By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 9.4
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 has the versatility, taller ride height and economic sensibility of other compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. Yet it stands apart from rivals with what we'll call its Mazda-ness. That is, it has surprising spunk and sporty handling. Among compact crossover SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 is among the most fun to drive. As with other Mazdas, the CX-5 isn't especially powerful, but it does more with less thanks to its Skyactiv technology that encompasses a responsive engine, lightweight body and dynamically tuned suspension. It adds up to invigorating driving manners and admirable fuel efficiency. The CX-5 slightly trails the RAV4 and CR-V in cargo capacity, but shines with its athleticism and value.
If you want a small, stylish, fun-to-drive SUV, you'll find it in the CX-5. If you're among the few who prefer a manual transmission, this Mazda boasts one of the best available in an SUV. Fuel economy of up to 35 mpg and a sub-$23,000 starting price are added icing.
If you need to tow more than 2,000 pounds or seat more than five, you'll have to opt for a larger and/or more powerful SUV. The CX-5's 6-speed manual transmission is a rare treat, but it's only available in the base version with front-wheel drive.
KBB Expert Ratings
All 2016 Mazda CX-5 trims except the base, manual-transmission model get the more powerful 2.5-liter 4-cylinder as standard. This compact SUV has also been updated with an electronic parking brake, larger 7-inch touch-screen display, new center-console controls and a revised grille. Automatic transmission models receive a Sport mode for snappier performance.
With the introduction of the larger and more powerful 2.5-liter engine two years ago, Mazda rectified a major nit many had with this small crossover SUV: It needed more oomph....
... For 2016, all models of the CX-5 with an automatic transmission get that engine, a wise choice since most buyers prefer an automatic. With 184 horsepower, it's not a powerhouse like a turbocharged Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester or Ford Escape, but it's got verve nonetheless. The new Sport mode grants livelier throttle response that's also helpful when climbing steep hills. The 2016 CX-5's real standout trait is its suspension, which enables cornering more akin to a sporty car. Improvements in mitigating noise, vibration and harshness have made this nimble SUV feel more refined. Finally, if you opt for the least-expensive CX-5 with a manual transmission and the 155-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, you'll still be rewarded with a tossable, engaging compact SUV.
SMART BRAKE SUPPORT WITH COLLISION WARNING
Autonomous braking systems used to be reserved for high-priced luxury cars. But like other innovations, this technology is trickling down. The Mazda CX-5 was among the first compact SUVs to offer such a system that can help avoid a frontal collision or minimize damage by automatically braking when a collision appears imminent.
Goofy marketing names are usually just that, but Skyactiv delivers on its promise of performance without sacrificing fuel economy. Skyactiv emphasizes a combination of factors, such as aerodynamics and lightweight materials, in addition to advanced engine technology.
The 2016 CX-5 holds five passengers, but like other compact SUVs, the rear bench gets cramped with three adults. There's good headroom and legroom in the front and rear seats, which are covered in cloth in Sport and Touring trims, or leather in top-line Grand Touring models. The front seats are on the thinner side, and the adjustable lumbar support on Touring and Grand Touring models may not be enough if you require extra support. The new central control layout is easy to use, and the rotary dials have a premium look and feel. The rear seats fold with the simple pull of a lever to expand cargo space to roughly 65 cubic feet, and helpful nooks and crannies abound up front.
The Mazda CX-5 was the first to embody the automaker's "Kodo – Soul of Motion" styling philosophy. The upshot of the fancy language is a compact crossover utility vehicle with elegant and muscular curves and a slightly forward stance that makes it appear athletic. The rear roof spoiler and dual exhausts are standard, adding to the sporty look. The base Mazda CX-5 comes with 17-inch wheels, while the Grand Touring trim gets 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. A slightly revised grille is new for 2016, as are available LED headlights. An optional roof rack adds functionality to carry extra gear.
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 SUV is available in three trims: Sport, Touring, and the range-topping Grand Touring. In its simplest form, a base Sport model with manual transmission includes keyless entry and push-button start, 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/USB/aux audio with Bluetooth connectivity, and a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat. Automatic-transmission models include the more powerful 2.5-liter engine. Touring versions are well-equipped with a power driver's seat, 7-inch touch-screen display and command system, rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and the Mazda Connect system with Internet radio and a 6-speaker audio system. Grand Touring models include leather, a moonroof, heated front seats, 9-speaker Bose audio, 19-inch wheels, and dual-zone climate control.
All models of the 2016 CX-5 with automatic transmission can be had with all-wheel drive instead of the standard front-wheel drive. Other options vary by trim. Among the best values is the Rear Camera Package for automatic-transmission Sport models. For only $400, it bundles the camera, 7-inch touch-screen display and command controller, Mazda Connect infotainment system and HD Radio. Touring and Grand Touring models can add navigation and the Smart Brake Support system, while Grand Touring variants can also add radar-based cruise control, lane-departure warning and LED headlights and taillights. Unfortunately a power tailgate is not available.
Two engines are still available in the Mazda CX-5, but only the base, 6-speed manual transmission Sport model uses the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder this vehicle was born with. All other models now employ the newer and more robust 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that's paired solely with a 6-speed automatic. That latter combination can also be had with traction-enhancing all-wheel drive (AWD) in lieu of front-wheel drive (FWD). Both the manual and automatic transmission are satisfying and work exceptionally well with the engine. Mazda's Skyactiv engines use sophisticated technology like direct injection that makes them feel peppy, yet return very good fuel economy. Unlike many advanced powerplants, the CX-5 runs just fine on 87-octane "regular" unleaded gasoline. The Mazda CX-5's towing capacity is limited to 2,000 pounds.
155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
150 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 mpg (manual)
184 horsepower @5,700 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/33 mpg (FWD), 24/30 mpg (AWD)
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 has a Manufacturer's Suggest Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $22,615. That tempting price undercuts most rivals, but keep in mind it's for the manual-transmission model. Most buyers will desire an automatic, which begins just over $24,000 – still a good value. Moreover, that price is only a small increase over last year, yet includes the larger engine and updated interior. At the top, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring begins just over $29,000 and climbs to the mid-$30,000 range when loaded. At these prices, the CX-5 is competitive with its dozen rivals in the small SUV segment. Starting slightly lower with an automatic transmission are the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Rogue Select. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new CX-5. Mazda's compact SUV is expected to hold its value very well but still trail the CR-V and Subaru Forester.