While many automobile manufacturers have decided that their future success is dependent on the development of an entire new type of vehicle, Mazda has instead decided that their future success is dependent on making their current vehicles a whole lot better.
After years of development, Mazda has begun to roll out an entire new line up of vehicles which utilize a combined series technological advances, and are branded under the SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY moniker. SKYACTIV is more of an umbrella term than an actual specific technological advancement. In its early promotional material Mazda correctly points out that today’s internal combustion engines are woefully inefficient, with as much as 90% of potential energy from fuels being lost. SKYACTIV takes the approach that traditional internal combustion vehicles can be designed to be more efficient and sustainable. Through advances in engine, transmission, chassis and body design SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY will make vehicles more fuel efficient and sustainable than ever before.
While Mazda plans to eventually design all of its models using SKYACTIV, it is being rolled out to consumers with the 2012 edition of the Mazda 3 as well as through the launch of the 2013 CX-5, it’s all new entry into the busy Compact SUV category, which is the focus of this Enviro Dad Test Drive review.
AT FIRST GLANCE
The 2013 CX-5 replaces the Tribute as Mazda’s entry into the increasingly competitive compact SUV category. Aesthetically the difference is instantly noticeable as the more rigid and box-like shape of the Tribute is replaced by lower, sweeping and attractive design features found with the CX-5. It’s perhaps one of the more attractive designs in this category and it does get noticed. Evidence of this came from some BlackBerry Messages that I received from my neighbour who wanted to know what the heck was in my driveway the week I had the CX-5.
With the CX-5 we are getting a first glance at what Mazda calls its “KODO – Soul of Motion” design theme. The more athletic and agile lines are likely to work its way through the Mazda line up as models are re-designed and incorporated into the SKYACTIV model.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The 2012 CX-5 offers a 2.0 Litre 4 cylinder engine that puts out 155 hp (6,000 rpm) and 150 lb/ft of torque (4,000 rpm). The 2.0 Litre displacement is smaller than virtually all of its category competition such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox or GMC Terrain. As a result the horsepower and torque ratings are lower as well however given both the better efficiency of the engine and the lighter weight of the new design, I never had the sense that it was under powered. I spent time driving the CX-5 on rather hilly terrain between Collingwood and Toronto and I never felt that I necessarily needed more pep.
The implementation of SKYACTIV technology has reportedly added 15% greater fuel efficiency when compared to its 2.0 Litre engine utilized in 2011 models. The CX-5 comes in both a SKYACTIV DRIVE six speed automatic and a SKYACTIV-MT six speed manual transmission. The new transmissions offer better fuel efficiency and performance.
From a driver’s perspective, the sightlines were clear and all controls were easily accessible. A constant complaint I have in this category is lack of leg room for me, as yet again I didn’t feel I had quite the amount of legroom as I would’ve liked.
THE GREEN FACTOR
In creating SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY Mazda recognizes that internal combustion engines will still make up about 80% of vehicles on the road by 2020. While they have developmental programs in place for both hybrid vehicles and EV’s, they knew that opportunity awaited them if they could maximize fuel efficiency with standard engines as well.
Through the implementation of all SKYACTIV components, the CX-5 offers segment leading fuel efficiency. The six speed manual offers the best option at 7.8 L/100km (city) and 5.7 L/100km (hwy), while the 4WD automatic tester I had has a published fuel rating of 8.0 L/100km (city) and 6.4 L/100km (hwy). As with just about all reviews I’ve done, my actual real world driving numbers tended to be about 10 – 15% above the posted ratings.
THE FAMILY FACTOR
Compact SUV’s are a popular seller for families as they typically offer plenty of cargo room without being too large and the CX-5 is no different. With a cargo capacity of just over 34 cubic feet with the rear seats upright and over 65 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, there is more than enough room for most of what a typical family might experience such as grocery shopping or hauling of sports equipment.
The CX-5 seats 5 comfortably, but the rear seats will be a bit crammed if the 3 occupants are either teenagers or young adults.
FOR THE TECHIES
This is the section where I typically talk about comfort and convenience features, and while the CX-5 does offer the usual array of offerings, such as navigation package, premium BOSE sound systems, rearview cameras, Bluetooth and more as either standard or options, these are not the techie features that are worth noting.
If you are a more mechanically and technically inclined automotive enthusiast, the real techie treats come from the advancements that SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY implement. Some solid engineering know how has gone into making regular combustion engines more efficient, transmissions more responsive and bodies that are lighter yet sturdier. However for most of us, all that will matter is the end result and experience as opposed to just how advanced stuff like this really is.
Through the development and launch of its SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY Mazda is taking a calculated risk when it comes to building automobiles for the future. They realized that when between 70 – 90% of energy from regular fuel is lost due to standard combustion technology there was significant room for improvement. They believe that if you build more efficient cars that operate on regular platforms, instead of investing heavily into hybrids and EV’s, that there is the opportunity to be the dominant player in a segment that should still represent about 80% of vehicles purchased by 2020.
The 2013 Mazda CX-5 is the first vehicle designed and launched implementing SKYACTIV and to my mind, the results are impressive. I have to admit though that I was initially reluctant to fully support the notion of SKYACTIV for I still believe that while you can make vast improvements with combustion engines and vehicles of today, we still need to eventually shift away from vehicles that use fossil fuels. My criticism is muted though by the knowledge that Mazda still aims to be a player in vehicles propelled by renewable energy, but in the mean time they also want to be able to build standard cars that are as efficient and sustainable as possible.
In the increasingly competitive compact SUV category Mazda has replaced it’s tested but tired Tribute with a sleek, sporty and efficient new entry. It should make for a very interesting dog-fight but Mazda can take solace in knowing it has an entry capable of putting up a pretty good fight.
BY THE NUMBERS (Out of 10)
LOOK/DESIGN – 9.0
DRIVE – 8.0
THE GREEN FACTOR – 9.0
THE FAMILY FACTOR – 8.5
TECHIE STUFF – 8.0
VALUE – 8.0
(MSRP as Tested $29,895)
OVERALL SCORE – 8.5