Story & Photos by Bill Griffith, NEMPA
The Mazda CX-5, a new entry in the hyper-competitive, five-seat compact SUV segment, is notable because it is the first vehicle to benefit from the full scope of Mazda’s “Skyactiv” technologies, which reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency while enhancing the company’s signature Zoom-Zoom driving characteristics.
Dan Calhoun, CX-5 Line Manager, was in Boston on February 16 to introduce the vehicle to NEMPA. The manual-transmission, front-wheel-drive model is EPA-rated for 26 miles per gallon in town and 35 on the highway, while the more upscale versions with 6-speed automatics are rated at 25/31 (AWD) and 26/32 (FWD). Calhoun pointed out that, with combined ratings of 28/29 MPG, the CX-5 has earned the best fuel-efficiency numbers in its class.
Thanks to some clever engineering involving a “volcano”-shaped piston dome, 6-hole high-pressure fuel injection, delayed timing and elongated exhaust routing, this 2.0-liter engine makes 155 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft. of torque on regular unleaded gasoline. Calhoun said it has the world’s highest compression ratio (13:1) in a mass-produced vehicle.
Mazda is on a company-wide vehicle diet, shedding pounds, ounces and grams, reducing friction between moving parts and applying “clean slate” engineering wherever possible. This Skyactiv approach permeates the CX-5, Calhoun said. The unibody/chassis has been lightened through imaginative design; a revamped steering system promises agility at low and medium speeds and stability on the highway; and even the accelerator pedal has been re-thought. It rises out of the floor, organ-style, instead of hanging from the firewall, to reduce fatigue for those with poor ankle flexibility.
CX-5s are just hitting showrooms now. At prices starting in the very low 20s and with a full suite of optional features, they should become players in New England, battling for share with the CR-V, RAV4, Escape, Forester, Terrain, Tiguan, Tucson, Rogue and a slew of Jeeps (Wrangler, Compass, Patriot, Liberty) as well as the Dodge Journey. The NEMPA fleet should have its very own CX-5 next month.