Mazda CX-5
By: Mike Febbo

We Like: Looks good, fun to drive, great base model value.

We Don't Like: It's low on power, and options add up quickly.

From the styling to the specs, everyone expected the CX-5 to drive like a lifted Mazda3. In the handling department, no one was disappointed. The small CUV was easy to hustle around the test track and rotated smoothly with a little lift-throttle oversteer.

But sad to say, the trip from corner to corner was a bit too long. The CX-5 is powered by the 155-horse Skyactiv 2.0-liter I-4, which seems adequate in a small hatchback, but inadequate in a larger, heavier, and lifted hatchback now called a CUV.

Power arguments aside, we consider the basic version a real value. Harwood logged, "There is a tremendous value here. That the front-drive CX-5 had an as-tested price of, what, $22K, shows that you can get a crossover for hatchback money." Said Floyd, "The bare-bones version is one of the weakest interior executions I've seen in a while, but it's a pretty sweet deal at under $22K, and it's sporting a six-speed manual." The interior space is decent, but you won't want to stuff adults in the back seats for long periods of time. The CX-5 does have cool touches like fold-down rear-seat pass-through; grippy, supportive seats; and nice, shiny piano-black trim.

The Mazda made a strong case for itself, but was put in its place by its training partner the Ford Escape. Both CUVs are based on the same platform, and while the Ford can realistically make the best-in-class claim, the Mazda simply can't. Even though several judges preferred the exterior's Kodo styling, the features and powertrain options on the Ford make it clear who the title contender would be between just these two vehicles.

We hope Mazda will fill out the CX-5 a little more in the future. Differentiating a sport and a luxury trim with different suspension tuning and interior trim would go a long way. More standard features or more attractively priced option packages might increase perceived value of the better-equipped trims. For the knockout punch, Mazda needs to add the turbodiesel option rumored to be hitting other platforms in the coming year.

2013 Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv
BASE PRICE $21,790
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.0L/155-hp/150-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3109 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 178.7 x 72.4 x 65.7 in
0-60 MPH 9.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.9 sec @ 82.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 123 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.2 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 130/96 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.66 lb/mile