The first of the full Skyactiv line of vehicles, the Mazda CX-5, first introduced in 2012, is still at the top of its game. It delivers a driver-centric experience without sacrificing practicality and efficiency. It’s a rare breed of car that’s both a personal and popular choice; something the husband and the wife won’t disagree over. Simply put, Mazda didn’t need to revamp it. It’s good as it is and still sells briskly. Except, the Mazda3 happened and since then, the company has had to sprinkle the same sort of updates particularly because the CX-5 commands a price premium over its non-crossover stable mate.
Outside, it continues to avoid the whole miniaturized SUV styling thing. There are no attempts to wrap this crossover in a rough-and-rugged package; there are no pretenses that it can go off-road. Instead, it goes in the opposite direction, becoming all sleek and sporty. The lines and the proportions don’t look out of place in a sports hatchback or wagon and you have to thank the KODO design language for that. For this year’s update, the design is supplemented by a new front-end that visually widens the car. The trim elements in the grille and fog lamp clusters are now horizontal while the headlamps are now illuminated by adaptive LEDs with “eye of the beast” daytime running lights. At the back, the changes are much more minimal with just the tail lamps gaining the same LED signature. It still runs on the same 225/55R19 Toyo Proxes but with a meaner two-tone alloy wheel design.
Inside is where the majority of the improvements are seen. The aesthetics is still about straightforwardness and functionality. The execution is very Japanese in its minimalist design and lack of visual distractions. The gauges themselves present all the required information in an easy-to-understand manner without the need to decipher menus. It’s the same with the rest of the controls from the climate to the Mazda Connect. Ergonomically, it remains flawless. For this update though, Mazda sees to it that the cabin’s lifted in terms of quality with items like the piano black accents replaced by brushed metallic ones. As a result, it feels like a substantially different vehicle from behind the steering wheel.
Feature-wise, the CX-5 has always been generous and the 2015-2016 is no different. Aside from the aforementioned adaptive LED headlights and Mazda Connect, it has rain-sensing wipers, a passive keyless entry with push button start/stop, cruise control, moon roof, rear parking camera, a 9-speaker Bose sound system, idle start/stop, and now, it even gets an innovative lane keeping assist that automatically steers the car back into the lane when it detects unwanted drifting.
Ergonomically, it has withstood the test of time. It’s easy to adapt to its driving position—being more sedan-like than SUV. The controls, no matter how minor, are easy to find and use. Vehicle operation is fool-proof in its simplicity and the Mazda Connect is wonderful with its clean, crisp graphics. The power adjustments for the front passenger seats, with memory settings for the driver, ensure minute adjustments for the perfect seating position. However, the thrones itself, don’t exactly offer a plush experience. Lacking in both width and bum support, long-distance drives in excess of four hours can result in a numbed backside.
The CX-5 revolutionized the automotive world with its Skyactiv technology and for 2015-2016, it’s virtually untouched. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder engine that does 188 horsepower (up four from before) and 250 Nm of torque. In an era where turbochargers are increasingly becoming the norm, you have to squeeze the throttle get the most out of this engine (peak torque happens at a relatively high 4,000 rpm). But if you do commit to it, the CX-5 feels faster than its 8.3-second 0-100 km/h time. Like before, this engine’s mated to a six-speed automatic which is smooth and unobtrusive. Oddly, there are still no paddle shifters even if there’s a new Sport mode that changes the engine and transmission mapping to a more aggressive set-up.
The CX-5’s Skyactiv-Chassis remains one of the most adept at handling corners. It’s still no sports sedan, but it’s far nimbler than any of its contemporaries. The ride is decisively firm, especially when tackling rough surfaces, but at least the trade-off is much better roll control and tighter handling. And with improved sound deadening placement, it’s also much quieter than before. The planted and secure handling is added to by the sharp, quick, and linear steering with a ratio that feels faster than most crossovers. New for 2015-2016 is a handling-bias AWD system called i-ACTIVE AWD. Without any notion that it can go off the beaten path, Mazda’s system uses a variety of sensors to make the AWD more proactive rather than reactive. It senses possible slippage and primes the AWD to activate at a moment’s notice. The end result is a better handling crossover with an added bump in fuel efficiency: 8.47 km/L in the city and 14.04 km/L on the highway (up from 8.13 km/L and 13.16 km/L before).
Normally, it’s hard to get excited about driving a crossover. It’s often seen as the necessarily evil that balances a car guy’s wants with his family’s needs. The Mazda CX-5 has always been the exception. With all crossovers now managing to be great value, and easy to own, the biggest differentiator with the Mazda is how it conducts itself on the road. The added style and tech does help, but it’s the driving enjoyment given by the CX-5 has charms its way to would be buyers, whether or not the driver in question is of the enthusiast bent.
2015-2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport
|Ownership||2015-2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport|
|Year Introduced||2012 (Refreshed: 2015)|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||188 @ 5,700|
|Nm @ rpm||250 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,586|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Toyo Proxies R36 225/55R19 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||No, Rear Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 40/20/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, w/ Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||9, Bose|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|