2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD review: More than just a facelift

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Mid-cycle facelifts are usually simply that. The face gets lifted. The manufacturer plugs a new grille in the same old place, reshapes the bumper, and adds a couple of changes to the color chart. It’s typically a snoozefest and hard for an automotive writer to find something about which to say. Yeah, #firstworldproblem.

But lordy, did Mazda go deep on the 2016 Mazda CX-5. Yes, the grille got the obligatory change, with strong horizontal bars replacing last year’s delicate honeycomb grille, and new LED accent lights cupping the headlights on the models with the optional Technology Package. The Tech Package also gets distinctive LED taillights. The Grand Touring’s 19-inch wheels are a new design, though still 19-inchers. And yes, the Mazda CX-5 gets new paint, or as Mazda calls it, “newly developed body colors,” Sonic Silver Metallic and Titanium Flash Mica. Our test CX-5 was just plain old Soul Red Metallic, a $300 option.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD interior

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD interior with Parchment leather. Shift lever has been moved forward for 2016. (click to enlarge)

But that’s all for the neighbors. The real improvements are in the interior trim and in NVH—auto talk for noise, vibration and harshness—that move the Mazda CX-5 from a great midsize crossover to outstanding. Luxury crossovers, watch your backs.

While the interior trim bits of the previous CX-5 were nice, a comparison of the 2016 Grand Touring to its predecessor shows a richer feel of materials. Increased shiny bits—a brushed-metal look—that make elements stand out, even a bit of bright trim at the top of the center stack. Surrounding the multi-information display, however, is fake stitching molded into the plastic. No, Mazda. Just no.

While the big shapes of the interior aren’t changed, the accessories and center console are. A new remote system for operations on the multi-information display allows a larger screen which is easier to see, and unlike some such systems it’s easy to use. Chalk it up as a major improvement.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD back seat

The back seat of the 2016 Mazda CX-5 has a longer seat bottom than the 2015 model year. (click to enlarge)

The layout of the center console also moves the shifter forward, making room for the MID controller, along with an electrical power parking brake. And were they listening? The cupholders are more widely spaced, able to accommodate two standard fast food soft drink cups. Last year they wouldn’t, as we noted in our 2015 Mazda CX-5 review. Well, OK, we know they didn’t have time to react to that write-up, but we’ll take credit anyway.

We’ll note also that the front of the console has a space for a cell phone to sit while charging. Well done, Mazda. Cell phones of course can be paired with the Mazda Connect system.

Our test 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring had delightfully detailed—and comfortable—leather-covered seats. “Impressive” is the word we used in our notes to describe the two-tone treatment (similar to that effectively used in the Fiat 500X). It’s an easy way, really, to make an interior stand out, and it worked on our CX-5.

The leather selection for the steering wheel must have been by someone who understands driving. The suede-like surface has a nice feel and provides a good grip.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD cargo area

The rear seat seatbacks fold forward for additional cargo room, but don’t make a flat floor. (click to enlarge)

The navigation system is easy to use and in addition to the larger screen has information not usually included. Need to know the blood alcohol legal limit for a particular area? It’s on the CX-5’s nav system. For Mexico, it’s 0.8 percent. At least that’s what our test 2016 Mazda CX-5 told us.

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 gets mechanical updates as well. Including a new structure for the front and rear shocks and what Mazda calls “optimizing the bushing shapes for the front lower arms.” Combined with the NVH improvements to the interior, the CX-5 is noticeably quieter inside. Mazda says ten percent. We won’t argue.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Add “evolved” front and rear seat structure and the Mazda CS-5 is a better place to spend long times behind the wheel. The kids in the back will appreciate the longer seat bottom for better leg support, even for their relatively short legs. Adults back there will like it even more.

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 also picks up more safety features previously found only on cars in the higher price range, including adaptive cruise control and “Smart Brake Support.” It keeps the car from hitting a fixed object when the vehicle is moving at less than 18 mph, thanks to its radar-based system (or reduces the impact at higher speeds), and will stop the CX-5 when a car ahead comes to a stop, as long as that car doesn’t have really strong brakes, we suppose.