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If you didn’t buy a new Mazda CX-7 a year ago, the opportunity won’t come again. There is no 2013 CX-7.

However, the folks at Mazda didn’t desert the idea of producing a small crossover sport utility vehicle. Even though the CX-7 was abandoned after five years due to poor sales performance, the Japanese auto manufacturer slipped in a new model in its place – the 2013 Mazda CX-5.

Mazda has experienced difficulties in the small SUV category with both the Tribute and the CX-7. As someone who test drove both models, it wasn’t like the Tribute and CX-7 were horribly manufactured. But the bottom line was neither one sold very well.

2013 Mazda CX-5

  • Performance: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 155 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate range: 26-35 mpg
  • Price: $20,695 to $27,045
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance 3 years/60,000

That shouldn’t be the case with the CX-5. Mazda has designed an athletic, appealing looking compact SUV with many fine traits. The CX-5 is fun to drive, has a strong list of standard features, and it gets good gas mileage, averaging 26-35 mpg.

It might be a bold prediction at this point, but the CX-5 could immediately become a player in the competitive small crossover SUV category. It’s a tough lineup to penetrate, with such notables as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V leading the way. Other notables include the Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester and the new-and-improved Ford Escape

Appearance-wise, the CX-5 is five inches shorter than the CX-7. The CX-5 comes with three trim models – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Standard features on the base model include push-button start; tilt-and-telescoping steering; four-speaker sound system with a CD player; an iPod/USB audio interface; and more.

The attributes are many, but the downside with the CX-5 and many compact SUVs is performance. The CX-5 utilizes Mazda’s new SkyActiv engine that’s debuted in the Mazda3. It’s a 2.0-liter, 155-horsepower, direct-injection four-cylinder that greatly enhances gas mileage.

The CX-5 accelerates fine in normal driving situations, but is a bit pokey climbing hills. It’s been clocked going 0-60 mpg in 9.3 seconds.

What it lacks in performance is gained back through its solid driving capability. The CX-5 has a generous feel for the road and drives more like a small sedan than a small SUV, allowing the driver to enjoy being a little more daring on turns and curvy roads. The braking is responsive and CX-5 operates with little noise as well.

The CX-5 seats five people and even taller folks won’t feel too cramped in the back seat. In general, the seating is comfortable, with solid leg and head room for all occupants. The interior features soft-touch plastic, an intuitive control panel, and good cargo space that expands to 65 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.

With its many positive aspects, the CX-5 is a new vehicle that shouldn’t be considered a gamble for new car-shoppers. It has many enviable qualities and even the price is right — $20,695 for the Sport base model.

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