The engine will be paired with the new SKYACTIV-Drive transmission, a traditional six speed automatic transmission that can lock up the torque converter in any gear. Mazda has only announced a front wheel drive version of the CX-5, although an all-wheel drive model may be added in the future. There is a small chance that the SKYACTIV-MT six speed manual transmission will also be available. Although it isn't expected to provide any major increase in fuel economy, it does weigh 16% less than the outgoing model.
Mazda continues the naming theme with the SKYACTIV-Body. This is a compromise between unibody frames and space frames, directly bonding the central frame with upper body structure and chassis components to create a single structure. Frame members are kept as straight as possible, while front impact crashes are designed to share force between each layer of the frame structure. Together, this reduces the total amount of material needed while maintaining rigidity and safety. Along with widespread use of high-strength steel, the total weight of the frame should be reduced by about 20% over comparable models.
What does this vehicle mean for Mazda? At the end of 2008, Mazda bought back most of the shares owned by Ford Motor Company, effectively ending a business relationship stretching back to the first sales of the Mazda-built Ford Courier back in 1971. Both the Mazda Tribute and its platform-mate, the Ford Escape, will end production in 2011, leaving the Mazda 2 and Ford Fiesta as the last vehicles co-developed by the two companies. While the Escape has been a major success for Ford, sales have remained sluggish for the Mazda.
The CX-5 will fill the Tribute's slot in the company's lineup. It will use the company's new "kodo" design language which will eventually used on all of the manufacturer's cars, giving it a better fit than its boxy predecessor. Fuel economy should be better than any current non-hybrid competitor, and undivided focus on Mazda's buyers means it should eschew SUV toughness for the driving dynamics the company has built its reputation on.
Production of the CX-5 is expected to start at the end of this year.