Love at first drive … in the Mazda CX-5!
First things first: what are the Best of Awards? That is our highlight for cars and trucks of the year – but given out as-needed whenever we get behind the wheel of a truly fantastic new vehicle.
The Mazda3 won this acclaim last year, and the 2016 Mazda6 is on track to nab one as well.
In order to rise up to the title, a car needs to be so excellent that it really knocks your socks off outside, inside and on the road. But mostly on the road, at full throttle, around bends and hitting redlines. As everyone knows, a great vehicle design, price and cabin can totally crumble when asked to dance. As such, the Bestie Awards are much more drive and performance focused than the big mainstream COTY’s, etc.
Well folks, the Best New Crossover Award for 2015 was an instant win. It goes to the smart, comfortable and fun-driving 2016 CX-5.
More than a refresh but less than a full redesign, the 2016 CX-5 updated fairly dramatically in three key areas over the existing CX-5: the exterior, the interior and overall tech suite.
Included here is a 4K drive video, 100 all-new photos and 2016 CX-5 pricing/option details.
The CX-5 was already a really solid design in the compact crossover market. Versus the latest CR-V, Escape and RAV4 — this Mazda has easily been the best-looking for years.
But that last level of classiness for the loaded CX-5 Grand Touring was definitely lacking before. The new truck solves for that with a slam-dunk of on-trend tech and trim changes.
Up front, we start the Audi-chasing style of the CX-5, but with Audi-besting LED tech.
A bigger gloss-black flying M badge lives inside swanky new horizontal grille bars and a darker overall nose. Lining the bottom of the pointy grille is a slim line of chrome that extends visually through the headlamp optics and LEDs, then on into the fenders.
This delicate ribbon of beltline actually continues all around the CX-5, whipping down around the front wheel before firming up as a rising beltline up through the doors and chopping the taillamps with its flowing crease. Also in profile, we see that the CX-5 has fantastic proportions. Overall, the long hood and fairly tall windshield angle help to make the CX-5 look sporty, leaned-back and rear-drive. Much more like the BMW X1 than the Audi Q3 or Mercedes-Benz GLA250.
The 19-inch wheels of the GT trim help the CX-5’s style dramatically, with machine-polished details paired with gloss-black inner spokes. Perfect.
The lighting setup of the new CX-5 makes the GT Tech Pack a must-select option at $1500. This brings a nav system, smart city braking and electro-chromic rear-view mirror. The GT Tech Pack starts delivering major value next with a four-pack of LED lighting innovations: fogs, DRLs, lowbeams and highbeams are all LED-powered. The elegant LED semi-circle around the main beams is a nice touch, and looks sharp and bright as the default daytime lamp in Auto mode.
Adaptive forward lighting tailors to conditions with auto highbeams, while LED combination taillamps join the fun too with a cup-shaped LED halo shape that mirrors the nose design — especially the cut-off look of the LED lighting. It is a chic and coherent design that is far more premium than the CX-5’s 21k base price would suggest.
INTERIOR and TECHNOLOGY
Quieter, more comfortably luxurious and far better tech integration. Those were the goals of the CX-5 cabin revamp, which is deeper than the exterior changes. An all-new dashboard and console setup brings new screens and rotary control knob down below, with new hardware and software rounding out the newness of the media setup.
The design is fresh with more color contrasts among the materials for a premium feel. The stitched leather wraps around the center console and doors look fantastic in white leather, helping brighten the old CX-5’s somewhat dark previous mood nicely.
The GT comes standard with a 7-inch display touchscreen but needs that Tech Pack to add in Navigation. the new i-ActiveSense pack brings a gaggle of radar and laser-based safety systems into the picture.
Seat comfort feels terrific with the CX-5’s heavily bolstered and tall-backed seats providing great support. The driving position itself is also class-best: low and leaned motors up to high and upright for all sizes and moods of driver.
Increased chassis rigidity and a giant load of NVH materials for 2016 makes the CX-5 even quieter than it was before, which takes it down to an almost-spooky level of isolation from tire and wind noise.
The 2.5-liter engine and its 184-horsepower does make itself known on hard throttle, however, defying all that sound-proofing material with a meaty growl. The engine is a big-displacement four with great torque levels low-down, but a slightly gruff note near redline. But incisive steering, supremely confident handling around bends and overall Porsche levels of dynamic excellence are immediately evident when pushing the CX-5 hard. The CX-5 feels like its chassis is far more rigid than its RAV4 and Escape competitors. Tight as a drum with zero flex or scuttle movement over bumps, which is an affliction that other front-drive crossovers frequently display in hard driving.
A total lovefest? One area is not quite so lovey-dovey.
Overall, it must be said, the CX-5’s 2.5-liter delivers a slightly disappointing level of overall pace. We estimate the 60-mph sprint of the 2.5-liter SkyActiv engine at 7.2-seconds, which is about a second faster than the 2.0-liter base engine. Both are about a half-second quicker than the 2015 models. Still still far off the pace of the (pricier) X128i and (much pricier) X135i — which deliver 5.8 and 4.9-second sprints, respectively.
As convincing a premium SUV this is, the CX-5 would be left in the dust by even the base engines of its new BMW and Audi chums in a drag-race. The tradeoff is 26/33 EPA ratings for city/highway — which are attainable without being too gentle on the throttle.
The test CX-5 GT FWD comes in with a loaded pricetag of $32,500, including delivery charges. As you can see on the Monroney sticker below, the CX-5 GT comes standard with front-drive and a six-speed automatic from $28,220.
Atop that we add the GT Tech Package for $1500 and the new i-ActiveSense safety pack for $1500. Both of these option packs would cost far more from other brands — with Mazda clearly incentivizing the upgrades with these friendly prices.
These prices all feel very worth-it on the road.
So there you have it! The 2016 CX-5 is so good-looking and great-driving, it is a clear step above the Escape, CR-V and RAV4.
The major 2016 revamp for the CX-5 is so perfect that this Mazda now counts BMW, Audi and Mercedes among its peers. Shockingly, even in this new — and ambitious — competitive set, we would rank the CX-5 just behind the BMW, and well above the pudgy/awkward Merc GLA and (somewhat) dorky Audi Q3.
The 2016 CX-5 is arriving in Mazda showrooms now with a base price below $22,000.
2016 Mazda CX-5 Review
2016 Mazda CX-5 Interior
Explore the CX-5 over at the Mazda link below!
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.