- Very good handling
- Expressive good looks
- Great front seats
- Smooth, efficient powertrains
- Rear visibility isn't great
- Acceleration is just average
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is one of the more athletic crossovers; high gas mileage and high style just add to the value.
Looking for a crossover utility with sport-wagon charisma? We may know just the solution.
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is smart-looking, handles well, and is stocked with plenty of features. It's also right-sized for the kind of drivers it appeals to and on top of all that, it's one of the safest vehicles in its segment.
Heading into its fourth year on the market, the CX-5 still has a tough set of rivals, including the just-updated Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, and Subaru Forester. That's why it's been lightly updated, retuned, and restyled for the 2016 model year.
With the CX-5, Mazda has finally found a balance between its lithe sports sedans and roadsters and the real-world dimensions of a crossover utility vehicle. The CX-5 has an expressive design, with big wheel arches and a rising window line, but a more conservative roofline than the just-unveiled CX-3. The car is sensitive to colors, though, with lighter shades accenting the height of its doors and darker tones making it appear lower and sportier. A handsome trapezoidal grille has been slightly reshaped this year, and the CX-5's headlights have been slimmed down and connected to the grille with bars of brightwork. LED lighting is now available at the front and rear end. Inside, the look is businesslike, with restrained silver trim and sporty red piping on the high-level leather seats.
Road manners are well attended to in most Mazdas, and the CX-5 fares better in handling than most crossovers. Steering and ride control are very good; nonetheless, handling has been tweaked with revised dampers and bushings, better noise damping, and driver-selectable driving modes for the automatic-equipped versions. We've found the CX-5 to be one of the best-handling crossovers we've driven in past years, and hope for the same with the revised model.
The CX-5 handles so well and hits all the right marks otherwise in driving enjoyment, that its four-cylinder engines are really what hold it back from shoppers enticed by turbocharged Escapes and Foresters. The 2016 Mazda CX-5 offers a 155-hp 2.0-liter inline-4, which is now offered solely with a 6-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive on Sport models. Sport models with an automatic transmission, Touring, and Grand Touring models include a 184-hp, 2.5-liter inline-4. The larger engine is only offered with the automatic, but in either case the entire powertrain and vehicle are tuned for maximum efficiency.
For the most part, the CX-5 is pleasingly versatile, and its front seats are probably the best-bolstered you'll find in this kind of vehicle; there's good seating space in back, too. Mazda's added cushion length to the back seats for better comfort. But this is one of the more compact models in the class, and its cargo floor is a bit higher than rival models it seems (perhaps due to the presence of a spare tire). The load floor is long and flat, and for the most part (save for some engine noise occasionally), the CX-5 has a quiet, refined interior, amplified this year by some noise-reduction work, some nicer trim and materials, including a new Parchment leather option, and additional storage bins,
Safety add-ons for 2016 include available adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warning with automatic braking, as well as the Mazda Connect smartphone connectivity system, which bridges the safety and technology realm by moving control of personal devices to the car's knob controller. The IIHS has deemed the CX-5 one of its Top Safety Pick+ winners, while the feds have given it a four-star overall rating.
Touring models get blind-spot monitors, upgraded audio, fog lamps, rear cupholders (and an armrest), a rearview camera, steering-wheel controls, and upgraded upholstery, while top-of-the-line CX-5 Grand Touring models add leather upholstery, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, dual-zone climate control, a power driver seat, front heated seats, and Sirius satellite radio.
For this kind of vehicle, the gas mileage is great. The EPA rating for the base Sport with a manual gearbox is a best-in-class 35 mpg on the highway, and the 2.5-liter models lose only about 1 mpg combined. Automatic versions still manage 24 mpg city, 30 highway with all-wheel drive. This year, front-drive versions with the 2.5-liter four now get 29 mpg combined, up slightly. Key to that efficiency, in part, is that the transmission is so willing and well-matched, with very little slip, very quick upshifts and downshifts, and the smarts to hitch onto a higher gear when the revs aren't needed, to reap better efficiency.