2013 Mazda CX-5 Hits the Streets

The 2013 Mazda CX5 SKYACTIV crosses the bridge between street and offroad.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

The 2013 Mazda CX5 SKYACTIV is a very different car on the common streets and byways of America than it is in its creators’ favorite testing ground.

CraveOnline had a chance to evaluate the redesigned Mazda CX-5 SKYACTIV earlier this year up at the automaker’s test track in Monterey. Auto journalists got to take the smaller of Mazda’s SUV people carriers around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Those laps offered up a good overview of the CX-5’s stabile performance capabilities, but a driver doesn’t necessarily get a realistic sense of its street behavior on a track day. So, we took on a weeklong test drive to get an every day feel for the CX-5 SKYACTIV.

For the uninitiated, the concept behind SKYACTIV was to squeeze maximum MPG out of a Mazda gasoline (or diesel in every civilized country on Earth except the U.S.) engine.

Rather than design an electric monstrosity that no one would buy or a hybrid no car lover could stand, Mazda designed the most efficient engines they could, perfecting lighter materials and tighter transmissions. SKYACTIV made Mazdas into a trimmer product line that could move quicker with less fuel spent.

The result is higher mileage in every vehicle Mazda sends our way. For example, the 2013 Mazda 3s offered 40 mpg in highway driving conditions. With a maxed out MSRP of about $28,000, the CX-5 is the first Mazda Crossover to feature SKYACTIV. Its 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G 4-cylinder engine offers 155 horsepower without slapping on a turbocharger – as you see in Ford’s EcoBoost engines.

Bless Mazda’s heart – or at least those working at the Mazda fleet service – but they gave this auto writer a CX-5 with a manual transmission. I know only too well that such a car is most likely not going to sell well in the U.S., but without a manual, driving is just steering. It’s a credit to Mazda’s manufacturing philosophy that they even brother to make a manual car – let along a manual SUV crossover.

The smaller sister of the the $30,000+ CX9, the CX-5 will carry the load of the now deceased CX-7 due to be retired in North America. On the road, its confident on its feet and easy to park for a crossover. It’s not the quickest animal on the block, but it had enough power to move out of trouble in freeway conditions.

Some snooty, sportier-oriented drivers might think the vehicle is underpowered, but nobody buys a crossover for straight line speed. the CX-5 is good enough. The CX-5 stays true to Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom rep with snug steering – as long as the driver accepts its part SUV and part minivan people carrier. It’s not built for rallying.

Inside, the gadgets and driving assists vary with your chosen trim package. The particular model I reviewed included an AM/FM/CD stereo system. The setup lacked a navigation screen or voice commands, but those features can add a slab of cash to a car’s price tag. Mazda is about affordable performance. It doesn’t aspire to be Infiniti or Acura.

All totaled up, the CX-5 is a solid choice for a small family or a weekend camper looking for something that will cross the gap between street cruiser and careful off-roader.