5 gets an EPA-estimated 26 city/35 highway mpg for front-wheel drive models with manual transmission, while automatic transmission FWD models get 26 city/32 highway mpg. All-wheel drive models get an EPA-estimated 25 city/31 highway mpg.
Interior Design and Function
The 2013 Mazda CX-5 has a streamlined interior with a straightforward design for the dash and instrument panel, making it easy to view key information and access the various climate and audio controls. The seats are comfortable and their position relative to the dashboard gives the driver more of a hunkered-down feeling versus the higher, minivan-like seating position of most competitors in this segment.
Despite this cockpit-like seating arrangement, forward visibility was uncompromised in the CX-5. Rearward visibility, however, was a bit strained due to rear-end styling that compresses the rear windows. A backup camera and blind spot monitor, standard on the Touring and Grand Touring trim levels, somewhat offset this issue. Drivers of the CX-5 Sport, the base trim, may find it more of a challenge in parking lot and lane-change maneuvers since neither of these features is offered on that model.
In the rear, there is ample space for two adults or three children, though some owners have complained that exiting the vehicle is a challenge due to the angle of the door openings. Others have bemoaned the lack of vents in the rear area for effective heating and air conditioning.
The CX-5 exhibited substantial cabin noise when driving, with engine noise prominent under hard acceleration. Road and wind noise were also evident at speeds over 45 mph. While this is often a characteristic of sporty cars, compact crossover buyers will likely find them less than desirable.
Primary Features and Options
All 2013 Mazda CX-5 models come with remote keyless entry, push-button start, power windows and door locks, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel and 17-inch wheels. Standard safety features on all trims include six airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution as well as stability and traction control. It has received a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a four-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The base CX-5 Sport model offers only satellite radio and the Bluetooth Audio package as options. The latter includes hands-free phone and audio-streaming with steering-wheel-mounted controls, an HD radio and 5.8-inch color touch-screen monitor. Touring models, which Mazda expects to represent the bulk of sales, get the Sport model's Bluetooth Audio Package as standard, as well as a standard six-way power driver's seat, backup camera and blind spot monitor. CX-5 Touring options include a moonroof, navigation, satellite radio and an upgraded audio system with Bose surround sound. The top-of-the-line Grand Touring model's standard features include an eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, 19-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, auto on/off headlights, the Bose audio system and moonroof. The optional Grand Touring Technology Package includes navigation, bi-Xenon HID auto-leveling headlamps, adaptive front lighting and an auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink.
It’s Perfect For…
If fun and function is what you are looking for then the 2013 Mazda CX-5 should be on your list. For drivers who still want to enjoy their driving experience, yet have the flexibility to comfortably carry the crew and their gear (and maybe tow something small), the CX-5 offers all of that in a convenient package starting at $20,995. But keep in mind the Mazda’s refinement, at least in terms of road noise and interior design, aren’t quite up to segment leaders.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $28,595
Options on Test Vehicle: Rear parking sensor -- $475, Rear bumper guard -- $100, Retractable cargo cover -- $190, Roof rack/side rails -- $250, Grand Touring Technology Package (includes navigation system, advanced keyless entry system, HID headlamps with auto-leveling, adaptive front lighting, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, burglar alarm) -- $1,325.
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $31,730
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.