• 2016 Mazda CX-5
  • 2016 Mazda CX-5
  • 2016 Mazda CX-5

Road Test: 2016 Mazda CX-5 FWD

Perfect Combination of Handling, Design and Fuel Economy

Compact crossovers are hot and getting hotter, with sedan sales taking the brunt of consumers wanting more versatility in their vehicles. With almost every manufacturer offering a model in this category, there had better be something special to make one stand out against the crowd. Clean Fleet Report has a feeling you will agree the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is one of those stand-outs.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2016 Mazda CX-5

A stylish zoom

The front-wheel drive 2016 Mazda CX-5 is powered by a smooth and responsive 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is available if you were to opt for the Sport model and the 2.0L engine. Clean Fleet Report’s test CX-5 had a six-speed automatic, the only transmission available in the Touring and Grand Touring models. The EPA rates the CX-5 mpg at 26 city/33 highway/29 combined. In 585 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 31.2 mpg, which means we were able to exceed the EPA numbers, especially on the highway. Exceeding 30 mpg is impressive for a compact gasoline-powered crossover. Mazda achieved this through its Skyactiv engine and vehicle design philosophy, starting with a .33 Coefficient of Drag in a vehicle weighing 3,433 lbs.

The Sport model with the smaller engine, manual transmission and front-wheel drive is tops in fuel economy; it promises to deliver up to 35 mpg in its EPA highway rating. The 2016 Mazda CX-5 in AWD trim gives you an even 30 mpg. Mazda has announced that its long-awaited Skyactiv-D diesel engine will be coming to the CX-5 sometime in late 2017; that should bump its highway mpg up even more.

Out on the road the CX-5 will make driving enthusiasts smile as it has a sporty, confident nature that includes a driver-selectable Sport mode for a more responsive driving experience. Handling comes from the front MacPherson strut independent suspension with a stabilizer bar, rear independent multi-link coil springs and stabilizer bar, with twin-tube shocks all the way around. The electric power-assisted steering was set to deliver good road feel. Equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and shod with P225/55/R19 Toyo all-season tires, the result was one of the best handling and riding compact crossovers on the market.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Following their Kodo/Soul of Motion design language, Mazda says the CX-5 design “offers much more than the basic values of utility and practicality…but imparts a powerful sense of vitality…and high levels of driving pleasure.” The CX-5 was completely redesigned as a 2013 model and has received minor refreshments in the past few years. The final result (as the 2017 model is all-new) found on the 2016 CX-5 has a front end with a forward-leaning stance and swept back A-pillar. The front trapezoidal grille is set-off by distinctive LED headlights, daytime running lights and fog lights. It also features sculpted front fenders and a gently sloping roofline that culminates with a shark fin antenna and integrated spoiler. The rear is finished-off with LED taillights and twin bright exhaust tips.

Driving Experience: Interior

2016 Mazda CX-5,interior

Well-done, except that knob

Mazda says the CX-5 interior is a “sophisticated design that combines what customers expect of a crossover SUV…that heightens anticipation of the drive to come.” So, with the driver in mind, did Mazda make the CX-5 a place you really want to spend several hours out on the open road? The first and foremost measurement of an interior is the driver’s seat comfort. For the CX-5, this starts with excellent thigh bolsters and an eight-way power seat, including lumbar adjustments. Clean Fleet Report was driving the Grand Touring model that had front and rear leather-trimmed seats, with the front seats being heated. Our CX-5 Grand Touring came equipped with a power moonroof and easy-to-read large, round black-faced gauges with white lettering. For some reason, the speedometer indicates you can go 160 mph. Not advised and curious to say the least. The 60/20/40 rear seat comfortably seats three adults, but with the center armrest folded down two would be more acclimated to a long journey. The rear air vents are a nice touch.

Top center on the dash is a seven-inch color touchscreen display, which is the access point to the infotainment (information and entertainment) center. The entertainment element includes an excellent nine-speaker Bose sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX HD radio, USB input, SiriusXM (four-month subscription), Aha and Stitcher Internet radio integration. Our CX-5 also had Mazda’s Connect system with navigation. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for Bluetooth that offers hands-free telephone and voice control. To manage the radio, Mazda has its Multifunction Command Control, which is a fancy way of saying a wheel on the center console for moving between settings on the touchscreen, primarily for changing channels. We found it cumbersome as it required multiple steps to control a single function and the driver’s eyes were diverted from the road. Maybe in time it becomes a seamless operation, but after a week and almost 600 miles in the CX-5, we were never completely comfortable with the system.

Convenience comes your way with push-button start/stop, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, tilt and telescopic steering column, dual-zone automatic climate control, cargo and floor mats, power automatic keyless door locks, power windows with one-touch up and down, rearview camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear window wiper, power and heated side mirrors with turn indicators and an electronic parking brake.

Safety, Pricing and Warranties

The 2016 CX-5 comes with an extensive list of standard safety features including eight airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system, blind spot monitoring, dynamic stability control,

2016 Mazda CX-5,interior

An interior a step above the expected

traction control, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring system, antitheft engine immobilizer, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Clean Fleet Report’s CX-5 had the optional i-ActiveSense Package that included radar cruise control with close proximity control and smart brake support with collision warning.

In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2016 Mazda CX-5 received a Four Star overall, rollover and frontal crash rating and Five Star rating for Side Crashes.  Note: Five Stars is the highest rating by the NHTSA. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Mazda CX-5 with its Top Safety Pick.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring, with optional equipment, had a MSRP of $32,285 excluding the $980 destination and handling charge. Base MSRP for the three 2016 Mazda CX-5 models starts at $23,595 for the Sport model.

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 comes with these warranties:

  • Basic – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance – Three years/36,000 miles

Observations: 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

2016 Mazda CX-5 FWD

The whole package

Everything about the 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD fits together into an impressive package. The power rarely leaves you wanting more; the handling is as close to a sports car as can be hoped for from a tall vehicle; and it has very good fuel economy and excellent crash safety ratings. The roomy interior seats five adults and the interior materials are close to rivaling the best in the compact crossover segment.

When at your local dealer, make sure to request (demand?) a lengthy test drive that will include highway onramps and maybe even a few mountain or country road twisties. The CX-5 should be driven more than the usual one-mile loop around the dealership to give this car the justice it deserves. It is important that you give Mazda a look when shopping for your next vehicle as the company’s designs and technology are considered among the best in the industry.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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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 publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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