The crossover utility vehicle or crossover for short is a segment that came about by addressing the needs of the customers who wanted the perks of a sports utility vehicle or SUV together with car-like comfort. Indeed, the modern day automotive industry is a buyer’s market. Gone are the days when consumers were limited to product A, product B, and product C – take it or leave it. Consumers now know what they want, buy what they want, and clamor for what they want. Mazda is one maker who actually listens to their customers and the CX-5 is proof of that.
It’s quite plain to see why the Mazda CX-5 can easily capture the heart of any buyer. The CX-5 has been around for some time, but the exterior shape, using Mazda’s latest design language—“KODO – Soul of Motion” remains refreshing and distinctive. The aggressive trapezoidal grille upfront will characterize the company’s new family look, is a welcome change. The CX-5 has a more sports-car like profile due to the strong and confident front-end with a long hood and windshield pillars set further back than other crossovers. The subtle wings that extend to the headlamps, the prominent shoulder line at the side, and the short overhangs give off a bold and stylish flair. In fact, Mazda is one of the most slippery crossovers around with a co-efficient of drag at just 0.33. Differences with the entry-level (FWD) and this range-topping model (AWD) are rather subtle, with only the 225/55R19 wheel and alloy combo being the only noticeable exterior difference.
The CX-5’s interior aesthetics is all about calmness, business-like functionality, and of course, attractiveness. Mazda carefully designed the interior to ensure that it’s not overdesigned as that of their rivals but remains well-equipped. It has a European-inspired layout (read: BMW) with the horizontal layout of the controls and the orange lighting on the controls. The instrument cluster reflects the Zen minimalist styling with white needles and numerals on a black, textured background. There’s a wealth of south-touch materials throughout the dashboard and door panels, providing an elegant and refined feel. There are still some hard plastics in the CX-5’s interior, but they’re limited to areas which aren’t normally touched, so it’s no big deal (they still scratch easily, though).
Ergonomically, the CX-5’s various controls and screens are easy to read and have been logically laid out. All the controls can be operated in a tactile manner and clicks with crispness and solidity. The seating is more sedan-like rather than SUV and this appeals to those who want a sportier experience. That said, the seats, whether front or back, aren’t as comfortable as they look. The front seats lack comfortable width and don’t offer the right amount of hip and bum support resulting in a painful rear-end especially on journeys longer than three hours. Those in the back don’t fare any better with a seat cushion that’s a tad too short for long distance comfort. In terms of space, the CX-5 lies on the tighter end of the compact crossover spectrum with an interior that’s “just right” as opposed to “class-leading” or even “comfortable”. The same can be said with the luggage space.
What the CX-5 lacks in space and seat comfort, it more than makes up for it with luxury, convenience, and smart features. While the FWD model was criticized for its lack of toys, the AWD model comes in with automatic swiveling HID headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and daytime running lights. Inside, it comes with leather seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, moon roof, and a 9-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system with full Apple iPod integration and Bluetooth hands-free with voice command. On the subject of the Bose sound system though, it’s great just in name as the aural experience is simply ordinary. And like the Mazda6, the iPod control is finicky at best.
Mazda is touting the CX-5 as an automotive revolution that proves innovative thinking can overcome compromise and turn the limits of imagination into reality. At the heart of this philosophy is SkyActiv—an encompassing set of technology which improves fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions without compromising on driving dynamics. Underneath the CX-5 AWD is a 2.5-liter version of the SkyActiv-G engine that churns out 184 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque. However, don’t mistake this car as a corner carving sports car; it isn’t. Rather, the extra displacement makes it more like a grand tourer with gobs of torque and more importantly, some extra ponies for passing power needed. It feels quicker than its 8-second 0-100 km/h time would suggest, but oddly the CX-5 doesn’t return magical fuel efficiency figures. During this test, it managed just 8.13 km/L in the city and 13.16 km/L on the highway—that’s compared to 8.19 km/L on the Subaru Forester XT which has a 56 horsepower advantage while not having an idle start/stop feature.
Touting a similar 6-speed automatic transmission as the Mazda6, the CX-5 doesn’t come with paddle shifters (again, highlighting it more as a grand tourer as opposed to a sports sedan), but the shifts are imperceptible and smooth. Like the Mazda6, the CX-5 also has the accelerator switch at the end of pedal travel that produces an instantaneous downshift and acceleration, but it isn’t as immediate or powerful as the Mazda6’s. The CX-5 too, could benefit from beefier brakes.
The beautifully packaged SkyActiv chassis is lightweight yet rigid producing a firm but comfortable ride despite the relatively low-profile 55-series 19-inch tires. The body certainly feels solid and on the twisty roads, the CX-5 remains stable and predictable. The steering features a quicker ratio than most crossovers and as a result, feels sharp and intuitive. The all-wheel drive system features an Active Torque Split, a system that divides power between the front and rear wheels as needed. It’s largely idiot-proof and transparent, but on tighter roads or foul weather, there’s a sensation of slippage on the front wheels before power is sent back to the rears. As a whole though, the CX-5 is a cohesively designed crossover that should be driven with passion. Everything feels integrated—from the cornering to accelerating to braking. It has confident road holding, responsive steering, and ample body control.
Mazda has also upped the CX-5’s safety equipment a notch above the competition. Aside from the usual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic brakeforce distribution, the CX-5 AWD also has Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS), a Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system, and a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). And get this, the CX-5 AWD even has a Lane Departure Warning system which uses a camera mounted near the rear view mirror to analyze and warn the driver if he or she is drifting out of lane.
It’s amazing how Mazda is able to deliver what the customers wanted in the CX-5 – a crossover that truly engages the driver and is fun-to-drive, bold and stylish, and a class-leading combination of performance and economy. Though it’s not perfect (it could use better seats and a larger interior for instance), but it’s nonetheless a great engineer feat and a crossover with minimal compromise. With the Mazda CX-5’s outstanding good looks and superb driver engagement, it’s no surprise that it can easily charm its way into the hearts of many enthusiasts.
2013 Mazda CX-5 2.5 Sport
|Ownership||2.5 AWD Sport|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline 4|
|BHP @ rpm||188 @ 5,700|
|Nm @ rpm||250 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Unleaded / 93~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,586|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (Driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||9|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|