A recent Autoblog test has the 2013 Maxda CX-5 up against the 2013 Ford Escape in a battle which pits the two former partners in a head-to-head battle. In fact, before Mazda built the new CX-5, the only in-class small crossover vehicle they had was the Tribute – basically a rebranded version of the Escape itself.
Since these two car makers have parted ways, all that has now changed. In fact, Mazda has developed an entirely new platform for the CX-5 and has thrown in some real Kryponite in the form of it’s super-frugal Skyactiv engine tech. However, there is one similarity: they both debuted last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
So what conclusions can we draw from this about Mazda’s long-term future in a post-Ford world?
Back-to-Back: CX5 and Escape
The Ford vehicle is emphasizing style with its European look and design. The Mazda CX-5, on the other hand, focuses on fuel efficiency and lightness. In fact, not only does the CX-5 stack up very well with the new Escape it also weighs in at 230 pounds less. Pair that with Skyactiv and the CX-5 has a potent fuel economy argument that the Escape will find it hard to match.
Then there is comfort. Testers found that the CX-5 has a much smoother ride. The gear changes are also slick, unlike the Escape, which oftentimes seems like it is “hunting” to find the optimal gear, and then downshifts when all you really needed was maybe a bit of extra torque thrust. And it’s the same story in the steering department with the CX-5 again having the upper hand.
CX-5: Sign That Mazda Will Survive?
There is no doubt, then, that the CX-5 gives you real substance. While the Ford has style, the Mazda has it beaten in every meaningful area. And the CX-5 is hardly dowdy anyway. You can see a healthy does of Mazda’s secret “zoom zoom” sauce in the lines.
So the CX-5 is a big win for Mazda at a time when the company has been losing money hand over fist in Japan. This direct comparison shows that it is better off without its American partner. What it really needs to do now is convert the increasingly promising efforts of its engineers into real money makers.
The long-term question will be this: Will Mazda end up following in the tire tracks of successful former Ford stablemate Jaguar, or will they end up on the scrap heap that was the unfortunate fate of former GM subsidiary Saab.
Only time will tell. But no one can accuse the product development teams of not putting in a great effort.