Second Place – 2013 Mazda CX-5 GS AWD
2013 Mazda CX-5 GS AWD. Click image to enlarge
Mazda finally has a small crossover to call its own. The all-new 2013 CX-5 replaces the long-in-the-tooth Ford Escape-based Tribute. It is the first vehicle sold in North America to fully incorporate Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, and it also reflects its new Kodo design language with attractive, thoroughly modern sheet metal. The CX-5 was the looker of the bunch and achieved the highest average rating in any category, with a 9.8 for exterior styling. One of us even went as far as to say, “It has a ‘very BMW’ look and feel inside and out.” Inside, it is much the same story with rich, soft touch materials molded into a sophisticated design packed with features not expected on a mid-level trim.
But styling is not Mazda’s primary focus with this new crossover. Fuel economy is the name of the game. Mazda introduced certain components of its SkyActiv technology in the Mazda3 earlier this year, to lukewarm reception. With the CX-5, it was applied from the ground up. The CX-5 was the third-largest vehicle in this test and featured mid-pack cargo capacity at 966 litres behind the rear seats. Despite its size, it was still the lightest of the bunch, undercutting the smaller Rogue and Tucson. It also had the smallest engine making the least output: a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder producing 155 hp with a six-speed automatic transmission programmed with fuel economy in mind.
So did it work? Yes. SkyActiv is not marketing hype (well it is that, too, so not JUST marketing hype). The CX-5 achieved an impressive 9.6 L/100 km on a test loop that featured hilly terrain and a lot of flogging from our test crew, especially by the stragglers at the back. To put it in context, the next-closest vehicle was the Honda CR-V at 10.9 L/100 km. Beyond this test route, the CX-5 achieved a day-to-day average of 8.9 L/100 km. Not bad for a 1,555-kg all-wheel-drive crossover; to further impress you, the 1,350-kg 2012 Subaru Impreza with a CVT that we drove a few weeks ago achieved 10.0 L/100 km
With the light weight and sporty disposition, we expected the CX-5 to be a great handler. Here, we were sorely disappointed. Some blamed it on the GS trim’s 17-inch wheels and soft winter tires, but the CX-5 did not have the composed feel of the Tucson or CR-V. The vehicle would push into corners and the lazy transmission and weak engine combination made exiting turns with any haste impossible. We would love to get our hands on a GT version with the 19-inch rims and all-season tires later this spring to see if this would help remedy the problem. That said, the chassis was solid and provided a smooth, compliant ride.
Coming into this comparison test, everyone had high expectations for the brand new Mazda CX-5. With its benchmark fuel economy numbers and handsome styling, many thought we had a winner on our hands. So, what happened? Well, the CR-V happened. The CX-5 is a terrific crossover, and when the five evaluators were asked which vehicle they would put their own money on, three said the CX-5, with two of the main reasons being its gorgeous looks and tremendous fuel economy.
Pricing: 2012 Mazda CX-5 GS AWD
Base price: $29,895
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $31,780