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News and Road Tests

March 7, 2012
2013 Mazda CX-5 First Impressions
by Kevin ''Crash'' Corrigan , Auto123.com
MONTEREY, California - The CX-5 is Mazda's new compact SUV, and the first vehicle to fully reap the benefits of the company's SKYACTIV fuel-saving technologies. This combines ultra-efficient engines, weight-saving reduced friction gearboxes/transmissions, free-flowing exhaust systems, together with some rather impressive lightweight body and chassis design.

The vehicle replaces the well-loved, but rather long-in-the-tooth Mazda Tribute which was the company's badge-engineered version of the Ford Escape. However, Mazda is making it quite clear that its all new CX-5 is a totally Ford-free product and bears absolutely no resemblance to any current model in Ford’s lineup.

2013 Mazda CX-5 front 3/4 view
The CX-5 replaces the well-loved, but rather long-in-the-tooth Mazda Tribute which was the company's badge-engineered version of the Ford Escape. (Photo: Mazda)

The 2013 Mazda CX-5 is a very stylish looking vehicle. Perhaps not as sports-like in stance as its closest relative, the CX-7, but the added height dimensions allow for some rather impressive interior space in a vehicle of its size. I found the interior of the CX-5 to be one of the best in the segment, and it follows along with Mazda’s reputation for supplying a true driver’s cockpit feel to its products.

Now some may feel that there are already enough pint-sized SUVs on the market today and, in many ways, I would agree with that assessment. However, this new offering from Mazda brings something slightly different to the table by delivering affordable and impressive agility to an otherwise rather mundane section of the market.

Obviously, if you dig deep enough into your wallet, there are perhaps one or two European products which could be described as agility-proud, but at the entry-level end of the market, there’s truly not much to get excited about.

Of course, Mazda tends to view things a bit differently from most other manufacturers. Zoom-Zoom is in the DNA of every vehicle the company produces (at least now that the Tribute has gone!), so when they decided upon the CX-5, they naturally wanted to make it a tad more agile than its competition.

This was made abundantly clear to me when the company announced its itinerary for the product launch. Yes, we would enjoy some typical back-road scenery of California, all twisty and breathtaking. However, the main event would take place at none other than Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca! As the company has been involved with the famed track for many years, it would seem natural to use the facility to showcase a new product, but an SUV on a race track, what were they possibly thinking?

Well, it appears that Mazda knows better than I, because it proved to be the perfect venue for the CX-5.

Laguna Seca is known for being a challenging road course. It is, after all, the home of corners 8/8a (The formidable Cork Screw) which has captured more than a few drivers off guard. With this in mind, and the fact that I was piloting an SUV, I started out somewhat cautious. The vehicle can hardly be described as high-performance (the 155-hp 2.0L is more aimed at good fuel economy) and yet, the CX-5 more than makes up for this with astonishing handling characteristics.

2013 Mazda CX-5 front 3/4 view
The vehicle can hardly be described as high-performance and yet, the CX-5 more than makes up for this with astonishing handling characteristics. (Photo: Mazda)
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