2013 Mazda CX-5

NRCan Fuel Consumption Estimate: 7.7/6.1 L/100 km city/highway
US EPA Fuel Consumption Estimate: 9.0/6.1/8.1 L/100 km city/highway/combined
Observed Real-World Consumption: 7.3 L/100 km (500+ km, commuting and long-distance highway)

2013 Mazda CX-5
2013 Mazda CX-5, photo by JC. Click image to enlarge

As expected, the most conventional vehicle here had the highest fuel consumption, although we were pleasantly surprised by just how close the 2013 Mazda CX-5 came to matching the larger of the two hybrids in test. It delivered an impressive 7.3 L/100 km in over 500 km of commuting in this test and even showed 6.4 on one long-distance highway drive, not to mention Mike’s 5.6 on the AJAC Eco-Run this past spring, and after proving itself over 1.0 L/100 km better than the next best in our Compact CUV Comparison Test.

In this company, the CX-5 seems large, but as most cars go, it is a very manageable size, with impressive rear seat and cargo space (966 L trunk, 1,852 L seats folded), not to mention handy seat-dropping levers in the trunk area.

The reason for its inclusion isn’t its practicality, but the effort Mazda invested to make the most of the gasoline internal combustion engine through their SkyActiv program. Don’t worry, this technology will not take over our entire electronic infrastructure to induce a global thermonuclear war to that autonomous machines can take over the planet. However, SkyActiv isn’t just an engine technology, it is a complete vehicle philosophy to get the most efficiency and driving pleasure out of any given vehicle. The 2013 CX-5 is the first vehicle to be designed under the SkyActiv program from the ground up, platform, suspension, and powertrain.

2013 Mazda CX-5
2013 Mazda CX-5, photo by Mike Schlee. Click image to enlarge

Of course, the powertrain is the most significant piece of the fuel efficiency puzzle, and the CX-5 uses a 2.0L SkyActiv-G(asoline) inline-four-cylinder engine that yields 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque, which is admittedly underwhelming in this 1,488-kg vehicle (1,459 with a manual transmission). The key innovations in achieving the efficiency gains are: a ‘sky’ high compression ratio of 13.0:1, direct injection, and unique piston cavities that improve combustion efficiency (more gasoline burns more completely with every stroke); 4-2-1 exhaust helps waste gases escape more cleanly and reduces backpressure; and weight and friction reductions help make every moving part work more easily.

Meanwhile, the automatic transmission features six gears and combines the clutch of a manual transmission with the torque converter and intelligent shift logic of an automatic in order to borrow the efficiency and connected feel of manual transmissions with the do-it-for-me ease of use of an automatic. The transmission is also painstakingly designed to lose weight and size for more efficient packaging, and it delivers everything Mazda promises, with incredibly smooth yet responsive shifting under any conditions. The manual transmission, as tested in the Mazda3 Sky and in the CX-5 by Chris Chase, is equally adept, with efficiency matched to short throws and tight action for the best of both worlds.

2013 Mazda CX-5
2013 Mazda CX-5, photo by Mike Schlee. Click image to enlarge

The body itself achieved 8 percent weight loss and 30 percent rigidity after going through the SkyActiv diet, and is easily the lightest of the bestselling crossovers in its class (CR-V, RAV4, Equinox).

The CX-5 is also good value, coming in as cheapest in test at $30,040 (destination and A/C tax rolled in), with impressive features like blind spot monitoring system, backup camera, auto headlights, 17-inch alloys, power moonroof, heated seats, six-way power driver’s seat and standard Bluetooth hands-free phone and streaming audio.

All around, a great package that is still a pleasure to drive with loads of family practicality in this day and age of fewer and fewer wagon options, and real-world fuel economy that has repeatedly proven a clearcut leader amongst any of its internal combustion gasoline counterparts.

Pricing: 2013 Mazda CX-5 GS FWD Automatic
Base price: $28,045
Options: None
Destination: $1,895
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $30,040

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