2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand TouringPosted on June 18th, 2015
Compact crossover for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The ambient temperature indicator on the Mazda CX-5 I’m driving says that it’s 104 degrees out. Unfortunately, this is not a mistake. Denizens of southern Arizona know that June is brutally hot.
On this particular morning the mercury reached the century mark at about nine. An hour later, it’s climbed another four degrees.
If there’s a good news side to the story, it’s that the heat has driven the few remaining snowbirds back north, reducing traffic.
The CX-5 used to be the smaller of Mazda’s two crossovers. With the addition of the CX-3, it now occupies the middle ground between the new subcompact model and the mid-size CX-9.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the CX-5 because it can hold its own against German luxury brands at a much more affordable price. The base front-wheel drive model that starts at $21,795 is a bargain by anyone’s standards.
The test car is the upscale Grand Touring model priced from $28,220 excluding the $820 destination charge. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, heated leather front seats, power driver’s seat, 19-inch alloy rims, heated power side mirrors, power moonroof, Bluetooth interface, halogen headlamps, dual-zone climate control, a seven-inch touchscreen display, 40/20/40 split folding rear seat and a rearview camera.
Option packages add navigation, satellite radio, LED headlamps and daytime running lamps, adaptive headlamps, adaptive cruise control and metallic red exterior paint. Final MSRP is $32,890.
Skyactiv stretches fuel economy
The CX-5 was the first Mazda to feature the brand’s Skyactiv technology that utilizes engine and transmission tuning as well as aerodynamic refinements to enhance fuel economy. Skyactiv is not a magic bullet, but rather a series of refinements that make the car a much more efficient machine. Engineers utilize high-compression engines and swirl combustion patterns to minimize the amount of fuel that goes out the exhaust uncombusted.
Active grille shutters and a rear spoiler improve airflow over the exterior at high speeds.
The newest car is a refreshed version of the model that debuted in 2012. Designers revised the grille, headlamps and wheels, and reconfigured the interior. The 2016 model also includes the newest version of Mazda Connect, adding Internet access.
Test drive in Arizona
Since the summer heat had driven the river rafters indoors, I had the length of the Bush Highway that runs north-to-south along the foothills of the Superstition Mountains to myself. I figured the Forest Service guys would probably be inside cooling their heels rather than monitoring the road on a hotter-than-heck June day, so I took the opportunity to push the speed and see what the car could do.
As mentioned above, the CX-5 is one of the few crossovers a driving enthusiast can buy and not feel as if he’s jumped the shark. While many OEMs claim to mimic the performance of a sport sedan in their crossovers, Mazda is one of the few brands that deliver.
One of the reasons is components. The 2.5-liter engine is the larger of two available blocks, delivering 184-horsepower and 185 foot-pounds of peak torque. Engineers contained curb weight to about 3400 pounds for the front-wheel drive model for a positive power-to-weight ratio. The car seems well balanced front-to-rear without any overt tendency to understeer.
Although engineers optimized shift points on the six-speed automatic transmission for fuel economy, the gearbox doesn’t feel as if it’s shifting too early. When I accelerated hard to pass a slower vehicle on the test drive, the transmission downshifted at the right point, minimizing shift shock. The traditional step transmission is a refreshing change from continuously variable automatics that appear on competing models.
Those who are also considering the subcompact CX-3 should note that the CX-5 has a four-wheel independent suspension with a multi-link back axle versus a live axle on the CX-3. The CX-5’s independent rear axle and some extra legroom for second-row passengers make for a more comfortable setup on extended road trips.
A rack and pinion steering system is nicely tuned to the car, with plenty of low-end assist for maneuvering through crowded parking lots and a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. Nineteen-inch rims on the test car provide an ample footprint for good high-speed performance. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the CX-5 in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good. A standard rearview camera projects a wide angle view to the back when the driver shifts into reverse, making it easier to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots. Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors to warn the driver when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through his blind spots.
Engineers did a good job of containing road, wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior so the driver can enjoy the audio system and passengers in both rows can converse on the highway.
The CX-5 interior is clean and spacious, with attractive materials and good fit and finish. The new electric parking brake reduces wasted space in the center console. The new center stack screen is easy to read at night and in bright sunlight. Ditto for the gauge cluster.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view. Lower lumbar support was plentiful for my two-hour test drive. The 40/20/20 split folding rear seat enables owners to toss a bicycle in back and still have room for a second-row passenger.
The Mazda CX-5 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert and tire pressure monitoring. The factory warranty includes 24-hour roadside assistance.
Mazda builds the CX-5 at its Hiroshima, Japan assembly plant.
Like: A stylish crossover vehicle with a versatile interior and excellent driving dynamics.
Dislike: Satellite radio is not standard equipment on the upscale Grand Touring model.
Model: CX-5 Grand Touring AT
Base price: $28,220
As tested: $32,890
Horsepower: 184 Hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 185 lbs.-ft. @ 3250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 26/33 mpg city/highway2016, Best Value 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Mazda, performance, pricing, standard safety