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It seems like I just drove the CX-5 recently but it turns out it has been awhile. I drove the 2014 CX-5 GT AWD in January 2014. This was when Mazda had updated the engine from the 2.0L four that was just nowhere near powerful enough to move the CX-5 properly to their 2.5L powerplant, still used today.

Mazda aimed to bring new levels of depth and maturity to a variety of areas with the refresh of the CX-5 for 2016. The design, the quality and functionality of the interior, ride comfort and quietness, as well as safety performance.

While the exterior retains its distinctive SUV looks, the updates to the front grille and other design features refresh the model with the latest design expression of the Mazda brand. For the interior, particular effort went into improving the quality feel of the ornamentation and materials used, and also to improving the functionality and usability of the cockpit controls. Enhancements to the suspension, seating and as well as sound insulation should make this new CX-5 the best one yet.

This is a popular little crossover so I’m sure it will get some attention this week. And the new design visually improves on the already stylish exterior, at least to my eyes.

Model: 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD
Pricing: $36,925
Options: Technology Package — $2,100, Soul Red Metallic — $300
Freight: $1,895
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $39,290

Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

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On one hand, it seems that the CX-5 in full GT AWD trim and Technology package is loaded with a ton of features. Items like blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, radar cruise control and navigation are all included. But then when you realize that this vehicle is now in the $40,000 snack bracket you also realize it is missing some features that shoppers in this category may be looking for.

The power liftgate is probably the biggest omission, heated rear seats are not a big deal but would be nice to have, and a panoramic sunroof that everyone else seems to have available now is a feature much enjoyed by all my guests that I give rides to.

But enough about what is missing. What is new and different with the interior since 2014 when I last drove the CX-5? The most obvious change to me was the HMI interface that controls the infotainment system. The old system was a touchscreen with the controls up by the screen. The new system is the same used in the CX-3, Mazda3 and MX-5 I drove recently, which have the controls down on the centre console to control the screen on the dash. I’m still not a fan but somebody must like it.

The system works well, although it is very slow to boot; the radio turns on quick as well as the backup camera, but if you want to change a setting or tune the radio station you have to wait quite awhile before you do anything in the system.

The interior materials do seem top notch, especially for a vehicle that starts in the low 20s and works its way up in price. The seats in the GT though are a little on the stiff and COLD side when it’s -5 outside. Seats are really a personal thing but these seats are irritating my back a little bit.

The lack of power liftgate may be a choice Mazda made because the hatch is super light and easy to open and close – you can close it on one swoop and it takes little to no effort to open it as well. Once open you have have 40/20/40 split folding rear seats and a ton of cargo space.

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I drove the Toyota Venza last week, the Venza was similarly priced for similar content. Although it offered a V6 it was missing some of the technology the CX-5 has. But from a driving enjoyment point of view they are not even close. The Mazda CX-5 hands down is the winner in the driving category and for many reasons.

For one the brakes, steering and suspension on the CX-5 are engaging and provide positive feedback, body control and confidence that the CX-5 will perform when you need it to. Out on the highway or even around town I found the Venza was very loud — especially in terms of wind noise. Funny enough Mazda usually gets kicked down for being loud and noisy but the CX-5 is certainly quieter than the Venza.

I know I’m not writing a comparison here… well I’m not supposed to be but it’s too hard not to compare. The Venza’s V6 was wonderful and moved the vehicle with authority when needed and when not it was quiet and smooth, but it did return somewhat dismal fuel economy. Here is where things get interesting with the CX-5. It seems to be returning much better fuel economy than the Venza did, if you are not power hungry you’ll be fine with it. But when you do stomp on the throttle, a lot of noise emanates from under the hood and not much happens.

You really need to bury the needle to get the CX-5 moving, even just merging onto the highway requires more throttle than you would expect. Flip the switch to sport mode and the throttle response is improved and the transmission is less reluctant to shift but you will be revving the engine very high and that results in a lot of noise.

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The one thing that really stood out with the CX-5 over the week was how easy it was to drive. Thursday night I had to zip across the city, it was dark, it was raining in parts of the city, and the traffic was a nightmare even at 6pm due to the shopping madness apparently. Visibility out of the CX-5 is great and the blindspot monitoring adds that extra check if you don’t believe the mirrors.

I was able to zip in and out of traffic like a pro, park at a few crowded malls and back out easily even without using the back-up camera! During that drive I also noticed the navigation system was a little off in terms of time estimates and a few times it showed me travelling the wrong direction or off the roads completely in older residential areas so that was a little odd.

Fuel Economy
Exterior Styling

In terms of fuel economy the CX-5 delivers as I averaged 9.5 L/100 km for the week, a week that was a little colder than last. And the CX-5 is still a good-size crossover with all-wheel drive.

The CX-5 is well put together, looks great and feels great. The volume seller for Mazda is the GS version and it makes sense at a reasonable $31,275 starting price. The GT trim with technology package that I’m driving this week just seems a little out of it’s league with so many other available options in the $40,000 range — but on its own it still performs well and offers Mazda customers a luxurious, solid-driving, compact crossover.

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