Car Reviews First Tests

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD First Test: CX-5 Still Has Mazda Secret Sauce

Sporty is synonymous with Mazda, even when it adds a bulkier top hat to create a crossover

Sporty is synonymous with Mazda, even when it adds a bulkier top hat to create a crossover

Mazda has got it figured out. The compact CX-5 crossover shows, once again, the Japanese automaker’s ability to transplant the fun-to-drive chip from its cars to its utility vehicles.

Our first test of the 2016 CX-5 showed the performance and handling have remained intact while the buyer gains the versatility of a crossover.

The CX-5 is a looker, but its true beauty is revealed after you hit the start button.

This is one of the most fun-to-drive crossovers in the segment in regular driver mode yet still manages to offer the biggest visceral change when you switch to Sport mode and everything sharpens: steering, throttle response, gear response, and handling. Toss it around a bit and body roll is minimal as it grips the pavement as if it were wearing the body of a coupe.

“The CX-5 remains the best-driving CUV in the segment by a country mile. It’s legitimately fun to drive,” said Motor Trend editor Scott Evans, who applauded the linear power from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as having “plenty to give at both the bottom and top end.” The Skyactiv inline-four bangs out 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque.

2016 Mazda CX 5 Grand Touring AWD front three quarter in motion

The CX-5 did the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds, which is best-in-segment for crossovers with a four-cylinder and not much behind the Jeep Cherokee with a 3.2-liter V-6. Floor it, and the CUV hits 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, fastest in the segment with a four-cylinder. Jeep, with its V-6, hits the mark in 6.9 seconds. Mazda has upped its game: The 2014 CX-5 Grand Touring we tested in 2013 needed 8.1 seconds to hit 60 mph.

In a nice show of balance, our Real MPG gear measured the CX-5 at 23.4/27.7/25.1 (10/8.5/9.4 L/100km) city/highway/combined mpg while the EPA lists the CX-5 at 24/30/26 (9.8/7.8/9 L/100km). The figures put the Mazda near the top of the class.

Our tester had a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting, one of the sportier ones in the pack. One quibble: Mazda makes you pull back to gear up. My personal preference is to shift forward to move up the rungs.

But all is forgotten when you hit the road, and you can almost dismiss the extra wind and road noise as evidence of a utility vehicle disguised as a sports car.

The CX-5 starts at $22,695 USD, which is one of the lowest base prices in the segment. Move up to the Grand Touring, and pricing starts at $29,470 USD. Our test Grand Touring AWD came to $34,595 USD. Of note, Mazda has a high five-year cost of ownership, factoring in depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and repairs. At $35,841 USD, only a Jeep Cherokee takes a bigger bite out of the wallet.

The test car had all safety goodies: cross-traffic alert, blind-spot detection, and a warning if you drift out of your lane that is a bit aggressive but livable. It performed well in most NHTSA and IIHS safety tests and earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.

2016 Mazda CX 5 Grand Touring AWD cockpit

The CX-5 sports an attractive but somewhat monochromatic interior with nice switches, graphics, and material choices, but a splash or two more of color to break up the black would jazz it up.

For the 2016 model year Mazda updated its infotainment system. It is an easy-to-use navigation system on a relatively small screen. A nice touch is the location of the audio button behind the gearshift, making the volume easy to adjust without having to reach for a screen.

The heated seats are comfortable and offer good support, and there is a nice soft landing strip to rest your arms. Just don’t look up: The material for the headliner feels rough and cheap, and there is a lot of it because the CX-5 has one of the smallest sunroofs in the segment.

For gadget junkies, there are two USB outlets up front and an auxiliary jack but not a regular power outlet.

Rear seats do not recline but do fold almost flat and split 40/20/40, allowing you to pull down the center portion alone. Rear passengers do not have vents or outlets to power their devices. You’ll have to go back farther to the cargo hold for a power outlet.

In back, there is a cargo cover to hide your belongings from view, helpful given that there is no storage underneath the trunk, only the spare tire. In a bit of a throwback, the CX-5 has a manual liftgate.

Mazda might not be the biggest carmaker on the block, but it has found its sporty secret sauce and a way to sprinkle it on even its more practical vehicles.

2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD
BASE PRICE $30,770
PRICE AS TESTED $34,185
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.5L/184-hp/185-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,526 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 178.7 x 72.4 x 65.7 in
0-60 MPH 7.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.0 sec @ 85.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 116 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.81 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.0 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 24/30/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 140/112 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.74 lb/mile


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