Tom Crosby: 2016 Mazda CX-5 continues to climb in popularity

Tom Crosby

Mazda hit an automotive home run four years ago when it launched the 2012 CX-5 sport utility vehicle, which became and still is one of the company’s sales champions. So, despite perennially strong competition from such nameplates as Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV, Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester and Nissan Rogue, the CX-5 compact SUV receives only minor upgrading this year and remains price competitive.

Outside refinements include subtle design tweaks to the trapezoidal grille and options for LED lighting, safety aids and 19-inch machined wheels. Inside, an electric parking brake lever is on the center spine, sound insulation added, smartphone connections made simpler, cabin materials upgraded and knick-knack spaces enlarged. Already touted for its solid and responsive handling, the suspension system was also tuned to handle better in turns.

Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity is now standard across all three CX-5 trims – Touring, Sport and Grand Touring. Our test drive was the front-wheel (all-wheel drive is available), automatic transmission (manual is available) Touring edition with a wallet-loving average of 29 miles per gallon and top or next-to-top ratings in government and insurance crash tests. Options added were inexpensive except for $1,300 for the moonroof and Bose radio.

Winner of numerous awards, the CX-5 was the first Mazda to inaugurate KODO “Soul of Motion” design to create a sleek roadside profile with muscular fender arches, rising beltline and contoured angles for a strong, yet sleek, look. It also introduced SKYACTIV® technology that is now used throughout Mazda’s line-up to create a light, yet strong body atop independent front-strut and multi-line rear suspensions that generate a comfortable ride over paved surfaces. Mileage is among the best in the compact SUV class and drivers can normal or sport drive for Zoom Zoom, Mazda’s mantra. Wind and engine noise under acceleration has been reduced but still permeate the cabin, requiring higher radio volume.

The inside is spacious, simple and well designed with polished aluminum trim, readable and reachable white-lettered gauges and controls, plenty of adjustable space with easily folded flat second row seats and a spare donut tire in the trunk. Front seat passengers enjoy contoured side-bolstered seats and the driver has a nicely elevated view of the road. The 7-inch dashboard screen provides detail. A fold-down center armrest comforts second row passengers. Access and egress are easy and Bluetooth, blind spot alert (flash/beep), crash notification, and rear camera are standard.

LIKES: Handling, mileage, price, versatility, comfortable interior, ride
DISLIKES: Cabin noise when underway
BOTTOM LINE: Reliability and affordability make it a top competitor
Base price w/destination fee $26,095 ($27,765 as tested)
Curb weight 3,433 lbs.
Wheelbase 106.3 inches
Length 178.7 inches
Width 72.4 inches
Engine specs 2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, SKYACTIV-G
Horsepower 184-hp at 5,700 rpm
Torque 185 ft-lbs at 3,250 rpm
Transmission 6 speed automatic transmission
PA Rating 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway
Range 14.8-gallon tank, regular unleaded
Performance 0-60 in just under 8 seconds