Long before purchasing our 2016 Mazda CX-5, I thought at length, like probably to the brink of insanity about what vehicle would best fit a budding family’s needs while still fulfilling a “car-person’s” requirements. A meager budget killed all thoughts of a German wonder-wagon from across the pond and the hope of soon starting a small family squashed any hope of say, a BR-Z, Mustang or something from the sports-car species.

After copious amounts of number crunching I came up with the criteria to which led us to the Mazda CX-5; it had to be an IIHS TopSafetyPick+, had to get at least 30 mpg on the highway, needed to be reliable, affordable, and with any luck, be engaging while behind the wheel and easy on the eyes.

MUST READ:  Exclusive First Drive: 2016 Mazda CX-5, New Tech and More Elegance From a Mid-Cycle Refresh

Such criteria instantly narrowed the field to but a small pile of vehicles; from there, it was up to my significant other to decide since she’d be the primary driver. A half-dozen test-drives later and we decided the Mazda CX-5 was our best bet–this was late 2014 and we were prepared to purchase the 2015 model when our friends at Mazda notified us that come early 2015, the refreshed 2016 models would be available. Confused? It’s OK, we were too. In other words, one could buy a 2015 model in late 2014, but in early 2015 one could also buy a 2016. That means for the better part of the first quarter 2015 Mazda dealers had both 2015s and 2016s. For that matter, some dealers still have both on the lot, so take your pick, because as they say, it’s nice to have choices.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Long-term Review: The purchase process, the Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI), and the first 2700 miles.

Updates for 2016

For the full rundown on all of the updates you can catch the first installment here. But high notes include a revised interior with a plethora of small changes aimed at quieting the cabin and improving ergonomics. There’s also the MAZDA CONNECT interface from the Mazda3 with a 7-inch touchscreen and console-mounted controls that replace the smaller TomTom Nav unit from the 2015 model. Outside you’ll find different wheels with dark inserts, new headlights with LED accent lights and optional LED headlights and fog-lights along with new LED taillights and a different grille.

Mechanically the CX-5 is largely the same, save for a new Sport mode that hangs onto gears longer and is more willing to downshift along with some front suspension tweaks aimed at cutting NVH.

Safety features were considerably upgraded for 2016 thanks to a new i-ACTIVSENSE package that includes Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) and Smart Brake Support (SBS) that stops the CX-5 at slow and mid speeds to avoid a frontal impact, an update over the 2015 models that only had SCBS, which operates at speeds between 2.5 and 9 mph whereas SBS works between 9 and 90mph. It is important to note that unlike SCBS, SBS doesn’t actually stop the vehicle, but rather rings audible alarms and registers a large warning sign on the dash to encourage the driver to take action before a crash is unavoidable.

The available safety package also includes Lane Departure Warning, Mazda Radar Cruise Control and Mazda’s Blind-Spot Monitoring, which was available on the previous model, but it’s now augmented with Mazda’s Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

You get the point, it’s not an entirely new crossover, but Mazda spent considerable time upping safety and technology features without huge hits to the MSRP. And lets be honest here, the outgoing model was already a class contender.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Long-term Review: The purchase process, the Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI), and the first 2700 miles.

So what’s it like to live with?

As far as crossovers go, the Mazda CX-5 has class leading driving dynamics while still retaining enough utility to carry everything one might need–the Nissan Juke might out-handle the Mazda, but its cargo capacity and interior volume are more hatch-like than crossover.

The CX-5 has a taut ride and remains flat in the corners up to about an 8/10ths pace where you’re reminded it’s still a high-riding crossover. However, keeping its design parameters in mind, the CX-5 can be hustled down a winding road at surprising speed. So surprising in fact, that I even took the CX-5 for an early-morning run through the hills to my favorite breakfast spot on Skyline Boulevard–who would have thought taking a crossover for an early Sunday-morning run could be so fun? Let me add though, that parking amongst the Italian thoroughbreds, shiny classics and other fan favorites attracted some raised brows. Interestingly enough, all was forgotten when several enthusiasts walked by said sporting staples to ask about the Mazda. Funny how that works, huh? The reason they were asking, they needing something sporting that could haul the family–that sounded strangely familiar.

For those that prefer the buttery smooth ride of a Honda CR-V, the Mazda might be a bit firm, especially when equipped with the optional 19-inch wheels. It’s a judgment call; sometimes it’s a little rough on expansion joints and abrupt bumps for my taste, but all is forgiven on the next serpentine onramp.

The six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive transmission, as Mazda calls it is one of the best boxes in the industry this side of a $40,000 MSRP. Although it’s considered an automatic, it operates quite differently. It utilizes a torque converter for smooth takeoffs, but once over 10 mph the torque converter locks and it then acts like a dual-clutch unit, as it auto-blips on downshifts and grabs gears with serious speed. Gear ratios are well spaced, especially in the upper cogs where it’s important to have tight ratios to make the most of the motor’s available power. Moving out to pass at highway speeds immediately has it grabbing 5th gear for a small 500 rpm increase, however, should you poke the throttle harder during the same move, the transmission automatically jumps to 4th gear for a sizeable increase in RPM and thrust. The transmission also does sporting things most slush-boxes don’t, like downshifting and holding lower gears on downhill grades and it’s never caught in the wrong gear.

READ MORE: Top Gear Hosts Auction off Bike Collections at Bonhams | RideApart

If there was some criticism for the transmission, it would only be its propensity to hold lower gears on downhill grades when the engine is cold…and while I’m both tired and grouchy–but pulling the shifter into manual mode and forcing an upshift in search of a lower RPM is an admittedly easy fix. But wait; didn’t I just commend the box for holding lower gears on downgrades? OK, call my particular, but I don’t like excessive RPM before the oil has reached operating temps and the CX-5 doesn’t discriminate its downshifts based on oil temps–again, I’m being overly picky here and a quick upshift in manual mode is the instant fix for my cold-oil and RPM paranoia.

Speaking of RPM, if there was one area of concern with an otherwise flawless package, it would be engine noise. Maybe it’s because the new window glass this year has made it noticeably quieter inside, or maybe it’s just because I’m insanely sensitive to sounds (seriously, the faintest of sounds annoy me), but the engine noise under load can be a bit intrusive. At cruising speeds the CX-5 is whisper quiet, but under load the 2.5-liter motor can be heard inside the cabin. Some occupants think it sounds “sporty,” but I find it a bit disconcerting in an otherwise lavishly decorated and eerily quiet interior. Perhaps it’s the result of a high-compression, large displacement four-cylinder motor with a tubular header that exits just forward of the firewall, or quite possibly it was intentional since some occupants have said it adds to that Zoom-Zoom experience. If you ask me, the only motor I want to hear under load is something exotic. As with any review, you’ll have to be the judge if it’s intrusive or not–to be fair, I’m the last person you want to ask about sounds because I’m so hypersensitive to anything audible that I can even pick out the faint sound of the gas sloshing when it’s below a quarter-tank. I’ve asked at least 30 occupants if they can hear it (the ever-so faint sloshing) or the engine noise and they look at me as if I have egg on my face. Yup, my hearing ability is spider-man like…now if only I could figure out how to make some money with my abilities; maybe listening for gophers in the yard or termites in the walls, err, never mind.

Interior ergonomics are nice thanks to supportive leather seats with just enough lumbar to keep my back happy. The tilting and telescoping steering wheel allows drivers of all sizes to find the comfort zone and the redesigned center armrest is remarkably comfortable. In this price range, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better, more upscale interior.

The new infotainment system is light years beyond the outgoing unit with a much larger screen and a seamless interface. If there were a gripe with the system, it would be with the conditional touch-screen–it only works when stopped. At speed, the only way to operate the unit is with the console-mounted dial and controls, which is easy to use, but having the ability to poke the screen would be one easier. Said programming also makes it difficult for shotgun riders to change the radio stations–I know, I know, quit being picky. But hey, that’s my job.

The back-up camera with cross-traffic alert has already saved our rears on several occasions, the blind-spot monitoring is equally helpful and the radar-cruise is second-to-none–thankfully we haven’t had to use the SBS or the SCBS. As for fuel economy, it’s been stellar considering the engine is still green, as our 2.5-liter, FWD-equipped example is averaging 29 mpg with a 75/25 mix of highway/city driving.

Despite some minor quibbles, we’re thoroughly enjoying our new 2016 Mazda CX-5 and have much more to report in the coming installments, like a plethora of accessory upgrades we’ve performed and an oil analysis from the first oil change.

After the paperwork is complete, the PDI is finished and the CX-5 was detailed, it was time for Garth Wall to hand over the keys.

How about the buying experience?

As we’d mentioned in the first installment, this will be a long-term review of our 2016 CX-5 Grand Touring from the buying experience on up through the first year of ownership. With that said, we’d yet to cover the purchase process of our new crossover.

Much like my overly internalized and insanely analyzed process of picking our vehicle, I approached the dealer selection process with the same…dedication. After several days of reading Internet reviews and posts on numerous forums, I decided on Ken Harvey’s Dublin Mazda. You see, I learned long ago that your chosen dealer is nearly as important as the vehicle you purchase. Why? Because beyond having a pleasant purchasing experience, most people will visit their dealer for regular maintenance and should there be any unscheduled stops or warranty claims, it’s always nice to work with a dealer that prides itself on solid customer service rather than making the sale and sending them off.

With that in mind, I phoned the aforementioned dealer and caught a knowledgeable sales manager by the name of Garth Wall. This gentleman not only answered all of my specific product questions, but when I began grilling him on the dealer’s history, he shared that it was still family owned (which I think it pretty dang cool) and that the Harvey family has been deep in the motorsports scene for decades. I would later get the chance to speak with Taz Harvey, son of Ken Harvey who in fact has a rich history of racing, has a wicked collection of vintage JDM cars and was so kind to toss me the keys to his Nissan GT-R. How’s that for cool?

Garth spent considerable time explaining the infotainment system in detail.


But back to the purchase process; as many of you might already know, Mazda and other Japanese vehicles don’t typically have nearly the mark-up as their domestic brethren. What this means is that the spread between the MSRP and the dealer invoice isn’t tremendous. In our case, this meant that should I work a deal on price, it wouldn’t be more than $1000 or so off the MSRP since the demand was high for the 2016 CX-5, especially considering we bought the first 2016 Grand Touring in the Bay Area, and dealer invoice wasn’t thousands upon thousands of dollars cheaper than MSRP. Some online searching unearthed an approximate dealer invoice price and comparing sale prices of other local dealers for similar vehicles was proof that Ken Harvey’s Dublin Mazda was right inline with my expectations. However, this also meant that I could barter for some accessories or discounts on future services in order to further stretch my buck. In the end, our salesman Garth made the decision easier because the first two services are complimentary for all new Mazda purchases at Ken Harvey’s, so it saved me the hassle.Of course we tossed the proverbial sales hot potato back and forth over price, but it wasn’t stressful or malicious, and in the end we saved some money, got some complimentary services, got the exact vehicle we wanted despite the high demand, the dealer got a sale, and most importantly, we were able to kick off this long-term report.

In the weeks that followed we received several follow-up calls from Garth, a nice thank you postcard that’s still hanging on the fridge and the aforementioned services that saved us a few more bucks. But as mentioned, more important than the money saved, I don’t dread bringing the CX-5 in for service because I’m not followed by nagging salesman whenever I’m on site and the service folk can answer my tech questions about Mazda’s high-moly oil or the high-compression engine and direct injection’s role in fuel dilution during the oil-change intervals–I guess I’m a nerd like that.

This is how the 2016 CX-5 was delivered to Ken Harvey's Dublin Mazda before the Pre-Delivery Inspection. Note the plastic on the hood, fenders, roof, and wheels.

The Pre-Delivery Inspection

Even though the majority of you will find this mind-numbingly boring, we thought it best to highlight the Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) so that if you had a hint of curiosity as to what happens to a Mazda CX-5 from when it arrives to a dealer via truck or train until you hop in and drive away into the sunset, you’d know what happens.

For this, we followed along with Archie Griego, the shop foreman at Ken Havery’s Dublin Mazda as he awoken our 2016 CX-5 from his factory-prepped hibernation.

This protective film is applied before the vehicles are shipped to help protect the paint.

“We go through the vehicle checking a number of parameters underneath, inside, under the hood and through the entire vehicle to make sure everything is ready for operation,” Griego explained.

Shop foreman, Archie Griego can be seen inspecting the rear suspension and underbody during the PDI.

This includes checking all of the fluids and topping off the coolant, installing the main fuse, performing all of the computer, safety and light system checks, inspecting the underbody, torqueing the wheel lugs, removing the plastic paint protective film, installing the navigation SD card and updating the infotainment system along with a myriad of other steps to insure you can hop in, poke the start button and drive off. Follow along with the captions for specifics on the PDI process.

All the fluids are checked and topped-off as needed.

For this month, we’ll leave you here; with a happy purchase process and a complete PDI followed by 2700 miles. Until next time.

READ MORE:  The Turbo, All-Wheel Drive 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45

Ken Harvey’s Dublin Mazda



The main fuse needs to be installed so the infotainment system and other systems will work.
Before torque the lug nuts to the factory torque settings, the plastic film needs to be removed and the center caps installed.
The plastic on the seats needs to be removed and the carpets installed as well.
Ken Harvey's Dublin Mazda fills the tires with Nitrogen on all new cars before they leave. This machine will deflate the tires and replace the air with the Nitrogen.
The infotainment system, headlights, taillights, brake lights and all of the system checks are gone through during the PDI.
After the PDI, Juan Sr. meticulously cleans the vehicles inside and out along with a slick coat of wax.
Got a tip for us? Email: tips@rideapart.com