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Review of: 2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD 4dr Auto GT

7.8

2016 Mazda CX-5: Minor changes, major nice

By Jil McIntosh

Jun. 1, 2015

While the changes are minor, Mazda’s CX-5 receives a freshening-up for the 2016 model year. That’s good news for fans of this sharp-handling little utility vehicle, with improvements to the interior, seats, and suspension.

It’s currently the smallest in the CX lineup, coming in under the three-row CX-9, as well as the defunct CX-7 last seen for 2012. But it’ll soon be the middle child, as Mazda is bringing the all-new and smaller CX-3 to market for 2016 as well.

The CX-5 comes in three trim lines, which divide not only the features but also the driveline choices. The base GX uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with six-speed manual or automatic transmission, in front-wheel drive only, starting at $22,995. The mid-range GS uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, with automatic only, starting at $29,245 in front-wheel drive, and $31,245 in all-wheel drive.

Finally, my tester, the top-line GT, uses the 2.5-litre and is all-wheel only. It starts at $34,895, but can be optioned with my tester’s technology package, which takes it to $36,995. My vehicle also had a $300 coat of red paint, which brought it to $37,295 before freight and taxes.

Pros & Cons

  • + Handling
  • + Well-matched engine/transmission
  • + Comfortable front seats
  • - Boring gauge cluster
  • - Unrefined adaptive cruise control
  • - Price
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    You’ll probably only notice the exterior 2016 changes if you’re über-familiar with the 2015. The thick bar across the top of the grille is gone, and the horizontal accents are painted grey. But it’s the GT that gets the bulk of the updates, which include front and rear LED accents and new, two-tone 19-inch wheels.

    This is a handsome vehicle, with good proportions, flowing lines, and large quarter windows for good visibility. The hatch is low enough that it’s easy to reach across to stow cargo, too. Mazda has stepped up its styling game over the last few years, and it shows.

    8.0Very good
  • Interior

    While the overall cabin design is essentially the same, there are numerous improvements that give it a more updated look. These include an electronic parking brake in place of a lever; new climate controls; and most noticeably, a new infotainment screen that does away with the rows of buttons and dials that used to be on either side. Those controls are now replaced with a joystick on the centre console.

    The GT’s standard leather upholstery can be ordered in black, but mine was outfitted with the optional white cowhide, and it’s a beauty. The seats are very comfortable and supportive, and stayed that way throughout a four-hour trip. I stuck a couple of passengers in the rear seats and they were happy as well, especially since the rear cushions have been lengthened a bit. That rear seat falls flat and is split 40/20/40, which works well if you’re filling four seats and still need to pack longer items such as skis.

    Small-item storage is good, with a central cubby and wide door pockets, and most of the controls are easy to use. The one sore thumb is the engine start button, which is stuffed in behind the thick wiper stalk. You have to snake your way around the stalk to reach the button, and it’s a tight fit for anyone with large hands.

    8.5Very good
  • Tech

    The technology package is available only on the GT, which, for 2016, now comes with standard navigation. The package adds adaptive radar cruise control, forward collision warning with the ability to brake at lower speeds if you don’t, lane departure warning system, and automatic high-beam headlights. It also adds satellite radio which, considering the GT comes with a premium Bose stereo, seems like it should be included for the GT’s price.

    Along with those add-on safety systems, the GS and GT also include standard blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rearview camera with an extra-wide view that’s great when you’re backing out of your spot with vehicles on either side of you.

    That standard navigation system is easy to use, and if you want to provide a destination using voice command, you simply say the entire address at once, rather than one line at a time.

    The lane departure system is pretty cool, and it’s tied into the stereo speakers. If you wander over the line, you get a rumbling sound that’s meant to mimic driving over a rumble strip, and it comes out of the left or right speakers depending on the side of the car that’s drifting over. The adaptive cruise control keeps a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front, but it’s not the smoothest one I’ve driven, with fairly rapid acceleration when room opens up in front, and abrupt slowdowns when someone slides in ahead.

    8.0Very good
  • Driving

    Borrowed from the Mazda6, with which the CX-5 also shares its platform, the 2.5-litre makes 184 horses and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a strong engine and a good fit, and there’s a slight improvement in fuel economy, partly attributed to lower-viscosity oil in the AWD system.

    Against published figures of 9.8 L/100 km in the city and 7.9 on the highway, I averaged 9.1 in combined driving.

    There are tweaks to the dampers and bushings, which Mazda says provides a smoother and flatter ride. It’s been a while since I’ve driven a CX-5 and so don’t have a direct comparison, but I was impressed with the performance: handling is sharp and it corners well, especially with its tight turning radius. It’s sportier than you’d expect from a utility vehicle and an overall decent driver.

    8.5Very good
  • Value

    As much as I liked my CX-5, its $36,995 price (before my tester’s extra $300 paint job) did seem a little steep when I was behind the wheel.

    It’s pricier than some of its all-wheel-drive competitors, at $396 more than the top-trim Ford Escape; $1,100 more than a top-line Hyundai Tucson; and $1,005 more than a Honda CR-V EX-L. And if you get the CR-V Touring, which includes many of the Mazda’s Technology Package features, you’re still saving $455 with the Honda.

    If you want to stick with Mazda, you can outfit the GS in AWD and with an optional Luxury Package that adds the GT’s leather seats and power driver’s chair, for $32,845. But compare it to the $34,895 GT without my tester’s Technology Package, and for an additional $2,050, the GT gives you a better deal: automatic dual climate control, premium stereo, navigation, auto-dimming inside mirror, garage door opener, adaptive front lights and LED lamps, along with bigger wheels (which, admittedly, cost more to re-shoe when you need new tires).

    6.0Okay
  • Conclusion

    While the CX-5 does sport some updates, Mazda hasn’t really messed with a vehicle that was very good even before the new-and-improved folks got their hands on it. It gets pricey, but give it a drive: the performance and interior are good enough that for many drivers, it will be worth the money.

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