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Nuts & Bolts: 2013 Mazda CX-5

Bottom line: After years of trying to get it right in the hotly contested market for compact sport-utility/crossover-utility/urban-wagon models, Mazda has finally gotten it very right. My hunch is that the only problem Mazda will have with this one is supply. Selling the CX-5 should be no more difficult than allowing prospective customers to sit in it and drive it. Mazda has a winner here.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Both the Honda CR-V and CX-5 get excellent marks in ride and handling. But the smoothness of power production and delivery in the CX-5 is something to behold. That a compact utility vehicle/wagon could perform so well is amazing.

Head-turning quotient: Put the CX-5 and a CR-V side by side in a shopping-center parking lot. Step back and watch. Here’s betting the CR-V will draw more curious onlookers every time. Swagger sells.

Body style/layout: The CX-5 is a crossover-utility wagon with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive as an option. There are three trim levels—Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, the latter being the best equipped and most expensive.

Engine: The vehicle comes with a 2-liter Skyactiv G high-compression in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing (155 horsepower, 150 foot-pounds of torque). It is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission (recommended here). A six-speed automatic Skyactiv Sport transmission, which also can be operated manually, is available.

Capacities: There are seats for five people. Cargo capacity with rear seats up is 34.1 cubic feet. With rear seats folded, it’s 65.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 14.8 gallons of regular gasoline. The CX-5 can be equipped to carry a payload of 1,051 pounds and pull a trailer weighing 2,000 pounds.

Mileage: With a payload of nearly 550 pounds in mostly highway driving in the all-wheel-drive version of the CX-5, I averaged 32 miles per gallon.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; electronic brake-force distribution; electronic braking assistance; front side-mounted air bags; front and rear head air bags; and electronic stability and traction control.

Price: The base price for the 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring with all-wheel drive is $28,295. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $27,056. Price as tested is $30,675 including $765 in options (remote engine start on key fob; automatically dimming rear-view mirror with compass and Homelink; all-weather floor mats; retractable cargo cover) and a $795 transportation fee. Dealer’s price as tested is $29,119. You can save money by buying the less-expensive Touring ($23,895) or Sport ($20,695) models. Compare with Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav-4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox.

Clarification: General Motors Europe tells me that the company definitely will introduce a diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze in the United States in 2013. It will be a diesel “designed for” the U.S. market. I don’t know what that means. And I don’t particularly care as long as the U.S. diesel works as well as those GM sells in Europe.

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