2013 Mazda

26 city / 32 hwy
2.0L, 4-cylinder, 155 hp

We love Mazda for its sporty rides and fun factor. Now the Mazda CX-5, a smart-sized compact crossover, combines all the fun with practical aspects every family wants.

By Matt Stone

The Big Picture

The compact crossover market segment stretches far and wide – from cars like the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 to the Kia Sportage, and some would say, the BMW X-3. Mazda wants a piece of this action, and the new from-scratch CX-5 will get a big bite of it. It does nearly everything well. It looks sharp, drives sporty, holds a lot, doesn’t use too much gas, and is really affordable.

An Inside Job

The Mazda CX-5 will soon replace the always-popular Mazda CX-7 in the carmaker’s lineup. The outgoing CX-7 is a dandy rig, but the Mazda CX-5 has nearly the same interior volume, is a lot less expensive to buy and gets far better fuel economy. That means the CX-5 is a strict two-row five seater; if you need more body count, step up to the still excellent Mazda CX-9, which has been recently given a mid-life refresh, and is a consistent top player in the three-rows-of-seats crossover class.

No matter, the CX-5’s cabin, as with all Mazdas, focuses first on the driver, but leaves plenty of comfort and satisfaction for the other four occupants as well. For a compact, there’s plenty of room front or back, and Mazda has worked hard to wrap this cabin in handsome materials that smack of quality. The instrumentation is clear and easy to read, and the rest of the controls are close at hand and logical to operate. The standard cloth and vinyl used in the Touring level interior is high quality durable stuff and never feels cheap or cheesy.

The rear seats split 40/20/40 and the seats’ flip and fold functions could not be easier, from either rear side door or from the large rear hatch opening. There are plenty of cupholders, armrests and lighted vanity mirrors to go around. Other model levels offer handsome faux brushed metal or “piano black” glossy plastic trim panels that look good and feel nice to the touch. Of course you can step up to leather trimmed seats, although you get a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob in all levels. Nearly everyone will be happy in the Mazda CX-5 interior.

Family Friendliness

They don’t come much friendlier than this. The doors open wide for super ingress and egress, plus, as we mentioned, flipping and folding the rear seats is a snap. Visibility is superb from all positions and in all directions, so everyone’s comfy here.

Driving Impressions

We tested a wide variety of Mazda CX-5 models, from a manual transmission-equipped, front-wheel drive Sport to a fully loaded AWD Grand Touring model, and ultimately enjoyed them all a bunch. Mazda gives all CX-5s sporty handling, beefy wheels and tires, well connected steering, and capable four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. So there’s no roly-poly, poor handling, cheapo version to avoid.

Remember, Mazda is the Zoom-zoom brand and insists that anything it builds will have a measure of driving fun included as standard equipment. Our wheel time included hot laps (in the rain, no less) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Monterey, Peninsula area, intended at showcasing this car’s superb chassis and high speed handling characteristics, plus lots of real world on-road miles confirming that it is fun-to-drive in an everyday attitude. We felt safe, even driving at high speeds in the rain. Certainly a great feeling when hauling the family around town.

The 4-cylinder, 155 horsepower engine is up to the task but just barely. With one passenger and no cargo aboard, it’s fine for most drivers and driving conditions, but ultimately not as zoom-zoomy as we had hoped. Unless you spend your time with a full load of passengers and cargo, towing a trailer, up and down the hills of San Francisco, you’ll find the engine adequate, not thrilling. It makes lusty sounds out of its sporty dual exhaust pipes, but just won’t overwhelm you with power. But it’s as zippy as any of its competition, and likely costs less to buy, plus it gets better fuel mileage than all of them.

Handling, steering, stopping, ride — you won’t have any complaints in any of these areas; in fact, you’ll absolutely enjoy how well it handles and steers, happy to attack those twisty roads on the way to your cabin. Wind noise is commendably low, and it has a firm, well controlled, yet smooth ride quality. Mazda has done its homework here, and done it right.


The Mazda CX-5 is all new, from scratch purpose-built for crossover duty; that is to say it’s not a compact sedan given some rear glass and a hatchback, and then pumped up into a crossover. This translates into a well-handling machine that steers well, holds tight in corners, and brakes the way you want it to.

It features advanced dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags, and front-and-rear side air curtain bags with rollover protection. Several trim levels offer a blind spot warning system and a back-up rear view camera with dash mounted screen. Naturally, LATCH rear child safety seat anchors and tethers and a Tire Pressure Monitoring system are standard.

Gizmos And Tech

Each Mazda CX-5, no matter the trim level, has keyless entry and push-button start, standard. No more fishing for a key or fob. The standard audio system is an AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio with automatic level control.

There’s also an AUX jack for your device of choice, and Bluetooth connectivity is standard or optional, depending on the model. As you creep up the trim level hierarchy, you can get HD radio or SIRIUS satellite radio. Ditto a digital nav with a bright, clear, hi def 5.8-inch color screen; the nav is touch screen, easy to program and proved highly accurate during our several-hundred miles behind the wheel.

Pricing and Trim Levels

There are choices here, but it’s all pretty straightforward. There’s only one engine offered: 2.0L, 4-cyl, 155 hp. It can be had in the “base” Sport model with your choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, with a choice of front or all-wheel drive in most other models. We recommend the AWD as it costs no fuel economy penalty, improves the CX-5s handling, and gives it a further measure of all weather and all road surface capability. Price-leader CX-5 model, begins at $21,490, with top of line All-wheel-drive Grand Touring CX-5 start at $29,090.
2013 Mazda CX-5

Final Thoughts

Mazda makes vehicles that are fun to drive, and the CX-5 is no exception. We would have liked a bit more power, but forgiving that, it's a great family ride and an excellent value.

An all around athlete; it corners, handles, stops, and rides beautifully

Great looking inside and out, affordably priced and smartly packaged, plus good fuel economy

We don’t at all dislike the engine or transmission, yet some drivers will wish it was a bit quicker

Ride Quality
Fuel Economy

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6 Responses to “Mazda CX-5”

  1. Joan says:

    Can any of the Mazda line be towed behind a motorhome, flat.

  2. Laura M. says:

    This car was suppose to be the pick for the best small suv from a particular magazine, so I had to give it a test drive since I’m in the market for an suv. This seems to be a good deal, but after I drove it with just me and the salesman in the car I could tell that it is under powered. Not to mention that it was constantly shifting gears trying to find the right one I’m sure. This constant revving and downshifting drove me crazy to hear and because of that I knew I could not consider this car as my next car. Sorry but all the bells and whistles in this car could not drown out the noise of the shifty transmission. Otherwise, a nice looking car.

  3. Jessica says:

    I’ve driven this car for 9 months and haven’t had the shifting problems that Laura had, in fact it’s been quite the opposite. It’s been an extremely quiet and well handled ride. We’ve absolutely loved the gas mileage and all the “bells and whistles”. If it wasn’t for us adding one more baby to the mix, we would have kept this car for years to come. Slightly roomier than a regular sedan, with equal gas mileage. Out of any cross over, and believe me, we tried them all, this one was my top pick, and for good reason.

  4. Anita says:

    I have been driving my CX5 for a year now and love it! However, I am upset that I not received one key fob at purchase. Another website listed the fact that the 2012 models only came with one fob. The dealership advised me they had put the spare fob in with my paperwork. I dug the overnight maker out of my recycling bin and showed it to them advising that they did not put it with my papers. The dealership said it would cost @ $400 to replace (I had asked them to search the dealership-no fob found). At the time, I did not feel likeI should have to pay to replace something I never received. I would appreciate your thoughts.

    • I agree that giving only one key fob with the car is less than great. That’s a manufacturer issue, and it’s probably because Mazda wants to save money and hopes you won’t notice. The second problem, where the dealership didn’t include a second key, is something you’d have to fight about with the dealership. If they insist you pay $400 for something you never received, I would take to the social media scene and warn furture customers of this dealership to beware.

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