Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv first drive
Inside job makes 2016 Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv even better
THE CX-5 compact crossover, the first Mazda model to feature the Kodo Soul in Motion design language and SkyActiv technology, won the Japan Car of the Year title in 2012, the same year its global sales started. In 2013, the Philippine Car Awards Group Inc. (Cagi) named it the Best Compact 4×4 and 4×2 Crossover of the Year. Last April, only three and a half years after production of the CX-5 SkyActiv began, the one-millionth unit rolled off the assembly line, making it the second fastest Mazda model to reach the one-million mark after the Mazda3.
So how do you make such a successful car model even better?
Mazda Motor Corp. Japan did it with an inside job.
Following the “If it ain’t broke, why fix it” adage, Mazda kept the grace and poise of the original 2012 model’s Kodo external design, only updating it with a new five-bar shield grille, new adaptive LED headlights with running lamps, new LED bezel fog lamps and LED rear combination tail lights.
It is in the interior that a lot of improvements were made, dressing up inner space a cut above to almost premium class.
Mazda Philippines imports completely built units of two CX-5 variants from Japan: the upgraded 2.5-liter AWD (all-wheel-drive) Sport with a price tag of P1.695 million, and the upgraded 2-liter FWD (front-wheel-drive) Pro which retails for P1.495 million. Choosing the Soul Red color for either variant entails adding P16,800 to the suggested retail price.
Inside both variants, the layout is driver-focused with a sporty three-spoke, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, three large instrument binnacles and high-quality, soft-touch materials. In both variants, the following are standard equipment: six-speed automatic SkyActiv Drive transmission, black leather seats, eight-way power driver seat with memory, six-way power front passenger seat with memory, steering wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls, automatic dual zone climate control, Bose audio system (nine speakers in the Sport, six in the Pro) and two power outlets.
Additional bonuses include the following upgrades inside: a Sport mode switch that accelerates response according to the level of pressure on the gas pedal, enhancing the zoom-zoom feeling; the MZD Connect infotainment package with a Command Control multifunction dial that controls the touchscreen (now larger at 7 inches) for easy, quick navigation of features; Electric Parking Brake Switch mounted on the floor console, replacing the traditional handbrake and making it easier to turn the parking brake on or off aside from freeing up space for storage cubbyholes and cup holders; and the i-STOP system that automatically shuts off the engine when you come to a complete stop after braking, thus improving fuel economy by as much as 5 percent.
As for active and passive safety features, both the Sport and the Pro are equipped with six airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, Lane Departure Warning, tire pressure monitoring system and smart keyless entry.
In overall crash protection tests conducted by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the CX-5 earned five stars, the highest possible score.
Cargo capacity behind the split-and-fold 40:20:40 rear seat increases to 1,852 liters from 966 liters when the rear seat is folded. There is plenty of headroom and legroom in both rows of seats, but while two adults are comfortably accommodated on the rear seat, a hump on the floor line of the middle seat allows only a child as a third back seat passenger.
The two variants have the same suspension: MacPherson struts in front, multilink beam at the rear plus ventilated disc brakes in front, solid discs at the rear.
The wheels are different, however. The Sport variant has 19-inch aluminum alloy gun metallic wheels with machined finish, while the Pro has 17-inch silver finish aluminum alloy wheels.
So why shell out 200,000 bucks more for the CX-5 Sport? That’s a lot of cash just to get bigger wheels and three more speakers with the Bose audio system.
The 2.5-liter SkyActiv powertrain justifies the price difference. The 2.5-liter in-line four cylinder DOHC engine of the AWD Sport delivers 184 horsepower and 250 Newton meters max torque, while the 2-liter engine of the FWD Pro produces 155 HP and 200 Nm peak torque. The latter engine propelled the original CX-5 SkyActiv back in 2012 and was deemed by some to be a bit underpowered, which is why starting in 2014, Mazda offered the 2.5-liter, 184-HP engine.
The 2.5-liter engine provides more power but nearly the same fuel economy as the 2-liter, thanks mainly to i-STOP and Mazda’s SkyActiv engineering that reduces weight while increasing rigidity. The front and rear bumpers, for example, incorporate components using ultra-high tensile steel and Boron steel variation. SkyActiv technology reaps benefits in fuel economy, performance, handling and safety.
Even then, the 2.5 CX-5 SkyActiv is not the fastest in the compact crossover segment, given the turbo-charged powertrains of several competitors. The CX-5 SkyActiv’s strength is its poise on the road, class-leading not only in highway fuel economy, but also in agile and enjoyable handling dynamics worthy of the Zoom-Zoom brand.
Driving the 2.5 CX-5 SkyActiv in Sport mode, you would inevitably conclude that it is the sports car of the compact crossover segment, offering as it does, nimble handling, grip and an exceptional feel of the road. The steering stays precise and balanced and steady at all times. The six-speed SkyActiv Drive shifts quickly and smoothly and is one of the most responsive automatic transmissions in its class.
Bottom line, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv—with its cool styling, spacious, tastefully upgraded interior, sporty handling, vast range of cutting-edge technology, top safety scores and impressive fuel economy—is well worth its premium price.
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