2016.5 Mazda CX-5 review: – CNET

Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2016

The 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 is a mid-year update to a fun little SUV with a playful, puppy dog face. It’s no secret that the CX-5 is one of my favorites, if not the favorite, in this vehicle class and it’s not just because looking at it reminds me of the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Actually, it’s because driving the CX-5 reminds me of the Miata.

When I say this small SUV reminds me of the compact roadster, I’m not saying that it handles like a sports car. What I appreciate about both cars is a sort of purity of purpose and a focus on appropriate driving dynamics. Allow me to explain.

#DrivingMatters

The CX-5 is powered by Mazda‘s 2.5-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder engine, which makes a peppy 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The 2.5-liter is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Additionally, prospective drivers will have the choice of either front or on-demand all-wheel drive; the latter being useful for regions with four distinct seasons.

Fuel economy is good, but not the best. Its 26 combined mpg (24 city and 30 highway) for the all-wheel drive model is basically on par with the competition from Honda, Toyota and Ford, but won’t win any green awards. Opting for front-wheel drive bumps the EPA’s estimate up to 29 mpg combined.

2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring
Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

A six-speed manual transmission-equipped “Sport FWD” trim level persists for those few who like to row their own gears. However, that manual transmission is mated to a smaller engine, a 2.0-liter version of the SkyActiv mill that steps down to 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, which sort of snuffs out the fun, making it more of a low-cost option.

The CX-5 really shines when driven, which is good because, well, it’s a car. Mazda has proven that it has a knack for knowing what an “engaging drive” actually means, what we’re actually looking for when describing a car as “sporty” and delivering that experience with its vehicles.

The steering is direct, but not twitchy, and delivers the right amount of responsiveness to inputs, making the SUV feel fun around a bend and stable during evasive maneuvers. The suspension is firm and communicative, but also compliant over all but the most severe potholes. All of this works with the peppy engine options that feel well matched with the CX-5’s chassis to deliver a driving experience that won’t trick anyone into thinking they’ve purchased a sports car. That being said, it is still capable of generating grins and inspiring confidence.

So, how is this small SUV like Mazda’s iconic roadster? Neither is concerned with being the fastest or the most powerful car in its class; rather, the aim is to be pleasurable to pilot and easy to approach. Both the CX-5 and MX-5 get the job done with a minimal amount of gadgetry and complication. And that’s what I like most about the Mazda CX-5; it’s a car that produces the core of driving before blowing its bells and whistles.

Speaking of bells and whistles…

Mazda Connect tech

Like the chassis and powertrain tech, the Mazda Connect infotainment and navigation system that lives at the center of the CX-5’s dashboard gets the fundamentals right.

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