Mazda's CX-5 Hits the Turns Right
2012 Mazda CX-5 Review:
The Mazda CX-5 is an attractive vehicle that offers better than average gas mileage, a pleasant ride, above average handling and a stylish interior.
The CX-5 feels solid and well built, with a quiet and luxurious interior. That’s helped by perforated tan leather seating and soft-touch black textured trim on the dash and doors. A black gloss trim strip accents the dash while the remaining interior trim is a matte silver. The steering wheel and shift knobs are leather wrapped.The handling is above par for an SUV. Steering is well centered and linear, and it’s a fun drive. The CX-5 turns into corners with authority and minuscule lean, confirming the sport portion of it being a sport-utility.
Its ride on a 106.3-inch wheelbase also is well controlled. Underneath are MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension in the rear. Both include coil springs and shocks plus stabilizer bars front and rear. Tires are 19-inch Toyo all-season, a big improvement from the standard 17-inchers on lower-level models.
Helping add to the ride and handling is a body made of 61% high-tensile steel. That reduces weight and yet is about 30% more rigid. Stiff bodies and chassis make it easier for ride engineers to properly tune the suspension.
Mazda’s new SkyActiv technology also aims to improve fuel economy. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 155 horsepower, but uses less gas when coupled with the six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is available on the base Sport.
EPA rates the tested CX-5 at 25 mpg city and 31 highway. I got 25 mpg on the button in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway.
While there is plenty of power available, I was a bit disappointed in the shifts from the automatic, which also has a sport mode for manual shifts. The shifts weren’t as smooth as I’d witnessed in a previous Mazda with this engine/transmission combination, plus there is some lag in acceleration after the first through fourth gear changes. [Editor’s note: The specific type of Skyactiv technology used in the 2013 Mazda CX-5 differs from other previous versions.]
Braking is good with four-wheel discs, vented in front and solid in back. Plus there’s ABS, traction and stability control.
The CX-5 comfortably seats four adults, and five are possible, plus there is considerable cargo room behind the second row. The Mazda has 17.0 cubic feet of space in back, or 65.4 cubic feet if you lower the rear seats. The CX-5 has a 40/20/40 split rear seat, so you can lower the center portion to carry long objects and four adults.
The SUV comes with a tilt-telescope steering wheel that features cruise control, radio and trip computer buttons on the hub. Behind the wheel the gauges are well laid out, and the center stack isn’t confusing. There’s a big (5.8 inches) navigation/radio screen, featuring a simple TomTom navigation system and HD radio. Bluetooth and satellite radio are part of the mix, as are Bose speakers.
Climate controls consist of three large knobs, and this is a dual climate system. Below that on the stack are two large buttons that engage the three-speed heated seats, again standard.
Also standard is a blind-spot warning system and a back-up camera. I liked the power sunroof with power shade, plus high-quality sun visors with extenders. Rain-sensing wipers are included, along with a rear wiper.
The Mazda’s seats are fairly flat, but comfortable and easy to get in and out of. The seat backs have mild contouring and the driver’s seat is powered, plus has a power lumbar support.Not all is perfect. The rear hatch did not fully latch every time I used it. You must keep your hand on the hatch all the way down until it latches, otherwise there is some kickback that keeps it from a proper latch. Also, the roof pillars are thick, which can slightly limit front three-quarter views.
CX-5 is a fine driving compact and comfortable compact SUV. If the GT is too pricey for your budget, the front-drive Sport starts at $20,695. It gets better gas mileage, at 26 city and 35 highway. A midlevel Touring model with AWD starts at $25,145.