The 2013 CX-5 replaces the Mazda Tribute as the smallest of Mazda's crossover trio, which includes the CX-7 and CX-9. Revealed at the November 2011 LA Auto Show, the Mazda CX-5 is based on a new platform, or structure, and uses new suspension, brakes, and interior. It shares a new engine and transmission with the 2012 Mazda 3.
The wheelbase of the CX-5 stretches 106.3 inches, longer than that of the new 2012 Honda CR-V and the new 2013 Ford Escape.
Despite the smallish rear side windows, the CX-5 has real passenger space: Six-foot-plus types fit comfortably in the rear seat of moonroof-equipped models. Cargo space appears class-competitive and it's very flexible because of a three-section split fold-flat rear seat.
Up front, the CX-5 instrument panel eschews overt style for intuitive function. It's designed to be easy to learn to operate for Mazda owners and non-owners alike. It's nicely finished, practically laid out and offers among the options Bluetooth streaming, Bose Centerpoint sound system with HD radio, predictive back-up camera, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps and blind-spot warning system.
Under the hood, CX-5 employs Mazda's newest engine, a high-compression 2-liter four-cylinder engine of 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission on front-drive versions yields EPA estimates of 26/33 mpg City/Highway and with the 6-speed automatic 26/32 mpg. All-wheel drive is available only with the automatic and rates 25/30 mpg. A CX-5 can tow up to 2,000 pounds.
Mazda also announced the CX-5 will offer a 2.2-liter turbodiesel engine option; the diesel's 310 lb-ft of torque essentially renders gasoline turbocharged four-cylinders and V6s redundant. The diesel is expected by mid-2013, with either transmission, and should exceed 30 mpg.
Fully independent suspension uses coil springs all around and 17- or 19-inch wheels. The CX-5 is expected to emphasize the enjoyable, zoom-zoom, more-sporting-than-average driving qualities the brand is known for, without a harsh or choppy ride. Like everything in this class, all-wheel drive is an inclement weather traction aid, not an invitation to hit the four-wheel drive trails.
Mazda's familiar five-sided grille framed by aggressive light housings give an angry look rather than the smiling faces of Mazda cars, and dark plastic around the car's entire lower periphery merely adds to the machismo. The sculpted lines come across as blending a VW Tiguan's rectangularity with Hyundai's wavy forms, and only the black fairings at the sides of the rear spoiler that appear add-ons spoil it for us.