Fuel Economy and Functionality
This is the second in my series, “Garage Mate for Your EV.” The purpose is to help select a companion for your electric car that meets your household’s needs. That might be a small sedan, a minivan, a pickup truck or, in this case, a delightful crossover SUV.
There are many reasons the 2016 Mazda CX-5 crossover is an excellent choice to share the garage with your battery-electric car. At or near the top of the list is fuel economy.
With what Mazda calls Skyactiv Technology, the CX-5 earns inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. It applies not just to the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but also for the larger 2.5-liter four.
Equipped with the smaller 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission, the EPA estimated fuel economy for front-wheel drive models is 33 mpg highway/26 city/29 combined. There is a small fuel economy penalty when choosing the 2.5 all-wheel drive versions, but the numbers only drop to 30 mpg highway/24 city/26 combined.
Three models are offered: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The base front-drive Sport with manual transmission starts at $21,795, plus $820 destination charges.
The balance of the front-drive models are equipped with an automatic transmission starting at $23,195 for the Sport, followed by the $25,215 Touring and $28,220 Grand Touring.
All-wheel drive models are the Sport, which starts at $24,445; Touring at $26,465; and Grand Touring with a sticker price of $29,470.
What Is Skyactiv Technology?
Insightful, creative engineering is the core of Skyactiv. It’s holistic approach with innovative engineering that benefits not only fuel economy, but also performance, handling and safety as well.
The result is—Mazda accomplished so much with so little, yet retained its acclaimed Zoom Zoom driving behavior.
At the heart is the Skyactiv-G Engine, a lightweight, efficient four-cylinder that uses direct fuel injection, sequential intake valve timing and a high 13:1 compression ratio. These, along with other innovations, achieve excellent power performance while delivering exceptional fuel economy running on 87-octane fuel.
The 2.0-liter produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 150 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The larger 2.5-liter engine pushes the output to 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm.
Connected to the engine is the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission. It uses a small torque converter that delivers smooth starts and shifts attributed to torque transfer efficiency.
Updated Outside And Inside
Mazda followed the old adage of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach to the 2016 CX-5’s exterior update. Other than a revision of the five-bar grill, it still has a swept-back SUV look, with the raked front A-pillar matching the fastback design of the rear C-pillar. Hinting at the CX-5’s performance bent is a pair of chrome exhaust tips.
The mild refresh was focused on the cabin where interior details are classier with upgraded material and tasteful accent trims on the dash and console. The visual effect is near-Audi.
The prevailing sight from the driver’s seat is a streamlined swathe of dashboard that tapers over a setback multimedia center, with touchscreen functions that operate intuitively. Below a larger seven-inch screen, climate control switchgear turns with a gratifyingly solid soft click.
Mazda’s switch from a conventional hand parking brake to electric frees up space on the console, and now there are two USB ports and an auxiliary jack in an accessible open storage bin beneath the center stack.
Front seats are supportive as well as comfortable, and the CX-5 has one of the roomiest cabins in the small crossover segment. Driver and front passenger have a generous 40.1-inches of headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. Six- or eight-way power-adjustable driver seats are offered on all but the Sport trim.
Comfort extends to rear seat passengers who have a plentiful 39.3-inches of legroom and 39.0-inches of headroom. Thoughtfully beneath the front seats, second row occupants have plenty of foot space.
Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with 40/20/40-split rear seats. When folded flat, they extend the cargo space from 34.1 cubic feet to a cavernous 6
5.4 cubic feet.
A major upgrade is Mazda’s Connect infotainment system on all but the base model. It has a multifunction control wheel on the console, eliminating the need to lean forward to access some of the old infotainment display’s hard buttons.
For those who want them, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 offers a host of safety technologies such as adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigating braking, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beam control, as well as the low-speed automatic braking Smart City Brake Support.
Zoom-Zoom Road Test
When introduced in 2013, the CX-5’s sole engine was the 2.0-liter four. While it was adequate and smooth running, the performance is best described as a single Zoom.
Mazda added the 2.5-liter in 2014 giving it the credentials to rightfully claim Zoom-Zoom in its advertising. Our Grand Touring all-wheel drive test vehicle approached life with zest not found in other small crossovers, with the exception of the Ford Escape with its 240-horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder.
The engine was quiet and I could feel some muscle when accelerating from a stop or punching the pedal when merging or passing. Power is demonstrated in a refined, enthusiastic way rather than brute-force manner. There’s plenty of energy from the mid to the upper ranges of the power band. Launch to 60 mph is a tick under eight seconds, admirable for a vehicle that weighs in at 3,532 pounds.
The six-speed automatic proved to be a smooth partner to the 2.5-liter four. Shifts—up or down—were as smooth and quick as any automatic-equipped small crossover I’ve driven.
What made me appreciate the engine and transmission’s performance was the sweet handling, thanks to the Skyactiv’s attention to chassis details. The suspension is divided between MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the back. The latter has been mounted higher than usual to improve damper efficiency.
Our CX-5 was composed under hard acceleration and deceleration, stayed flat as it danced through tight, fast corners and kept its poise right up to the limits of tire adhesion. Although the suspension is skewed toward athletic achievement, the little SUV still dispensed a comfortable, well-behaved ride whether it was on the Interstate or city streets.
As is becoming the norm in this class and others, the steering rack is an electrically assisted system that has a feel close to the Miata roadster. It is communicative, quick and precise at higher speeds, yet light when parking.
The only demerit I gave the CX-5 was a sensitive, slightly grabby brake pedal. I did become used to it and, sensitive or not, during an urgently needed panic stop, the brakes came through as required.
As for fuel economy, I managed to eke out a little more than the EPA rating. The week’s driving totaled 238 miles (the majority was in town) and the fuel economy read out indicated 27.2 mpg.
The Garage Mate for You?
The compact crossover SUV segment is overflowing with some of the best-selling vehicles in the country, starting with the Honda CR-V, the leader in the sales category. Then there’s the number
With the exception of the Escape, none of the above comes close to the CX-5’s fun-to-drive personality. The Ford has seductive European styling but isn’t as roomy as the Mazda. Also, options can push the price close to $40,000.
As for the Honda, well, repeat CR-V owners are not likely to even consider another make. As for new-to-the-segment buyers, they will be tempted by its number-one sales ranking, as they should be.
Where the 2016 Mazda CX-5 stands out from the crowd is its combination of fuel economy, Zoom-Zoom driving behavior, and a competitive price with good value for the dollar spent.
That makes it a relative bargain among the compact class and a good garage mate choice for your EV.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2016 Ford Escape
Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2016 Nissan Rogue
Road Test: 2015 Mazda CX-5
Garage Mate for Your EV: 2016 Honda Fit
Disclosure: Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.