2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Here’s an interesting thing to know about the Mazda CX-5: From November 2011, when production of the compact crossover SUV commenced, through the end of April 2015, one-million units were produced.

Here’s an interesting thing to know about the Mazda CX-5: From November 2011, when production of the compact crossover SUV commenced, through the end of April 2015, one-million units were produced.

Now for some vehicles, that accomplishment isn’t much of a big deal. But in the world of Mazda it certainly is because the CX-5, which is really the progenitor of both the fuel-saving SKYACTIV Technology and the Kodo design language (that is, the CX-5 combines both in a thoroughgoing way, which means it was the first model in the company’s lineup to do so), is the second-fastest Mazda model to reach one-million units.

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(The fastest? The Mazda3.)

Consider this about the aforementioned technologies and design from no less than Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp.: “As evidenced by their SKYACTIV Technologies and KODO—Soul of Motion design, Mazda has proven that it always thinks of what is coming next for vehicles and technology, while still managing to stay true to its basic car making roots. “As evidenced by their SKYACTIV Technologies and KODO—Soul of Motion design, Mazda has proven that it always thinks of what is coming next for vehicles and technology, while still managing to stay true to its basic car making roots.”

Toyoda and Mazda president and CEO Masamichi Kogai were announcing that the two companies are entering into an agreement whereby they will have “broad and meaningful collaboration across a range of fields, including environmental and advanced safety technologies.”

To put the two companies into some sort of context, realize that according to Autodata, in 2014 in the U.S. Mazda delivered 305,801 vehicles. That’s the total number of all of its offerings combined.

In 2014, Toyota delivered more Corollas in the U.S.: 339,498.

And we can imagine that the same holds true vis-à-vis the two companies in other markets.

All of which is to say that evidentially Mazda punches way above its weight in automotive design and technology.

Which brings me back to the CX-5.

The CX-5 is as mentioned, a compact SUV. This is an increasingly crowded category with offerings from a variety of companies (including Toyota with its RAV4) which are, by and large, good. Which is to say that given that the CX-5 was a new entry to the category when it first appeared in 2012 as a 2013 model, it had to be more than damn good to get space on consideration lists that already included things like the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V.

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First of all, there is the exterior appearance. The swooping shapes and forms that are more characteristic of exotic sports cars than sport utility vehicles. Something to talk about. Something remarkable. And inside the CX-5, the layout and amenities are sufficiently sporty without pretending to being something that the vehicle isn’t (remember, at the end of the day—just like at the start—this vehicle is about transportation, not carving the corkscrew at Laguna Seca (which, incidentally, is officially “Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,” so probably the CX-5 did carve said turns, but it has probably carted more groceries). The Grand Touring trim that I drove has leather trim, which is nicely done without being something you’re overly concerned might get scratched or scuffed: You are meant to drive this vehicle, not coddle it.

About that SKYACTIV Stuff. The CX-5 features SKYACTIV-Chassis, which means that it has a front strut suspension and a multilink rear setup. It features SKYACTIV-Body, which means that it has a structure than is 8% lighter than a comparable non-SKYTACTIV structure. This is accomplished largely through the use of high-strength steel, which accounts for 61% of the SKYTACTIV structure.

And it has a SKYACTIV-G (as in “gasoline”) engine, in the case of this vehicle, a 184-hp, 2.5-liter, four. It is mated to a six-speed automatic. (There is also a 2.0-liter engine available for the CX-5.)

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Models with the 2.5-liter are available with Active Torque-Split All-Wheel-Drive. AWD systems, useful at times, add mass all the time. Mass means reduced fuel efficiency.

The 2.5-liter CX-5 without the AWD system has fuel economy of 25 mpg city, 32 highway, and 27 combined. Yet the clever Mazda engineers have done such a good job with their SKYACTVITY that even with the AWD system, there is only a reduction of 1 mpg in both city and highway numbers (which, consequently, takes away two from the combined figure).

The story of what Mazda is doing in its product development includes a huge chapter on how it is looking at each and every element and working to make it as light and as efficient as possible.

There are lots of things that can be said about vehicles, but it is often the little things that really matter to someone who is going to be living with a vehicle, little things that probably mean more in the long run than a whole list of bigger things (e.g., the CX-5 I drove had a technology package with radar cruise control, which is certainly something that one doesn’t often find in SUVs with a starting MSRP of $29,470, but which is becoming somewhat common).

The CX-5 I drove didn’t have a powered hatch. You have to reach up and pull it closed. This is probably something that an owner is going to do hundreds—if not thousands—of times during ownership of the vehicle (there is 34.1-cu. ft. of cargo capacity behind the second row; 64.4-cu. ft. folded).

I reached up, pulled, and the hatch and hinge were balanced such that my effort was absolutely minimal and its closing was secure. And it occurred to me that someone thought long and hard about that hatch and how it closes. That is the sort of thing that is indicative of a vehicle that is undoubtedly well thought-out throughout.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 184 @ 5,700 rpm

Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Electric power assisted

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Length: 178.7 in.

Width 72.4 in.

Curb weight: 3,560 lb.

Coefficient of drag: 0.33

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 21/31/25 mpg