Mazda has always had a special place in almost every so called enthusiasts’ heart. They make some of the most fun to drive affordable cars on the road in just about every segment they enter. When Mazda got into financial trouble after Ford sold their shares in the company, the future looked bleak. As an owner of a rotary powered Mazda, I was concerned to see the unique, fun oriented brand face these hard times. As almost every automaker was going the fuel efficient route with hybrid, diesel or direct injection turbo engines, Mazda wasn’t able to compete in that regard due to the lack of funds. In addition to lagging behind in engine technology, Mazda’s style irked a few people as well. The wide smile plastered across each of Mazda’s models would make even the Joker envious. How will the Zoom-Zoom brand respond and restore confidence to the nervous Mazda aficionados?
SkyActiv is Mazda’s answer to ever increasing fuel economy standards and is more than just a series of engines and transmissions, in fact, Skyactiv has become the cultural mantra for the small Hiroshima based automaker. Their whole mission for SkyActiv was to create fuel efficient, low emissions automobiles that didn’t sacrifice Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom character. To that end, Mazda started with a clean slate and created a newer and lighter chassis. Along with the use of aluminum and high strength steel, Mazda took removing weight to a whole new level by even using light weight bolts! They clearly weren’t fooling around and with their back against the ropes, Mazda had to come out swinging.
The first full SkyActiv equipped car, the CX-5, is set to take the place of the CX-7 which Mazda is slowly phasing out of its lineup due to low sales volumes. The CX-5 is only slightly smaller than the CX-7 but boasts more cargo room, better fuel economy, and great value. The CX-5 debuted with a direct injected 2.0L naturally aspirated four cylinder boasting a lofty 13:1 compression ratio pushing out a healthy 155hp @ 6000RPM and 150lb-ft of torque @ 4000RPM. The SkyActiv four cylinder can be mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. The manual is only available on front wheel drive Sport models and will eek out 26mpg in the city and 35mpg on the highway. The automatic is standard equipment on the Touring and Grand Touring models, yielding 26mpg city/32mpg highway while the addition of AWD will subtract 1mpg from both ratings.
The new Mazda definitely has the value quotient.
The Sport model starts of at $20,995, the Touring at $24,195 and the Grand Touring at $27,345 excluding the $795 destination charge. Our Grand Touring tester came standard with leather trimmed seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel that’s both tilting and telescopic, a moon roof, dual zone climate controls and other standard features that are expected of cars in this price range. The options that were ticked were the rear parking sensors, a rear bumper guard, a retractable cargo cover and the Grand Touring Tech Package which includes a Tom Tom based navigation system, HID headlamps, adaptive front lighting, and a burglar alarm for a grand total of $31,480. The new Mazda definitely has the value quotient.
The all new CX-5 showcases Mazda’s new Kodo design language first shown to the public on the Shinari concept which was a beautiful looking vehicle. On the CX-5 however, it looks a bit more cartoonish which is understandable as its not a low slung, svelte sedan. The headlights are a bit too large and could be thinned out a bit to keep it closer to the concept’s design. The nose has chrome trim that outlines the bottom of the grille and flows into the headlights. I think that design works and it looks fantastic when you are up close. The sides of the car have a low character line that swoops down on the front door and slowly back up toward the rear. It breaks up what would have been a boring side profile very nicely. I would have liked to see a bit more the flair from the front and sides flow into the rear however.
The tail lights are nothing special and the overall rear design looks very similar to other market offerings. The large 19” aluminum alloy wheels, standard fare on the Grand Touring models, fill out the wheel wells and give the car a more aggressive look. The CX-5 was painted in a Sky Blue metallic clear coat which is very elegant and eye catching and probably one of the better blues available in the automotive color palate. One of my pet peeves, and something the CX-5 suffers from, is matte black plastic moldings on top level trim packages. On the Sport model or even the Touring model, the matte black plastic trim that outlines the entire lower body of the car and wheel wells would be acceptable, but on the loaded Grand Touring model, body color would have looked more upscale.
Make your way inside the little ‘ute and you will be greeted with a very simple yet functional layout to the interior. The instrument panel is incredibly simple to use and the controls are clearly labeled. The gauge cluster has two simple analog gauges: a central speedometer and a tachometer on the left side. The right gauge position houses an LCD screen that displays the fuel gauge, various trip computers, and an ambient temperature display which can be cycled through using the steering wheel controls. The steering wheel also contains your typical cruise control, audio, voice activation and Bluetooth buttons. At night-time the gauge cluster is white and is a big change from the different hues of red found in other Mazdas. Oddly enough, you can find that red as the back lighting on almost all of the buttons inside the car.
The navigation system is sourced from Tom Tom, and is a cinch to use.
The 6.8” LCD touch screen sits up high on the dash and the climate controls are below it but are split by air vents. The LCD screen displays navigation, the AM/FM and HD radio information as well as the video from the rear back up camera when the vehicle is in reverse. The navigation system is sourced from Tom Tom, and is a cinch to use. Either follow the options on the screen or just press the voice button on the steering wheel and follow the prompts. The climate control system is controlled via dials which are now becoming a rarity, however, they make it easy to set the temperature quickly. Your best bet is to just set the auto climate control to your desired temperature and let it do the work for you. The heated seat buttons are a tier lower and have three settings. While the entire system is easy to use, the lower placement can require you to take your eyes off the road to set the heated seat level or temperature. The interior materials are high quality plastics including some hard plastics in areas such as the center flow through console near the shifter, and the piano black accent on the dash itself.
There are touches of aluminum on the steering wheel, door handles and surrounding the storage opening under the climate control system. While many of the CX-5’s competitors use a foot activated parking brake, Mazda still utilizes a hand lever, sticking to their roots of staying sporty. The front seats lean towards the firm side but with the lumbar support and the adjustable steering, finding your comfortable position is easy. On a trip from the back country of Connecticut to Brooklyn, New York, I didn’t feel the slightest amount of discomfort. With my seat set to suit my 5′ 10.5” frame, entrance to the rear seats isn’t an issue. My knees touched the back part of the front seat but only slightly so. Head room was acceptable and overall, the rear didn’t feel claustrophobic.
The center console in the rear seat folds down to provide extra cup holders or an arm rest. The CX-5 provides plenty of cargo configurations as the rear seats are not the typical 60/40 split but a very ingenious 40/20/40 split and can be put down individually. Either pull the latch on the top parts of the rear seats or pull the switches on either side of the rear cargo area and the seats fold down. You can configure it any way you want to fit whatever you are carrying and still have passengers be comfortable in it. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to actually utilize the cargo space during the time that I had it. It would have been nice to see how many items from Home Depot I could cram in there.
The Mazda CX-5 is quite possibly one of the easiest vehicles to drive whether it be a short drive to the grocery store or a long distance road trip.
The Mazda CX-5 is quite possibly one of the easiest vehicles to drive whether it be a short drive to the grocery store or a long distance road trip. The MacPherson strut front and Multilink rear suspension is soft and the CX-5 just soaks up bumps and imperfections really well however the large 19” wheels can’t keep out some pot holes and major road irregularities. The four-wheel disc brakes are immediate and pressure progressively increases, instilling extra confidence in driving. In typical Mazda fashion, the steering is light and effortless while providing considerably more feedback than expected. The B-Pillars and D-Pillars are a little thick but do not hinder visibility much due to the large size of the windows. The side mirrors are large and provide plenty of visibility and with the blind spot monitoring system that came standard on our Grand Touring model, merging onto highways and switching lanes can be done with confidence.
The blind spot monitoring system will illuminate an amber LED in the side mirror and will also beep when you hit the signal stalk if a car is in your blindspot to alert you. As easy as the Mazda is to drive as a grand tourer, it is even easier to throw it into corners. The light curb weight of 3532 lbs. for the AWD automatic models, along with the incredible steering feel for its class, clearly explain why. There is a bit of well controlled body roll in corners, and the AWD system kept things in check on the snow covered roads of rural Connecticut with little to no wheel spin. The AWD system in the CX-5 is similar to other AWD equipped Mazdas.
It is mostly front wheel drive, however when the system detects slip it will split the torque 50:50 between the front and rear axles. The automatic transmission is perfectly mated to the engine and shifts quickly, smoothly and effortlessly to keep the engine in its more fuel efficient range, but for those of you who may get bored, move the shifter from D to M for manual mode. By tugging the shift lever backwards for upshifts and pushing forward for down, you can force the transmission to hold gears and even throttle blip on the downshifts. It isn’t necessary to to use the manual mode as the automatic does a very good job of staying in the proper gear almost all of the time.
The only thing that held the Mazda back was its powerplant. The 2.0L four pot is a smooth revving engine and felt adequate driving around town but ask for more and it tends to get buzzy. While cruising on the highway, the engine is quietly humming along and not intrusive inside the cabin. However, when going up hills, the engine is working hard to pull the ‘ute. The CX-5 won’t win any drag races but if your sole purpose is to drive the kids to school and get to work, it will do just fine. If you are looking for a bit more oomph, Mazda now offers a 2.5L SkyActiv I4 offering 184 hp @5700 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque @ 3250 rpm. Both engines use regular grade gas. After a 50/50 split of highway and city driving, I was able to get the average fuel economy rating of 28mpg. On the highway, the maximum I was able to attain was 29.2mpg and the minimum in town was 27.6mpg. Pretty frugal for a little ‘ute.
The other issue was the left side mirror.
Unfortunately, there were two quality issues to report. There was a slight vibration coming from the right A-Pillar, or so it appeared. It was there when I first got the car, and then the sound went away a day later. Near the end of my week, it crept back up. Also, at idle, the right side door panel vibrated on occasion. The other issue was the left side mirror. It would shake inside it’s housing at higher speeds and would sometimes set the blind spot monitoring light off even when there was no one there but this might have only been specific to our tester.
In the week that I spent with the CX-5, I’ve come to the conclusion that it really is everything you could want in a small SUV. It is frugal, easy to drive, and has plenty of space for a small family. Mazda is putting a lot of faith in the CX-5, and rightfully so as it boasts all of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology and it’s success will determine Mazda’s future. Factor in the value with the options that this CX-5 offers, and it’s safe to say that it is a worthwhile buy and another vehicle that I can truly recommend. In my opinion, Mazda has a hit on their hands.