The battle over small SUV fuel economy has been heating up of late, but it looks like there's a clear winner (for now): it's the Mazda CX-5, which will reportedly return up to 35 MPG on the highway when it's released later this year.
The CX-5 is the first car in the Mazda range to offer the full cadre of Skyactiv technologies. It starts with the engine, a 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder that returns 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. That power is sent through either Skyactiv-MT, a six-speed manual transmission, or Skyactiv-Drive, a six-speed automatic transmission, and then through front- or all-wheel drive (the latter is only available with the automatic).
Combine the efficient powertrain with an aggressive diet -- the base model with front-wheel drive and a manual transmission weighs just over 3200 pounds -- and the fuel economy results are a bit remarkable.
For starters, a base front-wheel-drive CX-5 with the manual transmission will achieve 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined, according to the EPA. Front-wheel drive automatics will get 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined; all-wheel drive models will get 25 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 28 combined mpg.
That's good enough for a roughly 500 mile range between fill-ups. Mazda says that front-wheel drive cars will have a 14.8 gallon tank, while all-wheel drive models carry an extra half-gallon on board.
How does this compare to its CUV competitors? Well, it's good enough for a clear victory...at the moment. When equipped with front-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, it tops competitors from Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Chevrolet, GMC, and Kia. The only adversary is the 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid, which has been recently discontinued. Ford promises that its upcoming 2013 model, when equipped with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, should return numbers similar to the current Escape Hybrid's 31 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined. If this actually happens, the CX-5 might not hold this crown for very long. We'll have to wait and see how this fight pans out.
Sources: Mazda, EPA