Drive

Mazda CX-5 review: New version stays on good track

Carmaker introduces minor tweaks to an already decent ride

The CX-5 accelerates briskly and handles beautifully, with far sportier performance than you’d expect from an SUV.

Jil McIntosh/For Metro

The CX-5 accelerates briskly and handles beautifully, with far sportier performance than you’d expect from an SUV.

Few things tick me off more than change for the sake of change. I’m tired of having to track down a grocery item because the package is different, or seeing that my running shoe has been discontinued because its design was more than a year old.

So I was pleased to discover that when Mazda updated its CX-5 for 2016, it only made some minor tweaks to a vehicle that was already a very decent driver.

The grille changes slightly on all models, while my top-line GT gets LED accent lighting and new wheels. The rear seats are more supportive, there’s an electric parking brake in place of a lever, and a new infotainment system sits in the dash, controlled by a joystick in the centre console rather than buttons alongside the screen. The GT also receives navigation as standard equipment.

Two engines are available, starting with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the base GX. That trim is front-wheel drive only, and offers a stick shift or automatic. The GS and GT trims use a 2.5-litre four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic. The GS can be ordered in front- or all-wheel drive, while the GT is AWD only.

The CX-5 shares both its platform and that 2.5-litre engine with the Mazda6. Like that sedan, the CX-5 accelerates briskly and handles beautifully, with far sportier performance than you’d expect from an SUV.

My GT tester was optioned with a Technology Package, which adds such items as adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, forward collision warning with braking, and a lane departure system that blares a rumble-strip sound out of the stereo speaker if you drift out of your lane. The package also adds satellite radio, though I thought that should have been bundled with the premium stereo that’s part of the GT’s equipment list.

But be warned: If you opt for this top-line trim, it can be as much as $1,000 more than similarly-equipped rivals. Be sure to check out all the trim levels and features if this Mazda is on your radar.

The checklist: 2016 Mazda CX-5

THE BASICS
Type. Four-door, five-passenger compact SUV
Engine (hp/torque). 2.0-litre I4 (155/150); 2.5-litre I4 (184/185)
Transmissions. 6-speed manual (2.0 only); 6-speed automatic
Price. Base $22,995, as-tested $37,295 (plus destination)

COOL FEATURES
• 40/20/40-split flat-folding rear seat
• Blind-spot monitoring
• Wide-angle rearview camera
• Automatic headlight levelling system
• Joystick controller for infotainment screen
• Forward collision alert with low-speed braking
• Lane departure warning system

POINTS
• In addition to minor styling changes and interior improvements, new standard and optional features have been added to all of the trim lines.
• Voice recognition on the navigation system accepts an entire address, rather than saying each line at a time.
• The optional adaptive cruise control keeps a pre-set distance from the vehicle ahead, but it tends to be jerkier than systems from most other manufacturers.

MARKET POSITION
The CX-5 is now the middle child in Mazda’s SUV lineup, between the smaller CX-3 and three-row CX-9. It was introduced in 2013, replacing the slightly larger CX-7 that bowed out after the 2012 model year.

THE COMPETITION
Ford Escape — Base price: $23,899
Honda CR-V — Base price: $25,990
Hyundai Tucson — Base price: $24,399

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