2013 Mazda CX-5: First drive review
By James Tate of MSN Autos
The battle for supremacy in the hotly contested compact SUV and crossover market has been a three-vehicle skirmish between the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. But another promising contender has entered the compact SUV arena this year: the 2013 Mazda CX-5.
The new Mazda boasts all the right stuff to be a game-changer in the segment — distinctive looks, spaciousness, technology and efficiency — not to mention it's a hoot to drive.
It comes in three trim levels — Sport, Touring and Grand Touring — each with front- or all-wheel drive and a manual or automatic transmission. The CX-5 is priced competitively, starting at $20,995 and ranging up to $28,595.
The Sport trim comes well equipped, with features such as cruise control, power windows and locks, AM/FM/CD stereo with USB port for MP3 players, push-button starting, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Grand Touring adds a 5.8-inch dashboard display with a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, HD radio, and a blind-spot monitoring system. The Grand Touring gets leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, sunroof, Bose audio, satellite radio, and 19-inch wheels.
Notable options include a TomTom navigation system, keyless entry, adaptive HID headlights that point into turns, and a universal garage-door opener.
Under the Hood
Connecting this mill to the CX-5's wheels is the equally interesting 6-speed SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission. This gearbox blends automatic and manual in a whole new way: it uses a traditional automatic torque converter up to 5 mph, at which point it switches to a manual-style clutch for gear changes. The idea is that this automatic will produce a more direct, engaging driving experience — that is, like a manual transmission — once up and moving. That said, a traditional 6-speed manual with a short-throw shifter is also available, at least with front-wheel-drive versions.
It is only available in two flavors, though — black or beige — and suffers from the "piano black" accents that seem to be plaguing so many cars nowadays. While they sound like a great touch in theory, the accents almost always turn out looking like a cheap gimmick in practice. That aside, the rest of the interior is cleanly designed, well made, and carries an air of solidness that's downright refreshing for this segment.
While the CX-5 is available with most of the tech features you'd now expect of modern cars (premium audio, Bluetooth and the like), that's also where things start to head south. The available navigation system is simply subpar, lacking in common features and unintuitive.