Fuel economy and Zoom-Zoom
How can a small-size car company meet federal fuel economy standards for the next decade if it lacks the resources to develop fuel-efficient hybrids, like larger automakers? If you’re Mazda, you tackle the issue with a holistic approach and
innovative engineering that benefits not only fuel economy, but performance, handling and safety as well.
The result? It’s what the little Zoom-Zoom carmaker calls “Skyactiv Technology,” a suite of technological packages in synch with each other that collectively earned the 2015 Mazda CX-5 compact crossover sport utility inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. And not just for the base 2.0-liter four cylinder engine, but also for the larger 2.5-liter four.
Equipped with the smaller 2.0-liter engine, the EPA estimated fuel economy is 31-mpg highway/25 city and 28 combined. There is little fuel economy penalty when choosing the 2.5 as the numbers only drop to 30-mpg highway/24 city and 26 combined.
Three all-wheel drive models are offered: Sport, which starts at $24,395 $850 destination charges; Touring priced starting at $26,215; and Grand Touring with a sticker price of $29,220.
Insightful, creative engineering is the core of Skyactiv and the CX-5 was the first Mazda vehicle to feature all of the combined technologies when introduced in 2012 as a 2013 model. At the heart is the Skyactiv-G Engine, a lightweight, efficient four-cylinder that uses direct fuel injection, sequential intake valve timing and a high 13.0:1 compression ratio. These, along with other innovations, achieve excellent power performance while delivering exceptional fuel economy and running on 87-octane fuel.
The 2.0-liter produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 150 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The larger 2.5-liter engine pushes the output to 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm.
Connected to the engine is the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission. Lightweight in design, the engineering goal was the best attributes of all automatic transmission types — conventional automatic, continuously variable and dual clutch. Mission accomplished, using a small torque converter that delivers smooth starts and shifts attributed to torque transfer efficiency.
Lightweighting, the use of weight-saving materials to improve fuel economy, plays a major role in Mazda’s program. Skyactiv-body and Skyactiv-chassis are terms used to describe the huge reduction of weight through extensive use of high-tensile strength steel. These construction components provide a rigid body and stiffer chassis to optimize steering and handling control. Plus, it helps protect occupants during an unexpected impact.
Whew! That’s a lot to digest, and I only highlighted the details. It does, however, give some insight why the CX-5 feels so darn good to drive.
Zoom-Zoom Road Test
When introduced, the CX-5’s sole engine was the 2.0-liter four. While it was adequate and smooth running, the performance is best described as a single Zoom.
Mazda added the 2.5-liter last year, giving it the credentials to rightfully claim Zoom-Zoom in its advertising. Our Grand Touring all-wheel drive test vehicle approached life with zest not found in other small crossovers, with the exception of the Ford Escape with the 240 horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder.
The engine is quiet and you can feel some muscle when accelerating from a stop or punching the pedal when merging or passing. Power is demonstrated in a refined, enthusiastic way rather than a brute force manner. There’s plenty of energy from the mid to the upper ranges of the power band. Launch to 60 mph is a tick under eight seconds, admirable for a vehicle that weighs in at 3,532 pounds.
The six-speed automatic proved to be a smooth partner to the 2.5-liter four. Shifts — up or down — were as smooth and quick as any automatic-equipped small crossover I’ve driven.
What made me appreciate the engine and transmission’s performance was the sweet handling, thanks to the Skyactiv’s attention to chassis details. The suspension is divided between MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the back. The latter has been mounted higher than usual to improve damper efficiency.
Our 2015 Mazda CX-5 was composed under hard acceleration and deceleration, stayed flat as it danced through tight, fast corners and kept its poise right up to the limits of tire adhesion. Although the suspension is skewed toward athletic achievement, the little SUV still dispensed a comfortable, well-behaved ride whether it was on the Interstate or city streets.
As is becoming the norm in this class and others, the steering rack is an electrically assisted system that has a feel close to the Miata roadster. It is communicative, quick and precise at higher speeds, yet light when parking.
The only demerit I gave the CX-5 was a sensitive, slightly grabby brake pedal. I did become used to it, and, sensitive or not, during an urgently needed panic stop, the brakes came through as required.
“Soul of Motion” Design
In addition to Skyactiv, the CX-5 was the first Mazda to introduce its new Kodo, or “Soul of Motion” design direction, which introduced a wide mouth grille. The black, shield-shaped grille and angular wraparound headlights give the front a distinctive and classy look.
In profile, the shape has a swept-back SUV look, with the raked front A-pillar matching the fastback design of the rear C-pillar. In back the style is simple but tasteful, featuring high-mounted taillights that wrap around to sides and a small rear window. Hinting at the CX-5’s performance bent is a pair of chrome exhaust tips.
Mazda carried the smart exterior over to the interior, where I found everything solidly built and smartly designed, if slightly lacking in visual sparkle. Materials and assembly quality are equal to the best-in-class, and there is an abundance of
soft touch surfaces in the right places.
The prevailing sight from the driver’s seat, save a clear and sensibly laid-out instrument cluster, is a streamlined swathe of dashboard that tapers over a setback multimedia center, with touchscreen functions that operate intuitively. Below the screen, climate control switchgear turns with a gratifyingly solid soft click.
With a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 has one of the roomiest cabins in the small crossover segment. Driver and front passenger have a generous 40.1-inch headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. Six- or eight-way power-adjustable driver seats are offered on all but the Sport trim.
Comfort extends to rear seat passengers who have a plentiful 39.3-inches of legroom and 39.0-inches of headroom. Thoughtfully, second row occupants have plenty of foot space beneath the front seats.
Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with 40/20/40-split rear seats. When folded flat, they extend the cargo space from 34.1 cubic feet to a cavernous 65.4 cubic feet.
A surprising standard feature on all 2015 Mazda CX-5 models is push button start. Also standard are the expected power accessories, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise control functions, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and ports for an auxiliary audio jack and USB.
Both Touring models add a rearview camera and a blind-spot monitoring system and the Grand Touring includes niceties like leather upholstery and heated front seats.
Our Grand Touring test driver added the optional Technology Package that includes the Smart City Brake Support system. At speeds up to 19 mph, if you’re coming up behind a slowed vehicle too quickly, the system sounds an alert and preps the brakes for a faster stop. React too slowly and it can automatically apply the brakes to prevent or reduce the severity of a frontal collision.
Is The 2015 Mazda CX-5 For You?
The compact crossover SUV segment is flowing over with some of the best-selling vehicles in the country, which starts with the Honda CR-V, the leader in the sales category. Then there’s the number two-selling Ford Escape. Others fighting for a piece of the market include Toyota’s RAV4, the Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson.
With the exception of the Escape, none of the above comes close to the CX-5’s fun-to-drive personality. The Ford has seductive European styling, but isn’t as roomy as the Mazda. Also, options can push its price close to $40,000.
As for the Honda, well, repeat CR-V owners are not likely to even consider another make. As for new-to-the-segment buyers, they will be tempted by its number-one sales ranking, as they should be.
Where the 2015 Mazda CX-5 stands out from the crowd is its combination of fuel economy, Zoom-Zoom driving behavior, and a competitive price with good value for the dollar spent. That makes it a relative bargain among the compact class.
Other related stories you might enjoy:
Road Test: 2015 Ford Escape
Road Test: 2014 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander