THE PROS & CONS
- What’s best: The styling, handling and ride are all among the best in the compact crossover class.
- What’s worst: Not a lot to complain about here, but although the interior is much improved, it may not match up with all the competition.
- What’s interesting: The navigation system is a $425 option on GX and GS, standard on the GT. A far cry from the $1,800+ navigation units we used to see a few years back.
How quickly things change in the automotive world.
For years, Canadians have had a love affair with the compact car.
However, the fickle sort that we are, tastes now appear to be gravitating towards compact crossover SUVs or CUVs as we call them.
The exodus away from cars was never more evident than in the month of July 2015 when compact car sales were down 10.2 per cent. At the same time, small SUV sales were up 5.2 per cent for the month and 7.6 per cent for the year.
It was enough to prompt one prominent Canadian auto executive to tell me that car sales have just “fallen off a cliff.”
One of the beneficiaries of the switch in allegiances may be the Mazda CX-5, a vehicle that has undergone a mild refresh for the 2016 model year.
It has seen sales take off, up 15.8 per cent for the month and 11.8 for the year.
And this at the same time as Mazda has introduced the smaller, but very similar CX-3 subcompact crossover for 2016, which sold 1,100 units of its own in July, compared with 2,166 of the CX-5.
This marks the fourth model year for the CX-5 that replaced the Tribute in the Mazda lineup. It has been a success from the get-go and sits in the top 10 in the sales charts of compact SUVs.
To me, the new model is better than ever and I have had a little more drive time in one than most. We have our own 2013 CX-5 GS sitting in the driveway as I write this.
It has been to Florida and back along with a few other memorable road trips without a hiccup.
At the heart of the CX-5 is Mazda’s Skyactiv technology, which has emphasized weight reduction along with new engines and powertrains as a means of improving fuel efficiency and performance.
This has been the Mazda philosophy on how to improve fuel efficiency and who can argue against it.
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is available with two Skyactiv engines. At the base GX level, the CX-5 has a direct injection 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder producing 165 hp and 150 lb/ft of torque. Standard is a six-speed manual with a six-speed automatic optional.
The GS and top-shelf GT models get a 2.5-litre direct injection DOHC inline four-cylinder engine, making 184 hp and 185 lb/ft of torque.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the GX and GS models with all-wheel drive optional. AWD is standard on the GT, which we tested. New this year is a Drive Selection feature, allowing drivers to switch drive modes for more responsive driving.
For 2016, Mazda has updated the face of the CX-5 with a new grille and fog light design. Inside, particular attention has been paid to improving the quality feel of the materials and it is quite evident when you compare the new model with our earlier version.
Upgrades were also made to the front and rear seats and the suspension system, resulting greater ride comfort.
I was particularly impressed with the sound reduction in the cabin. It is quite noticeable, the result of the use of more sound insulation. Mazda says the cabin is now 10 per cent quieter than the previous model.
Steering and road handling have always been strong points of Mazda vehicles in general and the CX-5 is no exception. Perhaps my bias is showing here, but in my opinion this is one of the best handling crossovers on the market. It corners well with responsive steering and decent acceleration with the 2.5-litre engine.
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It is not the most powerful and not the lightest vehicle in its class (although close to it), but it just does everything well.
If I had one complaint about our 2013 model it would be the lack of power. The 155 hp 2.0-litre engine struggles when you have a full passenger or cargo load.
This same engine (now with 165 hp) is in the GX and for that reason, I would opt for the GS or GT trims with the 184 hp 2.5-litre engine. To my mind, this is just the right amount of power for this vehicle that weights in between 1,458 kg (3,214 lb) and 1,629 kg (3,591 lb) depending upon the trim level.
The six-speed automatic transmission works very well with the 2.5-litre engine in the GT model. Shifts are smooth and the gearing just right to get the most out of the engine.
Fuel numbers for the 2.5-litre in the GS automatic FWD are 8.9/7.1L/100 km city/highway, while the AWD in the GS and GT (as tested) is 9.8/7.7L/100 km.
Cargo volume is 966 litres behind the second row 40/20/40 split rear seats and 1,852 litres with the seats folded. Tow rating is 907 kg (2,000 lb).
Mazda likes to brag that it puts the soul of a sports car in every vehicle it produces and the CX-5 is no exception. Already at or near the top of the compact crossover SUV class, the CX-5 is even better for 2016.
2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD GT at a glance
BODY STYLE: Compact crossover SUV.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic transmission.
ENGINE: 2.5-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder (184 hp, 185 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.8/7.9/L/100 km (city/hwy)
TOW RATING: 907 kg (2,000 lb)
CARGO VOLUME: behind 40/20/40 split second row seat 966 litres (34.1 cu ft); second row folded, 1,852 litres (65.4 cu ft)
PRICE: $34,895; as tested $39,190 including $1,895 shipping fee