A surprise hit for many automotive journalists, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 has been called out for its “impressive efficiency, responsive handling and bold style.”
Add this journalist to the list of those pleasantly surprised by the CX-5.
It is really, really good.
One of the first things grabbing you about the CX-5 is the exterior styling and, more specifically, the nose. The look is almost a take on a Mercedes-Benz GLE which is a big compliment to the Mazda designers. Fortunately, it doesn’t stand out as a direct knock-off and the CX-5 retains its own personality with a well-designed front to rear slope without being blocky or bland.
Inside the cabin, the driver visibility is so vast it is shocking. Sitting behind the wheel, one thinks it is more akin to a cab over engine truck than an SUV. In fact, this visibility brought up an unintended issue where I had to look down to see the dials.
Also, a nice break from other SUVs I’ve tested was the optional All Weather Floor Mats ($100). In Western Nebraska we have a tendency towards accumulating lots of thorn plants and these floor mats did a great job of keeping them from being imbedded on carpet. Interestingly, I could see journalists thinking this made the cabin and the rear cargo area feel cheap, however, it was a pleasant surprise for me.
Speaking of the rear cargo area it can be summed up by using the word – voluminous. Try as I may, I had a hard time getting it to feel tight with cargo and groceries. It really does hold quite a bit of items without compromising the second-row seating room.
Lastly, Mazda has a unique twist on the infotainment system with no buttons or knobs directly around the screen. The screen navigation and volume is controlled by a small dial in the center console or via the steering wheel. This took quite a while to get used to and I assume new owners need some time to get used to it. My only feedback was the volume knob could be improved considering I drove it for a week and never did find it.
How does it drive? Well, that’s the real joy. Mazda engineers have done a remarkable job of setting up this SUV to feel sporty and fun while returning great efficiency with EPA estimated fuel economy of 24/30/26 city/highway/combined in our All Wheel Drive tester. This makes your wallet feel better as you smash the gas occasionally showing off the 2.5L twin-turbo four-cylinder (a 2.0L is also offered) mated to a 6-speed automatic with sport mode producing 154 HP and 185 lb-ft of torque. Engaging said sport mode really fires up the SUV and while the top end speed is limited with only 154 HP, off the line it is fantastic with the 185 lb-ft of torque providing that push back in your seat feeling found in sports cars. While sure, it isn’t a 4-second super car, it is really good for this size SUV.
Mazda offers the CX-5 in three different trims: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Our Grand Touring test model includes a host of upgraded features like: + 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, Bose 9-speaker surround sound system with Centerpoint 2 and AudioPilot 2 and a navigation system.
After a week behind the wheel, I was sold on the performance, fuel efficiency and sexy looks. If you are in the market for a roomy SUV sub-$35k, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is hard to beat.
Model: 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD
Engine: 2.5L SKYACTIV
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic
Fuel Economy: 24/30/26
- Cargo Tray – $75
- All Weather Floor Mats – $100
- Red Paint Charge – $300
- Rear Bumper Guard – $100
- Door Sill Trim Plates – $125
- GT I-ACTIVSENSE Package (Radar Cruise Control, Smart Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Control) – $1,600
- Grand Touring Tech Package (Navigation System, LED Headlights, Adaptive Front Lighting, LED Daytime Running Lights, LED Fog lights, LED Combination Taillights, Smart City Brake Support, Auto-Dim Mirror with HomeLink) – $1,505
Price as Tested: $34,075 with $900 Destination and Delivery Fee
Tim Esterdahl is a married father of three who enjoys all things automotive including wrenching on his collection of old pickups. You can find his work here and in print in Truck Trend magazine as well as on Pickuptrucks.com. Recently, he is growing a huge audience at his website PickTruckTalk.com
He also plays an absurd amount of golf. Like, really absurd.