2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD

2016 Mazda CX-5 GT

We have another go-around in Mazda’s delightful crossover

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So what’s different this time around?

Thankfully, not much- they knew not to mess with the original recipe. When Mazda introduced the CX-5 a few years ago, it represented a paradigm shift for CUV’s- it brought us around to the idea that you could actually have one that is fun to drive. We were so impressed when we drove it back in 2014 we claimed “even enthusiasts have to get their gear, families and dogs from Point A to Point B- for them, Mazda builds the CX-5.” All the ingredients that made it such a hoot carry on intact- competent chassis, responsive gearbox and astute brakes still combine to deliver the most entertainment you can get in this class.

It’s difficult to tell the 2016 model from the 2015 version…

All but the most hardcore CX-5 enthusiasts will have a tough time distinguishing what upgrades Mazda specified for the model refresh. Most of the cues can be found on the exterior styling, with an updated grille and front/rear lighting facias.  The most obvious change is the new look of the 19” wheels. The interior received some love too, with one of the changes addressing our biggest complaint from last time- it now has the slick HMI interface and infotainment system as what you find in the current Mazda6 and Mazda3. Staying in the front console area, the parking brake is now an electronic switch to free up more space, and there are small styling details that lend a bit of an upscale feel- some chrome accents and bright work around the vents, a plusher armrest and the addition of two USB ports plus an auxiliary jack mean that your devices will integrate easier and will always be within reach. There’s a bit more sound insulation too, but the CX-5 still won’t contest for quietest in class.

There hasn’t been an increase in power- does the “Sport” button on the transmission make things more interesting?

While it’s true that Mazda’s now familiar Skyactiv 2.5 litre mill carries over unchanged, the Sport button regrettably does not make things better. When you select it, the character of the CX-5 changes from composed to frenetic. Normally we don’t object to a setting that sharpens things up a bit, but the Mazda programming is just too aggressive. Sure, shifts happen a bit faster and with more precision, but having the engine hang in the 3,500-4,000 rpm range while puttering around town isn’t enjoyable and will have a negative impact on fuel economy. Frankly, we think the transmission is so astute and crisp when simply left in Drive that the Sport button is rendered unnecessary.

 Got it. Anything else?

We began by telling you that the CX-5 is the gold standard in a class not known for engaging drivers whatsoever, and we can’t say enough about how enjoyable this thing is guide down the road. Sometimes we have a hard time understanding that we’re driving a CUV- show the CX-5 some curvy roads and it’ll do an admirable job of not only going where you put it, but putting a smile on your face in the process. That the CX-5 will acquit itself better than some so called “sporty” cars is a testament to how good it is (and a sign that some sports sedans may need to rethink their mission in life.) The ride feels precise and controlled at all times but never overly so- in fact, the CX-5 rides quite nicely under most conditions and on the highway- only really large impacts will ruffle its composure. The engine suffers from a bit of graininess at high revs and on cold startups, but it still doles out more than enough suds and gets pretty good mileage in the process. The only concern we might have is can Mazda follow up this first generation with something even better- a tall order when the first effort is so good. If you consider how well received the newest models in the stable are (MX-5 and the all-new CX-9) the future looks bright for Mazda and the CX-5.

2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $38,890
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5-passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/All-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.5-litre inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 184 @ 5,700 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft) 185 @ 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,604 kg (3,536 lbs.)
  • Observed combined fuel economy: 10.7L/100 km (22 mpg)