2013 Mazda CX-5 - Domo Arigato, for the Kodo

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Mazda recently introduced to North America its all-new 2013 CX-5 Skyactiv-G compact crossover activity vehicle. The new design theme is called “Kodo,”  which is Japanese for “Soul of Motion.” We’ll give it that, because the previous “Nagare” or “Flow” design resembled a Grinning Face or “Niyari Kao” on applications like the Mazda3 . Instead, this baby has the lines of a jungle cat ready to pounce, much in the way of the Infiniti FX (QX70) “Cheetah.” Better get used to it since it will be the shape of future models to come from Mazda. With optional all-wheel drive and 8.5″ of ground clearance we at “Drive…He Said” decided to try how well this Kodo survives where it matters: the Urban Jungle.

Survival Issue No.1 : “Where is it going to fit?”

There are those of us who are tentative [read “anal“] about parallel parking. Incurring bumper or wheel rash is not allowed. Normally, crossovers and sport-utes, with their poorer sight lines, make us sweat even more. The 2013 Mazda CX-5 instills a new found courage at the end of the afternoon commute. A tall seating position, low cowl, equally low belt-line, a pair of light-truck  sized side-mirrors and a super-wide angle back-up camera endow this taller crossover with compact car parking qualities. After all, at 180 inches, the CX-5 is just a mere one inch longer than the Mazda3 compact sedan.  Consider, also, that with the CX-5’s petite turning radius, pulling  “U-ees” [where permitted] is no sweat.

Survival Issue No.2: “How much and how well can we fit inside?

Plenty. Built off a versatile Skyactiv platform, the Mazda CX-5 has 3″ inches greater wheelbase than the current Mazda3. Most of which ends up in the second row. Taller rear seat cushions spell out 39″ of  legroom for at least two average sized adults, or about what they would find in a full size sedan. Banished will be pesky kids shoe imprints on the front seat backs. A 40/20/40 folding seat-back split cuts some of the comfort out of an otherwise acceptable middle position, at least for shorter durations. This arrangement makes possible endless cargo toting configurations. With the precise pull of some nicely crafted handles along the  hatch area walls, the seat backs fold horizontal nearly doubling cargo space from 34 to 65 cubic feet.

Build fit in the CX-5 lives up to typically high Mazda standards, though some interior trim has clashing grains and hard plastics appear about as yielding as marble. If anything ought be unyielding it should be body rigidity. Despite the 19″ monster wheels our Grand Touring model wore, direct hits on Chicago’s notorious “bunker buster asphalt craters” transmitted only the barest of quivers. About the only sound that will penetrate the CX-5 cabin is the cold start idle engine clatter. It makes for a great place to audition the highly sibilant Bose Centerpoint audio system. Instrumentation is laid out to keep the driver well informed. Analog gauges have elegant chrome bezels and the blue-white display lighting is soothing. Switchgear offers a direct reaction to inputs. All of which makes us wonder why Mazda persists with steering wheel controls have the “added-on” appearance. Or, why the climate control buttons and dials are back-lit in day-glow orange which doesn’t glow all that well on bright-sunny days. And whether the $30,000 as tested price of our CX-5 tester doesn’t deserve a navigation touch screen slightly larger than 5.6 diagonal inches, where competitors offer 7″+ screens.

Survival Issue No.3: “How suitable is it for stop and go?”

If subdued but surefooted urban crawl with all the other road rabble is the mission, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 should satisy. However, the same 155 hp Skyactiv 2.0L inline-4 gas engine and quick locking 6-speed automatic transmission from the Mazda3 now has to cope with 400 additional pounds courtesy of the all-wheel drive CX-5. Some of the  “Zoom, Zoom”  is lost in the translation.  The minor lethargy we perceived in the Mazda3’s initial throttle take-up is more major in the CX-5. In instances  where low engine speed grunt is demanded, depressing the accelerator is met with a “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three count” before power cascades. Plan on a 9.5 second count to reach 60 mph. Torque gluttons [like us] should be satiated by an expected Skyactiv 2.2L diesel engine in 2013.

The remaining responses of the Mazda CX-5 are similar to those in  sporting Mazda characteristics. Electrically assisted steering is firm if somewhat unnaturally so. Entering freeway bends at its limits result in some wander and  rear float verging on oversteer, courtesy of all-wheel drive and the 225/55 sized Toyo Proxes A23 tires. At no time do things get hairy enough to set off the stability control. Brake pedal feel never left us wanting.

Ride compliance, in typical Mazda form, is sufficiently damped though on the firm side.   Neither traversing uneven railroad crossings nor frost heaves on the large alloys produce any intrusive jarring. In all the effort to make a new Mazda CX-5 so eager to be pushed to the limits, they neglected the front leather bucket seats, low both on grip and lateral restraint.

Survival Issue No.4: “Will it suck up a lot of petroleum product / dough?”

The stingy fuel economy we have previously witnessed with Skyactiv technology has spoiled us. So we were not shocked when our Mazda CX-5 AWD returned a class-leading 26 miles per gallon, even if we did miss the EPA’s mark by 2 mpg.  Don’t those people ever just pound on the gas pedal?

Pricing for a  Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWD  or Kia Sportage AWD, won’t come in much lower than our CX-5 Grand Touring AWD’s $30,400 fare. (Base price for a front-drive CX-5 manual: $20,995.)  The more refined, yet less cargo capable Volkswagen Tiguan will cost a hefty $4000 more. None of the aforementioned matches the 2013 Mazda CX-5 in outright road carving.  Proving that the “Soul of Motion” can be more rewarding than what “Flows.”

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