Skeptics won’t be surprised, but the federal government has produced some sketchy safety data about the refreshed 2016 Mazda CX-5. Though Mazda has refined the look and feel of its popular five-passenger crossover SUV, it hasn’t touched the vehicle’s underlying architecture or the exterior body panels aside from updating the grille and headlights. Yet, the 2016 CX-5 gets a mediocre 3-star crash-protection rating for the front seat passenger compared to a 5-star rating in 2015.
What’s the deal? Mazda doesn’t know, and an investigation into the cause is ongoing, according to company spokesperson Eric Booth. The CX-5 does retain “Top Safety Pick” status according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a good thing given this compact crossover’s fitness for family-hauling duty.
The CX-5 debuted for the 2013 model year, replacing the unpopular Tribute SUV and at the same time introducing Mazda’s current, and quite successful, design philosophy. For 2016, the CX-5’s appearance is updated while the interior receives upgraded materials, Mazda Connect infotainment technology, and more.
A 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine remains a rather pointless engine choice, offered only with a manual gearbox, front-wheel drive, and only in Sport trim. This means that 99 percent of CX-5’s sitting in dealership stock are equipped with the more satisfying 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic. Either way, the EPA says to expect 29 mpg in combined driving, or 26 mpg if you opt for the all-wheel-drive system. During my week with a CX-5 Grand Touring with front-wheel drive, I averaged 25.5 mpg, a disappointing return.
People love crossovers, but they are heavier and have a taller center of gravity than standard cars. Thus, while the CX-5 proves more entertaining to drive than many of its direct competitors, it is thirstier and less fun than the Mazda3 with which it shares a platform. Of course, the Mazda3 doesn’t supply as much cargo space as the CX-5’s maximum volume of 65.4 cu.-ft., or as much ground clearance as the CX-5’s generous 8.5 inches, or blizzard-battling AWD.
Sized on the smaller side of the compact crossover continuum, the Mazda CX-5 is nevertheless comfortable for average-sized adults, and the driving position is perfection. Instrumentation is a model of clarity, and attention to detail is evident in both the design and the refinement of the cabin’s materials. In Grand Touring trim, the CX-5 looks and feels more upscale than its $29,100 starting price might suggest.
New for 2016, Mazda Connect represents a big improvement in terms of the CX-5’s infotainment technology. The learning curve is steep at first, but with time and practice system use becomes second nature. In this application, just as is true in the new MX-5 Miata, the primary function controls located on the center console are awkwardly placed; depending on your arm length and seating position, you might find them easy or aggravating to use.
Mazda Connect includes a subscription-free E911 automatic emergency notification service, and my loaded CX-5 Grand Touring with the optional i-ActiveSense Package included a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, technology which has proven to reduce accidents and injuries. Given the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) mysterious downgrade for the 2016 CX-5’s crash-test rating, I strongly urge buyers to equip this Mazda with that feature.
Recommending the stylish and sophisticated 2016 Mazda CX-5 is easy. Yet it would be even easier to do if last year’s crash-test ratings applied to this year’s model. Nevertheless, the CX-5 delivers upscale design, materials, and amenities at a reasonable price, making it a good if not great choice among compact crossovers.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2016 Mazda CX-5 page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
©2016 AutoWeb / Christian Wardlaw