Showcasing advanced SKYACTIV powertrain technologies, the all-new 2013 Mazda CX-5—Autobytel’s 2012 Crossover of the Year—will debut with some of the highest fuel-efficiency ratings in its class while still boasting one of the segment’s lowest MSRPs: $20,695. It’s a combination that should hit ye olde sweet spot for Mazda, which has begun using its SKYACTIV components to bring leading levels of fuel economy to a lineup that’s usually more well known for its driving dynamics.
The automaker first introduced SKYACTIV tech to the U.S. in the 2012 MAZDA3, and the results were well-nigh instantaneous. Last month, with the SKYACTIV models now on the roster—and capable of up to 40 mpg highway—the MAZDA3 posted its best January sales ever, reaping a massive 83.4 increase in deliveries over the same month in 2011. And that, in turn, helped the automaker’s overall lineup grow sales by 68.2 percent on deliveries of 23,996 units—the most vehicles Mazda has sold in January in almost 20 years.
That’s no doubt the kind of success the company is hoping for with the CX-5, and a quick look at the numbers shows Mazda in a strong competitive position in the very important entry-crossover segment. Here’s how the CX-5 fits in among the current usual suspects (in their high-efficiency, front-wheel-drive configurations):
• Mazda CX-5, $20,695, 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway/29 mpg combined
• Kia Sportage, $20,800, 22/32/25
• Ford Escape, $21,440, 23/28/25
• Nissan Rogue, $21,840, 23/28/25
• Honda CR-V, $22,295, 23/31/26
• Toyota RAV4, $22,650, 22/28/24
• Kia Sorento, $23,150, 21/29/24
• Chevy Equinox, $23,530, 22/32/26
Now, there is one big caveat here: except for the CX-5 and the Escape, all other entries on this list rely on automatic transmissions. While a lot can be said about the pleasures of rowing your own gears in a zoom-enhanced Mazda, the vast majority of customers will prefer the automatic, and putting a slushbox in the Mazda brings its ratings down a bit, to 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, with the combined mark still to be determined. Then there’s the Ford factor.
The Blue Oval has put serious time and effort into positioning itself as a fuel-efficiency leader, so the new 2013 Escape’s greenest engine will be an available 1.6-liter EcoBoost I4 that was originally “projected to produce segment-leading fuel economy among compact SUVs and up to 5 mpg better than the outgoing Escape.” If its numbers are up by that amount across the board, the results would be 28/33/30. That’s a slight improvement over the CX-5 in city/combined ratings, but that advantage will be countered by the fact that the Escape will almost certainly cost more than the Mazda, too. Today’s Escape is already $745 more expensive than the CX-5, and even if Ford does manage to hold the line on the base Escape, remember that we’re no longer talking about the base model here. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost, as mentioned, will be an optional powerplant that will add more money to the bottom line, giving the Mazda a larger price advantage.
The Escape is going to be something of a technological wonder, but you pay for what you get.
The CX-5 is also sure to get drawn into comparisons with hybrid multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) like the Toyota Prius v and Ford C-MAX. Products like these are going to be positioned as crossover alternatives that deliver even more in the way of interior versatility and fuel efficiency, but, again, at a higher starting point. Ford hasn’t released numbers on the C-MAX, but the Prius v is almost $6,000 more than a CX-5. That’s a steep discrepancy that will be hard for customers to ignore and could likewise make the brand itself hard to ignore moving forward.
"The 2013 CX-5 is a look to the future of the Mazda brand," said Jim O'Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda’s North American Operations. "Our achievements in research and development have led to breakthrough engineering with SKYACTIV technology. It shows not only in the CX-5's impressive fuel economy but also with its dynamic handling and performance, which only Mazda can bring to the compact crossover SUV segment."