2013 Mazda CX-5 at the 2011 L.A. Auto Show

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  • Competes with: Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage
  • Looks like: No smile makes us happy
  • Drivetrain: 155-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, six-speed manual or automatic transmission, front- or all-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Early 2012

If there’s one trend about the L.A. Auto Show this year, it’s the small crossover making a big push to the forefront of the industry. Ford’s new Escape and Honda’s new CR-V have to share the stage with Mazda’s CX-5. And Mazda thinks the CX-5 is the hit it needs.

More 2011 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

The aggressive styling and upscale interior Mazda is known for fall behind the technology under the hood. The CX-5 looks to be the most efficient compact crossover on the market.

It will be hard to judge how the CX-5 will perform in terms of Zoom-Zoom-iness, but the 155-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine gets direct injection to achieve 26/32 mpg city/highway for front-wheel-drive models with a six-speed automatic transmission. Opt for a six-speed manual transmission, and the highway number ticks up to 33 mpg.

The all-wheel-drive model’s 25/30 mpg ratings top the class, including the newest versions of the CR-V and Escape. However, the CX-5 makes less horsepower, so we wonder if Mazda is sacrificing too much performance for the mileage gains.

The CX-5 is sized similarly to the CR-V in terms of overall length, passenger volume and cargo volume, and that says a lot in terms of where Mazda is taking aim.

Inside, the CX-5 is similar in theme and design to the current lineup leaning toward the cockpit of a sports car. There is a 5.8-inch touch-screen in the center of the dash along with Bluetooth connectivity and USB connectors, but Mazda hasn’t detailed if it is standard equipment or not. A Bose upgraded stereo and navigation systems will be available options.

The CX-5 is an impressive entry into the segment with style and practicality at the forefront. That seems to be the way to car shoppers’ hearts these days.

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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