$21,795 - $29,870

2016 Mazda CX-5 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Mazda CX-5 was new.


Performance: 8.5

Reviewers praise the 2016 Mazda CX-5's athletic handling and say it offers one of the best driving experiences in the class. They note its communicative steering and strong brakes. However, test drivers think the base engine lacks power on the highway. Most prefer the optional engine for its added power, and they appreciate that it doesn’t use much more fuel than the base engine. Models equipped with either engine earn great fuel economy estimates compared to competitors. Auto writers agree that both the manual and automatic transmissions are smooth and quick.

  • "Whether you're driving to work, running errands or dropping the kids off somewhere, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is enjoyable to drive and as comfortable and easy to live with as a favorite pair of jeans. Those traits also make the CX-5 a great road trip companion." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2016 Mazda CX-5 has the versatility, taller ride height and economic sensibility of other compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. Yet it stands apart from rivals with what we'll call its Mazda-ness. That is, it has surprising spunk and sporty handling. Among compact crossover SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 is among the most fun to drive." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "By swapping in the peppy 2.5-liter four for the anemic 2.0-liter unit, Mazda has given the CX-5's nimble chassis and communicative steering the powerplant they have been crying out for; one that successfully turns the CX-5 into the Mazda of crossovers." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "If the Mazda CX-5 is a sign of what's to come from the SKYACTIV philosophy, the future of the brand appears quite bright. The ultimate benefit of merging all the SKYACTIV elements in the CX-5 is that when the stiff, lightweight frame is combined with either the 155-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine or the more powerful 184-hp 2.5-liter unit and efficient transmissions the car returns some incredibly good mileage while remaining very fun to drive." -- AutoTrader (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional. Touring and Grand Touring trims come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower and is mated with the six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimates that the base CX-5 gets up to 26/35 mpg city/highway, which is excellent for the class.

Some critics complain that the CX-5's base engine feels underpowered, particularly when merging and passing on the highway. Most prefer the larger available engine, which they say offers additional power with minimal effect on fuel economy. Still, a few test drivers say the optional engine isn’t as powerful as some competitors' turbocharged engines. Test drivers agree that both transmissions perform well.

  • Equipped with the base 2.0-liter engine, the Mazda CX-5 offers competitive power on paper, but it just doesn't feel that strong during merging and passing maneuvers in the real world. For the majority of small crossover shoppers, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder is a much better choice given its superior power and virtually identical fuel economy. Furthermore, the six-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly and is one of the most responsive transmissions in this class. Mazda still makes a very good manual transmission, but given that it's only available with the 2.0-liter engine, its appeal is quite limited." -- Edmunds
  • "Both the manual and automatic transmission are satisfying and work exceptionally well with the engine. Mazda's Skyactiv engines use sophisticated technology like direct injection that makes them feel peppy, yet return very good fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • My fully spec'd Grand Touring came with the bigger engine, which feels adequately powerful for the class, but not quick. In an era where turbocharged engines are everywhere, revving the Skyactiv 2.5-liter up to its torque peak at 3,250 rpm takes some commitment." -- Autoblog
  • While we generally rave about the CX-5's styling, fuel economy and road manners, its standard 2.0-liter engine wouldn't be our first choice, although it's the only way to achieve the advertised 35-mpg fuel economy figure. Less anemic and only slightly less fuel-efficient is Mazda's 2.5-liter SKYACTIV engine and 6-speed automatic transmission found in the Touring and Grand Touring trims. Supplying 29 more horsepower than the stock 2.0-liter, this engine is a much better fit and helps the CX-5 expand upon its zoom-zoom credentials." -- AutoTrader (2015)

Handling and Braking

Automotive journalists are pleased with the 2016 Mazda CX-5's agile handling, which some compare to that of a sports car. The CX-5's steering is sharp and provides good feedback, and its brakes are strong, they add. Front-wheel drive is standard on the CX-5 and all-wheel drive is available.

  • "Even in its heaviest trim (3,589 pounds for my all-wheel-drive tester), the CX-5 still feels more nimble than its contemporaries, which is a relief. Steering is quick and linear, with just a taste of feedback. I'd put the ride quality on rough surfaces as below the small-CUV average, with the tradeoff being more roll control and a tighter handling profile overall." -- Autoblog
  • "The 2016 CX-5's real standout trait is its suspension, which enables cornering more akin to a sporty car. Improvements in mitigating noise, vibration and harshness have made this nimble SUV feel more refined." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Easily the most striking thing about the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is its athletic character. Even if you're just looking for a small crossover to drive to work every day, you'll notice that its steering, brakes and suspension are uncommonly capable for a vehicle in this class." -- Edmunds
  • "As before, steering feel, handling balance, ride control, and braking feel are all beyond the norms for this class." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)

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