BY RON SESSIONS, Contributing Editor These days, minivan-avoiders far outnumber…
First introduced in 2012, Mazda’s CX-5 slotted in below the CX-7 (now retired) and CX-9 SUVs at the start of what has officially become a “crossover craze” in America. Both larger SUVs had been well received by consumers, so Mazda took a chance to get in on the small utility vehicle game. That seems to have been a winning bet for the Japanese automaker.
Refreshed for the 2016 model year, the CX-5 gets a bit of a facelift, with more distinct design cues to bring it in line with the Kodo design language used across Mazda’s fleet. We tested a mid-range Mazda CX-5 Touring FWD model painted in a lovely Blue Reflex Mica with black cloth interior.
Our Mazda featured 17-inch alloy wheels, room for five passengers, push button ignition, power driver’s seat, electronic parking brake and a modest sunroof. For a base price of $25,215, the Touring package gets an upgraded engine, cargo mats, retractable cargo cover, door sill trim plates, wheel locks and a power moonroof.
What people love about the Mazda CX-5:
- Its Kodo (“Soul of Motion”) design aesthetic
- Its competitive, and very reasonable, price tag
- How it drives — sporty, stiff and engaging
- Fuel economy: the CX-5 averages 29 mpg combined city and highway driving
- Award-winning SKYACTIV-G 2.5L engine with 6-speed sport mode
- IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Award for the 2016 model year
The interior on the new CX-5 certainly gets an upgrade in both comfort and finish. Mazda focused on creating an easy yet highly functional interior for the 2016 model. Features such as a 7-inch infotainment full-color touchscreen and available LED headlights give the entry-level ute a higher-end feeling without the sticker shock. Our model was a modest $27,765 with the optional equipment described above. That’s not bad for a good-sized crossover, when you consider that compact sedans run in the same neighborhood.
Easy like Sunday morning | Driving the CX-5
We hit the road for a day trip in our Mazda, packing up the dogs for a jaunt to southern New Jersey to visit family. Access to the rear seats is simple thanks to the wide rear-door openings, making getting the pups (or real, human children) in and out of the vehicle easy. If you have a taller driver and passenger, you’ll want to remove the headrests from the back seats; that way, they will fold flush yet leave you enough room for stretching out up front.
The jaunt to Jersey is about a three-hour trip with weekend traffic, but it’s a pretty fantastic route on which to test drive a vehicle. The drive includes a healthy blend of urban streets, major highways and country roads (we take Hwy 301 N through Maryland and Delaware to avoid heavy I-95 traffic).
The CX-5 has a stiff, sporty ride — which we like — matched with responsive steering and handling. This is the type of driving feel we prefer in vehicles, and we found that driving experience was only enhanced by the Touring model’s larger 2.5L engine with 184 hp and 185 lb.-ft. of torque.
While more aerodynamic in design, the CX-5 suffers from a bit of wind noise at highway speeds, which is not out of the ordinary for a car in this segment at this price point. If that’s a sticking point for you, however, we might suggest you test out the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson for comparison. Hyundai has done an excellent job silencing its cabin from both road and wind noise.
2016 Mazda CX-5 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Highlights:
- Radar cruise control with close proximity warning (i-ACTIVSENSE)
- Lane Departure Warning
- Blind Spot Monitor
- Rearview camera and Rear Cross Traffic Alert(/li>
- Side-impact door beams
- Advanced dual front airbags
Overall, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 makes it easy for drivers to get comfortable both on short trips or long hauls. This is a vehicle that takes little “getting used to” and compromise from the driver and passengers. For the price, Mazda is providing an excellent value for the money, including top safety ratings and technology features suitable for both young and seasoned drivers. We think Mazda strikes a great balance with their small crossover, making it a big contender in the crowded lineup of CUVs on the market today.
Americans love CUVs, but is the CX-5 their favorite?
According to the latest data from Automotive News, pickups and crossovers are the two fastest-growing product segments, with many SUVs out-selling passenger cars. For example, in July, Mazda sold more than 9,500 of its CX-5, slightly more than its flagship Mazda3 compact car for the month. These two models are by far the sales leaders for the brand, with the Mazda6 sedan close behind them.
As consumers’ hunger for just-right-sized utility vehicles continues to grow, alongside plummeting gasoline prices, CUVs are dominating the market, holding roughly 28 percent market share according to NADA Market Beat.
Mazda may be a low-volume producer when compared to the big three Japan manufacturers, but they certainly have a loyal, and enthusiastic, following of customers.
Could the proof be in the crowd-sourced pudding? As we often do, we shared photos of the Mazda CX-5 during our trip via social media networks. We typically get feedback from friends and readers about our test vehicles, but this time it was different — everyone seemed to have a story about themselves or a relative having recently purchased a CX-5. Our colleagues were reporting back positive responses to this vehicle.
All of this positive feedback left us wondering if the new Mazda CX-5 is America’s favorite crossover? We don’t see why it wouldn’t be.
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