Every car is a compromise. Sometimes you’re deciding between luxury and economy, or styling vs practicality. It’s rare that you’ll find one car that meets every one of your needs. And the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is no different. The good news is that for many families, the CX-5 will have more pluses than minuses in the compromise category.
The great thing about the CX-5 is that it does well in most of the categories that are going to matter to someone searching for a compact SUV. First, it’s an attractive vehicle. Mazda introduced the CX-5 back in 2013 (replacing the larger CX-7), and the styling is holding up well. The sculpting on the sides works well as does the belt line that rises up gently as you move back along the car.
The interior is nice as well. I found the seats very comfortable. The dash is nice and clean which follows with most of the best designs these days.
If fuel economy is high on your list of priorities, the CX-5 will be high on your list. You have your choice of two engines. If you choose the base Sport model, you can get a 155 horsepower 2.0 liter four-cylinder, but only if you opt for the manual transmission. The other option is a 2.5 liter four-cylinder that delivers 184 hp. Both will give you great mileage. The smaller engine will get 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, while the bigger engine gets the same city and only a slight drop to 33 mpg on the highway. Both share combined number of 29 mpg, which is better than the Ford Escape’s 25 mpg and the Kia Sportage’s 22 mpg. Since both engines basically give the same mileage, I’d definitely go for the one with more horsepower.
My test car had the 184 horsepower 2.5 liter engine. You’re never going to feel like it overwhelms, but it will get you there. That’s another one of the compromises you’ll have to make. But the key fact is that it’s competitive for this class of car. I do wish there was another, more powerful engine offered, but the reality is that this is the sweet spot for this price range of SUV.
The CX-5 does have one major weak spot. It’s the information center that controls audio and climate. To be honest, it’s pretty much one of the worst I’ve tested. I’m going to give Mazda credit for trying something different, but they missed the mark. It took too many steps to do things, and it simply wasn’t intuitive. Mazda uses a controller that is mounted on the center console. That’s a very reasonable way of doing things. You put your elbow on the center armrest, and flop your hand down on the controller. Unless of course you have a big drink sitting in the enter console right before the controller. That blocks your access, so you have to reach around it. Switching to your favorite stations should be easy. It’s not because it took too many clicks. I had the car for a week and never quite figured out the controls. To be honest, if you buy the CX-5, you’ll probably simply adapt to the way Mazda wants you to do things. Having said that, there are plenty of other vehicles with much simpler systems. If that’s a priority for you, you might want to look around.
The CX-5 comes with a Smart City Brake Support that helps you avoid hitting something when driving between 2 and 18 mph. It uses a laser sensor mounted on the windshield to sense something in front of the car. If it expects a collision, the brake system to be ready to deliver maximum stopping power when the driver brakes. If you don’t take evasive action, it will automatically put on the brakes and slow down the engine. I noticed it nearly every day when I would go through a control gate. Because the gate lifts quickly, I generally approach it at about five miles an hour and don’t hit the brakes. The CX-5 made it very clear that I needed to be more cautious. This isn’t the only SUV with a brake assist, but it’s nice to see in this price range.
So let’s go back to the compromises. The CX-5 isn’t perfect. But then my fully loaded Grand Touring model stickered at a very reasonable $32,890 which means you get a lot of value for your buck. As I said at the beginning, you’ll likely find more things to like than dislike about the 2016 edition. Just make sure you figure out what matters to you before you buy.