First Drive

2013 Mazda CX-5

New CX-5 represents repositioning of Mazda for the future

2013 Mazda CX-5
Mazda Canada President Don Romano says it’s the “future of the company.” He says the 2013 Mazda CX-5 is the first “sixth generation” Mazda, the first to contain the full suite of SkyActiv technologies and the first to show the company’s new Kodo design theme.

It is, he says, “the repositioning of Mazda for a better way into the future, the first chapter in an overall strategy to differentiate Mazda." Not much pressure there!

Romano says Mazda has to “defy convention, leverage our technological expertise to go where others have not.”
The small company, having severed its relationship with Ford, will “innovate its way to success” - something Mazda has done for 50 years - to go to a different place in the market. 


The 2013 CX-5, coming to market early in the new year, is a tangible expression of that difference. Mazda can’t afford to pursue low volume products like hybrids, vehicles that carry high development costs and are purchased by a very small number of consumers. Instead it has chosen to improve on existing technologies, resulting in similar fuel and emissions savings at a much lower cost.

The internal combustion engine will remain the mainstay of the industry for decades to come, so Mazda’s R&D department went to work making it more efficient. The result is a four-cylinder engine that uses 20% less fuel and offers more power low in the rev range where it is most accessible .Instead of developing a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) or a Dual Shaft Gearbox (DSG) it has made huge changes to the conventional automatic resulting in similar fuel savings.

No longer sharing platforms with Ford, Mazda developed its own for the CX-5, a new one that is flexible enough to serve beneath a variety of upcoming new vehicles. One that was developed with weight savings and improved crash safety as the core values.

Norio Minato, the Vice President of R&D for Mazda North America, said the replacement for the Tribute in the Mazda lineup is completely new. “No more platform sharing, no more body sharing this one was developed to meet our goals, no others.”

With its new look- say goodbye to the gaping mouth of the previous design theme – the CX-5 has the full adaptation of SKYACTIV technologies – engine, transmission, body and chassis. All have been completely re-engineered . Everything from the driving position to the response to steering, brake and throttle inputs has been developed to ensure it drives like a Mazda. Zoom Zoom has become more than an ad slogan, it has become the mantra for every member of the design and development teams.

The CX-5 will compete in the fastest growing segment of the Canadian market – compact SUVs. More than 20 vehicles compete in this category, including newcomers from Ford (Escape) and Honda (CR-V) which will hit the market at about the same time as the CX-5.

To ensure it stands out, in addition to the new look, engines and transmissions the CX-5 has been given a long wheelbase, the biggest rear seats in the class and a host of small touches like a 40/20/40 split rear seat so two sides can be left up with a space between for long items or to separate the children.The heating and ventilation system has been designed to provide more even distribution of air, whether heated or cooled.

We drove some early pre-production prototypes where the mechanical bits were in final form but the trim and minor pieces were still a but rough. The goal was to sample the driving dynamics and overall feel of the interior.
Susumu Niinai, SKYACTIV Powertrain Program Manager says the goal with the new engine was to minimize losses. “ In typical city driving a gasoline engine uses only 10% of the energy available in the fuel. On the highway that rises to 30% so we loose a minimum of 70% of the energy through heart, pumping or friction. Our goal was to attack those losses,” he said.

The SKYACTIV G (for gasoline) gasoline engine is smooth, quiet and despite an astronomical compression ratio of 13:1, runs on regular fuel. It produces 155 horsepower and150 lb. ft. of torque. That is 12 more horsepower and 15 additional pound feet of torque, both of which occur at lower revs than the MX-R 2.0 litre engine it replaces in the Mazda lineup.  Niinai-san said he has 1,500 people working on a SkyActive diesel that will come to North America in about one year.

The CX-5 will come with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. AS befits the “Zoom Zoom” image, Mazda expects to sell more manual transmissions that the competition. Accordingly it has gone to great lengths to massage the shift mechanism and structure resulting in the shortest throws in the passenger vehicle segment and less effort. The majority of buyers will choose the automatic however and the changes that result in the SkyActiv label include a lot of computer work and using the torque converter only below 5 miles per hour. Above that it is locked up. This alone showed a hefty decrease in fuel mileage.

Development has eliminated the shift lag I noticed in earlier prototypes I drove on the west coast and in Iceland.  Mazda is looking at fuel economy rating of 7.8 litres/100 city and 5.7 highway for a front-wheel-drive CX-5 with manual transmission, 7.7/6.1 with the automatic and 8/6.4 with the automatic and all-wheel-drive.

Something else we noted was the linearity of the throttle pedal. Niinai-san said that in most cars the first 20% of pedal travel results in near maximum acceleration while the remaining 80% does not have the same result. “As result you tend to use more pedal travel than necessary when getting underway and then have to back off the throttle as you reach speed.”

Thanks to extensive use of light-weight, high-tensile steel and a completely new chassis design the CX-5 will hit the scales at a relatively svelte 3,200 – 3,400 pounds depending on equipment. Fully 61% of body weight is high-tensile steel. The bumpers use the highest strength steel ever used in vehicle production – that allowed less weight at the extreme ends of vehicle.

Seventeen-inch tires will be standard and 19-in available. With both we noted an extremely impressive combination of ride and handling. The CX-5 absorbed major and minor surface imperfections with complete aplomb. But it also tackled the turns with the same ease staying flat and handling transients in a manner most unfamiliar to a SUV.

The interior has been designed around the theme of an upscale cockpit for the driver with optimized layout of controls. The seats will come in two choices of fabric and two of leather with contrast stitching on the leather. All upper surfaces are soft touch material and a trim piece of black piano lacquer runs from door-to-door. There are a few “shiny bits” on the doors and center stack. Most designers are completely obsessed with watches and it shows here with crisp, clean gauge fronts.

The CX-5 will come in GX, GS and GT trim levels. Heated mirrors, power windows and locks, tilt/telescope wheel, USB input, air conditioning, remote keyless entry and push button start will be standard across the line. There will be a very short option list, including a Tom-Tom GPS and nine-speaker Bose audio system. There will only be nine order codes to ensure dealers have the maximum choice on the lot.

Pricing has not yet been determined but Mazda executives say it will be “competitive”. We’d guess the GX will start at slightly more than $22,000ngest wheelbase in segment.

The CX-5 will come in GX, GS and GT trim levels. Heated mirrors, power windows and locks, tilt/telescope wheel, USB input, air conditioning, remote keyless entry and push button start will be standard across the line. There will be a very short option list, including a Tom-Tom GPS and nine-speaker Bose audio system. There will only be nine order codes to ensure dealers have the maximum choice on the lot.

Pricing has not yet been determined but Mazda executives say it will be “competitive”. I’d guess the GX will start at slightly more than $23,000
 

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