2013 Mazda CX-5: a lot of versatility from a little package (with an even smaller price)

Today I had the pleasure of taking the new Mazda CX-5 GS out for a test drive. It originally drew my attention at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto as I’ve always liked the idea of a compact or “baby” SUV (or crossover if you really prefer) and wanted to see what Mazda was bringing to this relatively new crossover party. Well, as it turns out, they’ve brought a lot. I guess a quick synopsis for those that don’t wish to read further into the more granular review elements is that it’s a fantastic and well-rounded value proposition. For the money, it feels like a well-built and thought out vehicle. From the fit and finish of the materials and interior plastics, to the ergonomics of the controls, it’s a solid little crossover. I drove the AWD GS trim level with auto trans and cloth seats (the upgraded cloth, which I feel looks worse than the basic cloth due to its questionable pattern).


Despite having only a seemingly meagre 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine and the added weight of the all-wheel drive system to haul around, power was readily available and left little to be desired. Granted, I only got up to around 100km/h on the DVP, but I wasn’t left wishing for more. And I’m sure I’d be thankful of that when it comes time to fill up the frugal little SkyActiv powertrain at the gas pumps.

Seating was quite comfortable as the lateral support was clearly (and thankfully) not designed for our larger (er… big-boned?) friends to the south, but for a more average to slender frame. Headroom was plentiful for me (I’m 6’1), as was foot room in the back seat which is no small feat for a smaller vehicle. Knee room in the back seats is fine, but the foot room is what makes it brilliant – the designers have managed to create loads of space for the rear passengers’ feet so they won’t feel remotely cramped or confined. It’s almost possible to feel like you’re stretching out a bit because of how far forward your feet can go under the driver’s and passenger’s seats! The cabin space is very cleverly utilised indeed.

And the suspension setup seems as if it were designed for Toronto as it ate up our potholes and imperfections without making those in the cabin aware of what was just traversed. Comfortable but not sloppy is how to best describe it, which from me is high praise. Not spine-shakingly stiff, and not like driving a bowl of Mr. Cosby’s favourite pudding – the perfectly balanced middle-ground right in between.

Of the three trim levels (GX, GS and GT), certain desirable options are only available on specific trim levels which is a pretty standard and annoying practice here in Canada employed by almost every manufacturer. There’s not much in the way of à la carte feature adding to your vehicle. For example, on the mid-trim GS I drove, I found out that lumbar support is only available when stepping up to the GT model! My lower back was fine on the shorter test drive, but I suspect on a long-haul trip I’d be glad to have some lumbar support… adjustable or otherwise – and I don’t want to have to buy the GT just to have it equipped.

I didn’t drive the manual transmission, but I gave it a throw in a GX on the showroom floor and that is one sweet 6-speed! Nice crisp, short throws. Rarely would I consider buying a stick shift on a SUV (excuse me… still getting used to this “crossover” moniker), but in this case I’d be seriously tempted. The auto trans performed reasonably well, but the added performance and fuel economy of the manual paired with the enjoyment such a sweet 6-speed reminiscent of the much-loved gearbox on the MX-5 / Miata makes for a compelling argument.

Cabin noise was pretty average. At times it seemed rather quiet as the engine and tires aren’t particularly noisy until thrashed. But noise from other vehicles was more perceptible. This is likely a result of the SkyActiv approach to creating an extremely efficient design which includes weight reduction measures, probably sacrificing extra insulating material in the doors. But it’s far from being too noisy to put me off owning one.

My test drive was at Gyro Mazda on Laird Dr. a little south of Eglinton in Toronto (I will always hold a soft spot for Gyro Mazda as they tirelessly sponsored hockey teams in the league in which I played growing up at Leaside arena) and a nice young rep named Ziad kindly accompanied me on my test drive and toured the vehicle’s features and specs in a no-pressure, informative fashion. Worth asking for Ziad if you’re not going to be using Car Compass‘ services – he was very amicable and courteous.

This new contender from Mazda is an amazing choice as a practical, efficient, affordable (this certainly doesn’t mean “cheap” in execution) and enjoyable urban crossover. I really love its design, both inside and out. Ergonomics are good and everything has obviously been well thought out. Starting at around $23K, it’s an outstanding offering. And what gets me the most excited about the CX-5 is the 2.2L turbo diesel that might be sold here in Canada down the road – an engine that will prove more powerful (with waaaay more torque) and even more impressive fuel economy. It’s about time we (North Americans) shed our outdated and preconceived notions about diesels and realize that contemporary diesels are absolutely amazing. They’re not noisy like a rattling tin can, they don’t spew plumes of dirty-looking black smoke out the tailpipe, and they are not hard to find fuel for (especially when you’re only filling up half as often as a petrol counterpart!). And they’re grin-inducing with their abundant torque. Sign me up for the diesel when it lands in about a year or so!

Angus McComb

Founder, Car Compass – Steering you in the right direction

855-STEER-ME (783-3763) or 416-477-9328

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