For 2016, Mazda CX-5 gets updated styling and a redesigned interior stuffed with the latest features. The 2016 CX-5 benefits further from a revised suspension along with more sound-deadening measures, all intended to deliver greater ride comfort and a quieter cabin than did the 2015 model. CX-5 was launched as a 2013 model.
Mazda CX-5 is a five-passenger compact crossover utility vehicle in the same class as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage, and Subaru Forester. The CX-5 offers a choice of all-wheel drive or front-wheel-drive.
CX-5 distinguishes itself from the other compact utility vehicles, or CUVs, with its sleek styling, excellent fuel economy and agile handling. It looks great and it’s more fun to drive than the CR-V or RAV4.
We found the CX-5 Sport with the 2.0-liter engine delivered respectable performance, though some competitors offered more power. The 2016 Mazda CX-5 Sport rates an EPA-estimated 26/35 miles per gallon City/Highway with manual gearbox and front-wheel drive.
The more powerful Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter engine makes the CX-5 Touring and Grand Touring models the better performers. With this engine, CX-5 scores an EPA-rated 26/33 mpg with the automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, 24/30 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Mazda CX-5 is larger than it looks. Overall length, width, and height are nearly an inch larger than those of the Honda CR-V. However, at 106.3 inches, the CX-5 wheelbase is 3.2 inches longer than that of the CR-V; a longer wheelbase generally equates to improved ride quality and high-speed stability.
For 2016, the grille has been reshaped, the headlights have been slimmed down and connected to the grille with bars of brightwork, and LED lighting is available front and rear.
The styling uses Mazda’s KODO design language intended to reflect the grace and power of animals. We think the sculptured lines and pronounced wheel arches do lend a sense of motion and muscularity, especially noticeable in morning and evening light. The body tapers outward toward the bottom, lending a look of stability. CX-5’s coefficient of drag is a slippery 0.33.
Mazda CX-5 seats five adults. The front bucket seats are sportier and more supportive than most in this class. The chunky steering wheel feels good; it’s perfectly centered and tilts and telescopes. Forward sightlines are better than most and big mirrors offer a good view rearward.
For 2016, the handbrake has been replaced by a smaller electronic brake switch, allowing more space for the center console. Mazda’s latest infotainment setup, Mazda Connect, is included.
It’s a simple, straightforward cabin. Interior materials are high quality, with extensive use of soft-touch vinyl and very little hard plastic. Instruments and controls are nicely laid out, well marked, easy to read and use. Cubby storage is decent. Reflections from the center stack are a bit of an issue on sunny days.
Getting in and out of the back seats is easy and it’s comfortable for two. The center rear position isn’t someplace we’d care to occupy for more than an hour.
The rear seats fold nearly flat, but not completely. Cargo capacity is 34 cubic feet behind the rear seats, which expands to 65 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks all folded forward.
Agile handling makes the Mazda CX-5 fun to drive.
The 2.0-liter engine in the CX-5 Sport provides better acceleration performance than you might expect. The 2.0-liter engine works particularly well for driving briskly along winding roads or cruising on the freeway.
The 2.5-liter engine in CX-5 Touring and Grand Touring models offers stronger performance. Acceleration is frisky from a standstill or for passing maneuvers. Hitting the gas while cruising at 40 mph yields an alert, rapid boost in velocity.
The 6-speed automatic transmission reacts promptly to the driver’s wishes and it’s smooth, delivering almost imperceptible upshifts and downshifts as load conditions demand. A semi-manual feature allows the driver to change gears but we found it worked best to put it in D and let it do its thing.
CX-5 Sport’s manual gearbox is a pleasure to operate with crisp shift gates and positive engagements, arguably the best in this class.
The electric power rack-and-pinion steering system is the best in the class, quick and accurate, precise, intuitive. Few corrections are needed while driving down a bumpy road and we found the CX-5 feels more stable at high speeds than a Honda CR-V does.
Suspension tuning tends toward sporty. Ride quality is firm but compliant, European in character. There is some head toss on bumpy roads, however. The CX-5 felt firmly planted and secure when driving down wet, bumpy, curvy back roads at speed. We didn’t sense a big difference between the 17- and 19-inch tires.
We appreciated the grip and sure-footedness of the all-wheel drive while driving through the rain down a winding valley road and while speeding around a wet Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit. If you live in a particularly dry climate, however, you could save a little on the purchase price, get slightly better fuel economy and slightly more lively handling feel with front-wheel drive.
Mazda CX-5 is easy to drive, efficient, comfortable and versatile. Handling agility and accurate steering make it entertaining for the driver. All-wheel drive gives it sure-footed traction, but a front-wheel-drive CX-5 Sport with manual gearbox.