Auto Review: Mazda’s SKYACTIV SUV

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Oct. 18, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Earlier this year, we were introduced to Mazda’s new SKYACTIV technology in the Mazda3 five-door, and we were impressed by this engineering approach that delivers greatly improved fuel economy. This strategy uses a variety of fuel-stretching techniques in select parts the vehicle, while keeping the price for this frugality affordable.

Mazda has taken the opportunity with its all-new CX-5 compact SUV to introduce extensive SKYACTIV advancements, and this machine is designed to deliver the kind of space and utility only a compact SUV can deliver, all while managing class-leading fuel economy and Mazda’s signature fun-to-drive quotient. The company has a goal for all their cars: “Jinbai ittai, the oneness between car and driver,” and they have come through admirably with their new CX. They accomplished this by (for the first time) instilling an entire suite of SKYACTIV technologies in a single vehicle, including engine, transmission, body and chassis components.

Riding on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the CX-5 is powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2-Liter Direct Injection Inline Four with 155 horsepower. Our Front-Drive CX-5 Sport had the six-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission (both all-wheel drive and a SKYACTIV six-speed automatic transmission are also available). The engine and transmission are optimized to be very stingy with a gallon of fuel and accomplish this admirably, but the real surprise comes in how fun this thrifty powerplant is to drive. Engine response is smooth and satisfying, and while it’s no rocket out of the gate, it’s reasonably quick to merge with traffic, provided you use the transmission ratios to optimize acceleration.

The strong but lightweight SKYACTIV body and chassis components not only aid efficiency, they also make the CX-5 quick on its feet, so handling is responsive even on the tightest roads. Steering feedback is good, and the only foible in this whole package is a lack of pulling power in top gear at lower RPMs (but this just requires judicious use of gear selection). Ride quality is good over most surfaces, although it can get choppy over rougher stretches of pavement. Maneuverability is great in tight quarters, and it is a very entertaining vehicle to drive.

The interior of the CX-5 thankfully uses contemporary technology in an intelligent way, which means making the control interfaces easy to understand right away (using things like tried-and-true knobs and gauges). Traditional analog instrumentation is supplemented by a clear, concise trip computer, with most controls logically arrayed for quick familiarity. Front seating strikes a nearly ideal balance between support and comfort, with durable seating material and a commanding driving position. The rear seats feature a nearly flat floor for good foot room and good room for adults, with seatbacks that fold forward in 60/40 sections to increase cargo room to a total of nearly 65 cubic feet of cargo room.

Mazda’s SKYACTIV engineering approach is ultimately about fuel efficiency, and the 2013 CX-5 Sport FWD is EPA-rated 25 MPG city/35 highway, and we experienced an impressive 30.1 MPG in a week of mixed driving. With options, our MSRP came to $21,490.

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