Frugal and fun, the CX-5 is the Mazda3 of crossovers
Los Angeles, Calif. — Competition is revving up in the crowded compact SUV segment, and the newest kid on the block is the 2013 Mazda CX-5, the replacement to the Ford Escape-based Tribute. For consumers, it's welcome news — more choice, more competition, better prices. And, with a starting price of $22,999, it's a pretty impressive package.

The most interesting feature is the new SkyActiv technology, first introduced in North America on the 2012 Mazda3. "The price of fuel isn't going down. So you can't just do zoom-zoom anymore. It's going to have to be a sustainable zoom-zoom. We're bringing the entire suite of SkyActiv technologies into a new car with a brand new design language in a segment we haven't been competing in in quite some time. It's the fastest growing segment in Canada. When you pull all of this together what you have is a shift in our brand," says Don Romano, president, Mazda Canada and CMO at Mazda North American Operations.

SkyActiv: More than just an engine and two gearboxes

2013 Mazda CX-5(Photo: Mazda)

The shift focuses on smarter technology such as SkyActiv, which includes re-engineered engines, transmissions, bodies and chassis that will result in more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly cars and SUVs. The Mazda CX-5 is the first production model to fully adopt all of the SkyActiv technology. The SkyActiv engine is 10 per cent lighter with less internal friction than the MZR 2.0-litre gas engine it replaces. As a result, it delivers 15 per cent more torque, 15 per cent better fuel economy, and 15 per cent less CO2 emissions.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine pumps out 155 hp and 150 lb.-ft. of torque. You can choose between new six-speed manual or automatic transmissions as well as AWD or FWD models. I drove a base FWD with a manual and a fully loaded AWD with an automatic. The base model comes well equipped with air conditioning, push-button start with remote keyless entry, and power windows and doors. Personally, I prefer the automatic with its quick, responsive shifts.

As for the way the CX-5 drives, its steering is crisp, and its ride, comfortable. But driving up hills, the engine struggles at times and engine noise echoes in the cabin. At highway cruising speeds, the CX-5 is comfortable accelerating and passing slower-moving vehicles. The fuel economy is also impressive — the FWD (six-speed manual transmission) is rated at 7.8 L/100 km in the city and 5.7 L/100 km on the highway; while the AWD with six-speed automatic gets 8.0 L/100 km in the city and 6.4 L/100 km on the highway using regular fuel.