2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Review
Mazda has updated its CX-5 compact crossover for 2016 and styling changes are subtle. Truly, most won’t even notice. The new grille gets five evenly spaced slats for a cleaner more uniform design than the outgoing model’s thick black slab up top and honeycomb mesh insert below, while mid-grade Touring and top-tier Grand Touring models get restyled fog lamp surrounds featuring two horizontal strakes apiece. Both models use the same fogs as last year, although Touring and Grand Touring models get the option of a Technology package that adds a totally new set of tiny LEDs, not to mention new adaptive cornering LED headlamps with signature detailing as well as sharp looking LED taillights. The GT’s standard wheels are impressive too, machine-finished 19-inch alloys with what look to be body-color painted pockets on 225/55R19 all-seasons. A nice set of twin exhaust pipes poke through the CX-5’s sculpted matte black body cladding that, just like last year’s model, continues to wrap right around the SUV’s lower extremities for a rugged yet sporty look.
My tester’s Titanium Flash Mica (metallic brown) paint is new too, and worked ideally with its gorgeous Parchment leather upholstery, another upgrade for 2016, albeit one that costs nothing over the GT’s standard black hides. Yes, it’s obvious that we parents (those who normally buy into the compact SUV segment) should know better than to get a family hauler with white leather seats, but sometimes we still want to play the role of urban sophisticate despite knowing full well that little Ethan and Emma will ravage the rear quarters with pizza sauce, gooey cheese and toppings, sub sandwich ingredients, juice box remnants, sticky dried ice cream and cone crumbles, soccer mud and the usual inexplicable kid grime (at least Mazda left the front seatbacks and carpets black). Then again I’m going to go out on the proverbial limb and guess that Mazda knows a thing or two about this model’s overall target demographic, this interior very likely aimed at younger childless urbanites as well as the burgeoning empty-nester market. Either way my partner and I love it.
The perforated creamy leather looks like a million, which when combined with the same slightly off-white for the GT’s padded leatherette door inserts, all the satin finished metal detailing throughout the cabin, soft-touch surfacing over the dash top and front door uppers, padded and stitched black leatherette around the infotainment display, the same upscale treatment beside the lower center stack for protecting the driver’s and front passenger’s inside knees, plus overtop the armrests, not to mention the impressive redesigned infotainment display filled with bright, clear and colorful high-resolution graphics leading to myriad functions, plus the metal-rimmed rotating dial controller for access, metal-trimmed HVAC interface, three-way heatable front seats, high end Bose audio, dual USBs for multiple charging, and electronic emergency brake, it’s a premium compact CUV in search of a luxury badge.
But let’s celebrate that last point, because if it wore a fancy logo on its hood and backside it would sell for much more and be filled with fewer features, but as it is the CX-5 represents great value with a starting price of just $21,795 plus freight and dealer fees, this top-line Grand Touring available from $28,220. As-tested Mazda asks $33,355, which while creeping up towards premium compact SUV pricing is equipped better than most German luxury utes upwards of $50k, this one featuring the aforementioned $1,505 Technology package boasting the LED lighting upgrades mentioned earlier as well as an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, a highly functional navigation system that’s easier to program, and Smart City Brake Support, while a $1,500 i-Activsense package adds auto high beam assist, adaptive cruise control with close proximity warning, lane departure warning, forward obstruction warning, and Smart Brake Support (new for 2016), the latter (like Smart City Brake Support) using a near infra-red laser sensor to detect and react to a vehicle up to 20 feet ahead before applying the brakes automatically to avoid a potential accident. Equipped like this the new CX-5 achieved an IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating, the highest they give out.
It’s all premium level gear, the new electronic parking brake I just mentioned, which replaces the old handbrake, a significant sign that Mazda is embracing new refinements. I don’t have anything against handbrakes, actually favoring them in sports models, but this CX-5 is no MX-5 so there’s no need for a clunky throwback mechanical brake when lighter weight modern-tech ease of use is available, freeing up space on the lower console to boot. Hill hold assist makes up for any control issues, so there’s really nothing to miss.
The Grand Touring model’s standard equipment menu won’t leave you missing any past premium rides either, as all of the features mentioned already get joined by auto on/off headlights, heatable side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control with an updated interface, a superb sounding nine-speaker Bose audio system with Centerpoint 2 surround, AudioPilot 2 noise compensation and satellite radio with a four-month subscription, unique sport seats with eight-way power including powered lumbar support for the driver, leather upholstery, leatherette door trim, and a tilt and slide powered glass sunroof.
The Grand Touring pulls up everything from Touring trim too, including fog lamps, proximity-sensing keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, illuminated vanity mirrors, the upgraded Mazda Connect infotainment system mentioned earlier with a rearview camera, SMS text messaging, voice recognition, RDS, HD radio, Aha, Pandora, Stitcher and E911 automatic emergency notification, as well as a six-way manual front passenger seat with seat height adjustment, a rear seat center armrest with integrated cupholders, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, rear privacy glass, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.
Finally, much of the base Sport model’s equipment also gets grandfathered up to Grand Touring trim, such as the speed-sensing power door locks, illuminated entry, pushbutton ignition, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper/washer, power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, multi-information display, trip computer, cruise control, exterior temperature gauge, filtered air conditioning, overhead console with sunglasses holder, rear seat heating ducts, tire pressure monitoring, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, traction and dynamic stability control, plus all the usual airbags.
The base CX-5 GX gets Mazda’s Skyactiv-g direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, but both Touring and Grand Touring models get a standard upgrade to the Skyactiv-g direct-injection 2.5-liter four with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic with manual mode and Drive Selection, which gives spirited acceleration that’s better by numbers than most of its key competitors, but by no means class-leading.
Drive Selection includes a Sport mode that improves response, though once again the CX-5 is more about sporty than all-out sport. It’s more notable for being efficient, all the Skyactiv advancements focused on fuel economy and environmental gains without the pain of performance losses normally associated with doing the right thing. For instance, investment has been made to reduce the various Skyactiv engines’ internal friction, while incorporating dome-shaped pistons to raise compression, plus increasing low- and mid-range torque, while the standard Skyactiv-MT six-speed manual and aforementioned automatic also feature reductions in internal friction and other efficiency enhancements.
The result is an EPA fuel economy rating of 24 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 26 combined for the as-tested 2.5 with its automatic and optional AWD, while that same engine with the automatic in FWD is good for 26 mpg city, 33 highway and 29 combined. Finally, the CX-5’s most economical engine and drivetrain combination is good for a claimed 26 mpg city, 35 highway and 29 combined, which makes it thriftier than most of the segment’s best sellers, but not all.
Most of the CX-5’s competitors benefit from fully independent double wishbone/multi-link rear suspensions, which is why I was a bit surprised to learn about this model’s rear torsion beam setup. Generally speaking there’s nothing at all wrong with a torsion beam suspension, with many sharp handling compacts utilizing it, but the general rule is that a more expensive multi-link system offers greater comfort while providing better accident avoidance and at-the-limit road holding, especially when encountering mid-corner bumps that can unsettle the rear end at high-speed and put it off-line. This said the CX-5 never had me feeling remotely out of control, while its ride was thoroughly comfortable, so Mazda has obviously gone to great lengths to maximize performance while taking advantage of this type of suspension’s greatest asset, space utilization.
A twist beam suspension, as it’s otherwise called, can use shorter shock absorber towers positioned further to the outside of the vehicle, which can result in more cargo carrying capacity. To that end the CX-5 is quite good with 34.1 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seatbacks and a total of 64.8 cubic feet when the base model’s 60/40 split rear seatbacks are laid flat. As mentioned, GS and GT models get an even more flexible 40/20/40 split second row, which also adds a tiny bit of volume to its load hauling total of 65.4 cubic feet. All said the CX-5 isn’t quite as commodious for cargo as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or some others, but it should be good enough for most families’ needs whereas its many other noted attributes certainly make it worthy of serious consideration.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press Inc.