Monday, November 16, 2015

2016 Mazda CX-5

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With their ample cargo space, rather good fuel efficiency, elevated driving positions, and enhanced poor-weather driving capabilities, compact crossover SUV's have huge appeal. Indeed, this is one of the post popular auto segments. Within that crowded class, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 stands out as one of my favorites.

     What pushes this Mazda to the front of the class is that, in addition to satisfying those core requirements, it also boasts a rather nicely trimmed cabin, excellent safety ratings, a smooth and quiet ride, comfortable seats and good visibility. The CX-5 also has something quite rare in this segment: a fun-to-drive personality that comes by way of its precise steering and sporty handling. With the bigger engine that's standard on most trim levels, the CX-5 also provides an impressive combination of peppy acceleration and high fuel economy numbers. Whether you are driving to work, running errands, or dropping the kids off somewhere, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is enjoyable to drive and as comfortable and as easy to live with as your favorite pair of jeans. These traits also make the CX-5 a great road trip companion.

     The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is a 5-passenger compact crossover SUV available in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trims. All trim levels offer a choice of front wheel drive, or all wheel drive.

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     The base Sport comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, a/c, cruise control, height adjustable driver seat, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, and a 4 speaker sound system.

     Initially, the Sport will offer an optional Mazda Connect package that adds a 7-inch touchscreen interface, a multi-function controller knob, HD radio, Pandora Internet Radio, automatic crash notification, SMS text message reading, and voice controls. Later in the model year, the Rear Camera Package will supplant that, and add all of those features, plus the rear-view camera.

      The Touring includes all of the above and adds a more powerful engine, keyless ignition and entry, blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems, 6-way power driver seat, 40/20/40 split folding rear seat, 6 speaker sound system, upgraded cloth upholstery, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. The Moonroof and Bose Audio Package adds a sunroof and an upgraded 9-speaker Bose Audio system.

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 The Grand Touring includes all of the above plus 19-inch wheels, automatic headlamps, automatic windshield wipers, heated mirrors, dual zone auto climate control, satellite radio, heated front seats, and leather upholstery.

     Available on both the Touring and Grand Touring is the Technology Package. It adds a navigation system, Smart City Brake Support System, adaptive LED headlamps, LED running lights, LED fog lights, LED tail lights, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Optional on the Grand Touring is the i-ActiveSense Package that adds adaptive cruise control, Smart Brake Support, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlamp control.

     The 2016 Mazda CX-5 Sport comes with a choice of 2 powertrains. You can chose either a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine with 155 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft of torque matched to a 6-speed manual transmission, or a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft of torque that is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional on Sport when you equip it with the 2.5 liter engine. The bigger engine is standard on Touring and Grand Touring models.

     The EPA estimated fuel economy for a FWD Sport is 29 mpg combined. All FWD CX-5's with the 2.5 clock in the exact same numbers, while those with AWD come in at 26 mpg combined. In testing, my tester that was equipped with the 2.5 liter engine and AWD accelerated to 60 mph in a very respectable 8 seconds.
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     Every 2016 Mazda CX-5 comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags. An automatic crash notification feature is optional on the Sport, and standard on the Touring and Grand Touring, which also get blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems.

     Optional on Touring and Grand Touring is Smart City Brake Support, which is a system that uses a laser to detect objects like other cars or people in front of the car, and will apply the brakes to stop the vehicle at speed up to 19 mph. In brake testing, my CX-5 Grand Touring tester stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet, which is a bit better than average in this class. Crash test ratings for the 2016 Mazda CX-5 are 4 stars for overall crash protection out of a maximum of 5 stars.

     Regardless of the trim level, the cabin of the CX-5 is attractive, modern, and most importantly, functional. It's a mature design, and it isn't loaded up with fake wood or highly reflective chrome trim. Instead, materials are simple and rather high in quality, and soft-touch surfaces are set off with tasteful bits of metallic or piano black trim. The gauges in their contrasting black and white design are quite legible as well.

     The 2016 version of the CX-5 brings a much improved infotainment system. Boasting a 7-inch touchscreen, and a super intuitive multi-function control knob, this is one of the better systems out on the market today. Most drivers should be able to find a comfortable position, and front seat comfort is excellent on long road trips.

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 The Mazda's back seat is plenty spacious and offers plenty of leg room for this class. That rear seat features an innovative folding mechanism on the Touring and Grand Touring trim levels that lowers the seat bottom before folding the seatback on top to provide an almost flat load floor. With all of the seats filled, there is 34.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which grows to a massive 64.8 with the rear seats folded.

     Equipped with the base 2.0 liter engine, the Mazda CX-5 offers competitive power on paper, but it just doesn't feel that strong during passing and merging maneuvers in the real world. For the majority of shoppers in this category, the 2.5 liter engine is a much better choice, given its greater power, and near identical fuel economy numbers. Furthermore, the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, and is easily one of the most responsive transmissions in this class. Mazda still makes a very good manual transmission, but seeing as how that is only offered with the 2.0 liter engine, I feel the appeal is quite limited on that set-up.

     Easily the most striking thing about the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is its athletic character. Even if you are just looking for a small crossover to drive to work everyday, you will notice that its steering, brakes and suspension are unusually capable for a vehicle in this class. It's a rather enjoyable vehicle to run errands in, and if you happen to turn onto a road with twists and turns, the CX-5 could be downright fun. On the highway, the Mazda rides just as comfortably, which makes it a great road trip companion.

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