Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring review

2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring review 

The good: The lightweight 2013 Mazda CX-5 is a responsive ride at city speeds. SkyActiv technology helps it to achieve good fuel economy. A full suite of digital-audio sources is available for the Grand Touring's Bose audio system. The TomTom routing software is top-notch.
The bad: Not much power is available at highway speeds. The TomTom navigation interface can be needlessly complex.
The bottom line: New styling, lightweight construction, and a thrifty little engine all come together to make the 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring a great little urban crossover, but more polished cabin tech would make it an exceptional one.

The 2013 Mazda CX-5 represents a number of firsts for Mazda. It's the first new vehicle to be built from the ground up using that automaker's SkyActiv suite of technologies and lightweight construction techniques. It's the first new vehicle to showcase the automaker's new Kodo design language. It's also the first vehicle to incorporate the new Mazda navigation system, which is powered by TomTom.
There's never been a Mazda before that's quite like the CX-5, but is that a good thing? I grabbed the smart-key transponder for a 2013 CX-5 Grand Touring, pressed the start button, and hit the road to find out.
Kodo 'Soul of Motion'
Gone is the goofy grin that the rest of Mazda's current generation of vehicles are either blessed or cursed with, depending upon your aesthetic preference. The old style has been replaced with Mazda's new Kodo "Soul of Motion" design language. Large, eyelike headlamps and a large, inverted-pentagon-shaped black grille make the CX-5 look a bit like a mischievous cartoon puppy from certain angles. From other angles, particularly the side and rear quarter, the crossover's compactness is evident. Mazda clearly wants its drivers to think "zoom-zoom" upon approaching it.

Although much taller than, for example, a Mazda3, the CX-5 is still relatively easy to enter and exit. There is a step up to the crossover's elevated seating position, but not much of one. Once inside this Grand Touring model, I was greeted with a simple, yet crisp electroluminescent instrument cluster and a start button. The center stack is home to simple amber illuminated automatic climate controls. And at the top of that center stack is Mazda's new touch-screen infotainment system, which looks like an entry-level aftermarket unit. The whole cabin is remarkably understated, which for fans of Mazda simplicity is a good thing.
Navigation by TomTom
Digging into the 5.8-inch Mazda multi-information display, I see that it's not just a drop-in aftermarket deal. This system is deeply integrated with the CX-5's security and convenience features, so you can adjust everything from the behavior of the keyless entry system to the timing of the courtesy headlamp illumination when approaching the vehicle. This screen is also where you'll view the CX-5 Grand Touring's standard rearview camera while reversing.
More prominently, this receiver boasts GPS navigation powered by TomTom. Tapping the NAV button to the left of the screen drops you into an interface that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used one of TomTom's most recent portable navigation devices. Tapping anywhere on the Live Map screen brings the user to the main menu, where there are options for selecting a destination or browsing the map. There are also smaller buttons that let you browse traffic reports, supplied by TomTom's HD Traffic service, and adjust more options specific to the TomTom navigation interface, such as map color and routing options.

Like every TomTom PND that I've tested, this interface does have its weakness. For starters, it's more complex than it needs to be. There are two different map screens: the live updating Live Map that is used for navigation and the second, browsable, scrollable map that is accessible via the menu screen. Also, getting back to the Live Map requires tapping the small Done button in the bottom-right corner of the TomTom menu interface, sometimes repeatedly depending on how deep into the menu you happen to be at the time. It would be nice if tapping the physical NAV button dropped you back on the Live Map like it does in most cars, but in the CX-5 this just cues the system's text-to-speech engine to read the last direction -- which if you're not currently navigating is, "You have reached your destination."
Fight up the interface's maddening learning curve and you'll be rewarded with TomTom's excellent IQ Routes trip planning algorithms, which take into account historical and current traffic data supplied anonymously by other TomTom users to plan the best possible route specific to the time the route is being planned. So, a trip from point A to B planned at 8 a.m. could be different from the same trip planned at 5 p.m., if historically there's a significant difference between the traffic on that route -- for example, it's rush hour on a weekday.
Additionally, you can skip the bizarre menu structure for many trips by simply using the TomTom system's voice command system, which lets you search for points of interest by simply speaking a category name and enter full addresses in one go. Tap the microphone icon to initiate the voice command function, say "Drive to an address" and then "2300 Jackson Street, Gary, Indiana," and you'll be on your way. This is one thing that the TomTom-powered navigation system does extremely well, so take full advantage of it.
The navigation software lives on an SD card stored in a slot to the left of the steering wheel, which can be removed and plugged into an Internet-connected computer to periodically update the IQ Routes traffic algorithm.
Bose premium audio
In addition to the TomTom navigation system, the Mazda infotainment system features an array of digital-audio sources, including a USB port for iPod and mass-storage connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, AM/FM tuning with HD Radio decoding, satellite radio provided by SiriusXM, a single-disc CD player with MP3 decoding, and an auxiliary audio input. Audio is output through a nine-speaker Bose-branded stereo that features a powered subwoofer, speed-sensitive volume, and surround-sound enhancement for its stereo audio sources. If you've ever uttered the phrase, "I like the part where the bass drops," you'll find a lot to like about this system's cabin-filling low end.
I did run into an weird glitch with the Bluetooth audio system and its ability to decode A2DP metadata. When playing an audio source that displayed metadata, the system worked just fine. However, if I attempted to switch to an audio source that did not output its "Now playing" information over Bluetooth, the Mazda system would assume that the audio playback had been paused or stopped and mute its output. This meant that the only app that I was able to listen to on my Android phone was the stock music player -- no podcasting apps like Stitcher or Doggcatcher and no streaming apps like Pandora, Spotify, or Mog. I ended up unpairing my phone and simply using the auxiliary input for all but hands-free calls.
Other standard comfort features at the Grand Touring trim level include a power moonroof, heated leather front seats with power adjustment for the driver, and a blind-spot monitoring system that watches for obstructions flanking the vehicle at highway speeds and warns the driver with an illuminated icon in the side mirrors and an audible beep.