Mazda’s all-new 2013 CX-5 crossover replaces not one but two outgoing Mazda SUVs: the compact Tribute and the larger CX-7. It enters a segment already crowded by the Ford Escape as well as the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4, but with a smooth, powerful ride and best-in-class fuel economy, the CX-5 stands out.
The CX-5’s performance has earned nearly universal praise from car critics. They found the 2.0-liter four-banger, which delivers 155 hp at 150 lb.-ft. of torque, well-matched to the firm, sporty suspension. Six-speed manual is available only on the base Sport edition, but all-wheel drive is available across the lineup. With a manual transmission and two-wheel drive, the CX-5 earns 35 mpg on the highway, beating Mazda’s own projections and each of its non-hybrid competitors.
It’s not hurting in the looks department, either. The CX-5 is the first model to feature Mazda’s “Soul of Motion” design language, and it’s a clean, solid, almost utilitarian look that will likely inspire the next edition of the full-size CX-9. The cabin is fitted with soft-touch surfaces and minimal, satin-finish metallic — and not a hint of faux wood. The rear seats are spacious, and they lower into the floor before folding down, creating a flat space for cargo. The Touring and Grand Touring models feature a 40/20/40 split rear seat to accommodate long items and four passengers.
The base model comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, power doors and locks, keyless entry and cruise control, along with a CD and iPod-compatible stereo that can be upgraded to include Bluetooth connectivity, HD radio and infotainment monitor.
The Touring edition adds a six-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and upgraded upholstery and trim, fog lights and an optional “Moonroof/Bose” package that adds a power sunroof as well as nine-speaker Bose audio, TomTom navigation, automatic wipers and rearview mirror dimming.
The top-of-the-line Grand Touring edition includes all the above plus 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, an eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition and more.
Standard safety features include antilock, four-wheel disc brakes, traction and stability control, and a blind-spot warning system is available as a standalone option. Prices are competitive for the segment, ranging from $20,695 for the Sport to just over $27,000 for the Grand Touring edition.
There’s plenty of room to play in the last-mile space — the trick is to learn the consumer is king of this hill.