Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX-5 GS AWD

Manufacturer’s web site
Mazda Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2013 Mazda CX-5

We’ve covered the 2013 Mazda CX-5 pretty extensively on this site, but one thing that hasn’t received much attention is the base model of this compact crossover.

Mazda has provided us with GS and GT models to test, all equipped with all-wheel drive, and the six-speed automatic transmission that is standard in those middle and top trim levels. Car manufacturers (mostly) stock their press fleets with vehicles that reflect what the driving public is likely to buy. In the CX-5, the base GX model is the only one that can be had with a manual transmission; it and the mid-level GS can both be ordered with front- or all-wheel drive; and the top-trim GT gets all-wheel drive and automatic as standard kit. All three share a 2.0L, four-cylinder engine incorporating Mazda’s SkyActiv fuel-saving tech.

2013 Mazda CX-5 GX manual
2013 Mazda CX-5 GX manual
2013 Mazda CX-5 GX manual. Click image to enlarge

The mid-level GS is bound to be the volume seller, and Mazda likes to pass the GT (like the one I had for a regular week-long test) around to the press to show off how well-equipped a CX-5 can be. A front-wheel drive GX with a manual transmission is bound to be a rare bird, but that transmission was the selling point that put just such a car in my brother- and sister-in-law’s driveway.

They are among the shrinking cohort of drivers who are unwilling to compromise on transmission choice: unlike the majority of drivers in Canada, they want to do the shifting. Getting a stick in the 2010 Mazda3 they owned previously was easy; the decision to move to a slightly larger vehicle (driven mainly by my brother-in-law’s six-foot-five height) meant a smaller pool of choices if they were to continue to go against the grain.

Much of their decision to look for a new vehicle after less than three years was driven by disatisfaction with their Mazda3; it was surprisingly thirsty (even considering my brother-in-law’s heavy foot) and they found its build quality lacking. After months of debate and questions (for me) regarding what I thought of this or that vehicle, they called one day and said they’d brought home a CX-5. I’m used to people asking for my advice and then buying something completely different, but I don’t get to witness many bringing home CUVs with manual transmissions; more than half the vehicles in the CX-5’s class aren’t offered with one at all, so small is the demand.

I was pretty sure I’d never get a chance to borrow such a vehicle from Mazda Canada, so I took their new CX-5 out for a quick drive to see how this pleasant little crossover performed with a stickshift.

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