Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 5 GS AWD car test drives reviews mazda
2013 Mazda CX-5 GS AWD. Click image to enlarge

More Mazda CX-5 reviews at Autos.ca

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Mazda Canada

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

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2013 Mazda CX-5

Mazda wants to shake things up.  It wants to change the game being played in the compact crossover segment: after spending the past 11 years selling rebadged Ford Escapes as Mazda Tributes, Mazda has decided to get serious about this market.  Gone is the partnership with Ford that produced the Escape clone, so Mazda was faced with making a Tribute replacement on its own with the Escape (finally) being reinvented for 2013.  Instead of slapping together a stop-gap crossover using pieces from their existing parts bin, Mazda decided to use this opportunity to design from scratch the first ever vehicle to fully incorporate SkyActiv technology and the new Kodo design theme.

Behold the 2013 CX-5.

This isn’t just marketing hyperbole either.  There is a lot riding on this new crossover for financially-troubled Mazda.  It aims to sell 160,000 units a year globally and establish the CX-5 as one of its core products, alongside the Mazda3.  In Canada last year the compact sport utility segment grew by 16.5 per cent in sales and eclipsed the full-size pickup market to become Canada’s second highest sales segment by volume behind compact cars (where the Mazda3 resides).

Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 5 GS AWD car test drives reviews mazda
2013 Mazda CX-5 GS AWD. Click image to enlarge

SkyActiv is a phrase Mazda has been tossing around for the past few years to anyone who would listen.  So what exactly is it?  Well, according to Mazda, SkyActiv means “re-engineered engines, transmissions, bodies, and chassis that deliver pleasing driving dynamics along with environmental sustainability and outstanding safety.”  To us, it means a vehicle that saves weight (stays fun) and squeezes out maximum engine efficiency, all in the name of great fuel economy.  In the end, all that matters is, does it work? In a word, yes.  The CX-5 GS AWD tested here has its fuel consumption officially rated 8.0 L/100 km in the city and 6.4 L/100 km on the highway.  During my week behind the wheel I averaged an impressive 8.9 L/100 km.  To put that in context, the 1,555 kg CX-5 AWD bettered the lighter, less powerful Subaru Impreza AWD (10.0 L/100 km average) tested previously, as well as a CVT-equipped Jeep Compass (12.1 L/100 km average) that was tested just a few weeks ago.  Interesting side note: AWD versions of the CX-5 receive a two-litre larger fuel tank.

Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 5 GS AWD car test drives reviews mazda
2013 Mazda CX-5 GS AWD. Click image to enlarge

Impressive fuel economy means little though if a vehicle’s powertrain cannot handle day-to-day tasks.  This is mostly mission accomplished for the CX-5.  The crowning jewel of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology is the recently introduced 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, with a staggering 13:1 compression ratio – highest of any mass-produced, gasoline-powered vehicle, according to Mazda.  Power comes in at an acceptable 155 hp and 150 lb.-ft. on regular gasoline.  In the base CX-5 GX, there is the option of a six-speed manual transmission, while all other versions receive a fantastic six-speed automatic.  With such modest output numbers, the engine feels down on power but is smooth and quiet.  Hammer the accelerator down and the vehicle accelerates decently to highway speeds with a subdued growl.  During our CUV comparison test there was one instance where, from a dead stop, the Nissan Rogue could barely catch up with the CX-5 to the posted 80 km/h speed limit after spotting it a three-car-length lead.

When not testing the limits of the new SkyActiv engine, the transmission is smooth and direct, if a bit lazy, as it is geared (literally) towards fuel savings.  There is a sport mode that allows you to manually change gears using the shift lever.  Although we were not able to test it, it would be interesting to see how the CX-5 and its engine/transmission combination would respond if loaded up with four adults and their luggage.  That being said, all CX-5 models are officially listed with a 907-kg tow rating.

About Mike

Mike Schlee is the former Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.