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PI IN THE SKY
The 31+4 MPG Mazda CX-5

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Dec 20, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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2013 Mazda CX-5

2013 Mazda CX-5 Sport First of all, what the heck is a 6-speed manual transmission doing in this soccer dad SUV? Don’t get me wrong, I think that they are great fun out on the open road and everyone really should do some seat time in a stick shift at least once a year so that the skill isn’t lost like the old tradition of picking up a telephone to communicate with someone (as opposed to the tweet, text, e-mail, kink, blip, poke, or other keeshots that have become so easy to hit and run with these days.) Wait, hold it a darn minute here, this is a car review, not some sort of anti-tech, anti-social media screed. This one’s name has “Sport” in it so, okay we’ll go with it.

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My first impressions were the lasting ones with this one-week loan. If you’ve not driven a Mazda product lately, you might well be surprised by how solid and tight these cars are. Sure, this one was factory-fresh, but the brand has a well-deserved rep. for putting out cars that don’t get all creaky-crunchy no matter how old they get. The CX-5 is right in the middle of the Mazda line, a smoothly squared off sport-ute for sure, just as usable for cross-town trips as cross-country. A lot of the people who looked closely at this one were quite surprised by the price: Out the door at just a click over $20K. With the obligatory $795 delivery, processing, and handling surcharge kicked the final answer in the far lower right corner of the window sticker to $21,490. We’ll go over what you get for that $21.5K in a few ’graphs. Risking your misunderstanding I’m going to call the CX-5 “likeable”. Here, in my world, that’s a good thing, so are no surprises here, no idiosyncrasies, but that does not make this one a boring drive. Again, and not to go too heavy on the “niceness” of this stalwart, the Mazda also had a totally-logical interior. The seating is comfortable, the dashboard is readable and usable (right from square one) the stowage area has plenty of room for plenty of camping gear, clubs, or the weekly run to Costco for a family of four.

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This is one of the new era of cars that now feature electric power steering. For some reason this system that substitutes electric muscle for hydraulic seems to increase feel and reduce fatigue, no big deal, but nice nevertheless. I drove the CX-5 over from LA for the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, dead straight about 90 percent of the drive, with bad scenery and two distinct types of drivers: ones that want to go WAY faster than you want to go, and (right?) ones that want to go WAY slower. The CX-5 was able to deal with both with equal dispatch. Around town and on roads that had a reasonable number of curves in them, this sport ute got the “sport” stuff pretty good. Skyactiv. Man, what a cool name. Mazda Skyactiv. Great! The “sky”: beautiful, bright, airy. And “active”: alive, crisp, alert. But what the heck is it? Well, it’s sort of a way to cover a number of techniques, ideas, theories, parts and pieces that this company combines the use of to make their machines more efficient. None of the components that make up Mazda’s Skyactiv system are unique to Mazda, none are the least bit revolutionary or even unique. But putting them all in the show at one place and at one time and in the correct order and proportion is how Mazda boosts not only horsepower, but extends fuel mileage as well.

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Direct injection, an ultra-high compression ratio (13-to-1, ask your hot rod buddies about that—they’ll positively swoon!) and an exhaust system that, like bumping the compression ratio, is an updated, long-time racer’s favorite, a tuned exhaust system. Mazda calls it “4, 2, 1” exhaust from one cylinder is used to pull (the tech name is extract) the exhaust from another cylinder—a sort of downstream turbo charging. As we said, nothing new, just new uses of well-proven technology used (you’ll pardon the buzz word:) synergistically. Another chunk of that cool Skyactiv (I love to say it!) combo is that the Mazda engineers specified high-strength steel and used it build their car’s chassis to a higher rigidity standard … that joins with “all of the above” in contributing to excellent fuel mileage and “active” performance. The CX-5’s two-liter, four-cylinder engine produces a nicely balanced 155 horsepower and 150 pounds-feet of torque that we actually had a bit of “fun” in the lower gears. We got slightly better (just at 31) than the 29 miles per gallon (combined highway and city mileage figure) that was stated on the sticker. The look here is smooth lines and one of those big air-grabbing front grille “fish mouths” that seems to gulp at the air. The Mazda body design people have blended this one so that it’s proletarian shape fits parking spaces as well as it fits right on the road, not causing either eye-popping nor sleepiness.

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And that $20K we talked about early-on, it really buys a nice selection of features on the CX-5! Alloy wheels, power door locks with keyless entry, push-button starting, anti-lock disc brakes all the way around, dual stainless exhaust pipes, air conditioning, am-fm-cd-mp3 player (replete with a very cool “shark fin” antenna). Whenever I got in traffic, I rolled up the windows and pretended to be listening to the Sinatra channel on Sirius (that would be an optional extra, like multi-way power seats that would have pushed the price up another grand.) There’s a 36-month/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warrantee, and an “anti-theft engine immobilization system” that sounds very serious. There’s much more on the standard equipment list, but the above sampling should convince just about anyone in the market for this size/style/type of vehicle to head out and take a look for themselves. Again, these days no one ever admits to looking to buy “trustworthy” automobiles, they buy statements, symbols, and even substitutes for physical attributes in many cases. The Mazda CX-5 is none of the last three adjectives and all about that first T-word above. – Doug Stokes

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2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD I’m always a little amused with the names that auto manufacturers come up with to describe the colors of their cars, and I wasn’t disappointed with what Mazda came up with for this CX-5. Before looking down at the Monroney (the window sticker at the dealer) I looked at the car and wondered as to what this shade of red was going to be in the eyes of the marketing folks. To me it was a very nice, darker shade of red, sort of ‘winey’, think Pinot, not Cab. I would never have been able to make a living in the car naming business. To Mazda, this color is Zeal Red MC. The folks in the dictionary/thesaurus business define zeal as enthusiasm and “eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something,” with synonyms like alacrity, gusto and vehemence. I kind of like the idea of Mazda cars being in pursuit. It vehemently goes well with Zoom-Zoom. As to what the MC moniker denotes, I’ll have to get back to you on that. In a way, my buddy Doug Stokes should have driven this version of the CX-5, since he drove his a lot further than I drove mine—and mine was the one loaded with $10K more in extras. I don’t feel too bad though, because one of those extras, Blind Spot Monitoring System really came to good use in the traffic around Houston. Whereas Los Angeles is famous for its traffic and being home to a lot of people that came from somewhere else, Houston is actually a lot more extreme in both respects—particularly during boom periods like the one now in the shale oil industry in south east Texas. What that means is that there a lot of different imported driving styles and habits mixing it up on the highways. And not always in a good way. Suffice it to say that I observed many interesting interpretations of the concept ‘merging traffic’ and I was grateful for the Blind Spot Monitoring System.

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The Navigation System with 5.8” color display with rear camera, Bose 9-speaker audio system, moonroof, dual zone climate control, and All Wheel Drive are also in the package that adds $10K to the price of the vehicle driven by Mr. Stokes. Doug enjoyed the manual transmission out in the wide open spaces, but I was glad to have the 6-speed automatic with the sport shift function. I never got to see the hill launch assist function … not a lot of hills in the Houston area. My wife was pleased with the car because it met her two primary criteria: a grab bar in the ceiling above the door, and the fact that one sits high enough to not feel overwhelmed by surrounding traffic. The vehicle has a very solid feeling to it and is fairly quiet for a crossover/SUV in this class. It is an attractive car with an interesting look to it. Overall, I am very pleased with the Mazda CX-5. – Bill Wright For more information about Mazda products, go to www.mazdausa.com

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SPECIFICATIONS Names of vehicle Mazda CX-5 Sport and CX-5 Grand Touring AWD Price: $20,695 ($21.5K as tested Sport FWD) $28,295 ($31.4K as tested Grand Touring AWD) EPA fuel economy rating: 26 city/35 highway (miles per gallon) Engine: Skyactiv-G 2.0 liter DOHC 16 valve four-in-line Horsepower: 155 at 6000 rpm Torque: 150 @ 4000 rpm Transmission: Skyactiv-MT 6-speed manual (Sport, as tested) Skyactiv 6-speed automatic (Grand Touring, as tested) Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive (as tested Sport model) All-wheel drive (as tested Grand Touring model) Suspension: Independent front MacPherson struts and independent rear multi-link with stabilizer bars front and rear Dimensions Length: 179.3 inches Width: 72.4 inches Height: 76.3 inches Curb weight: 3208 pounds (FWD) 3272 (AWD) Link opened into new tab: formulad.com/schedule/results

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