By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – One of the most famous movie lines was “I coulda been a contender,” Marlon Brando’s memorable utterance from the 1954 classic, “On the Waterfront.”
Skip ahead to 2016, well at least in model years, and meet up with a bona fide contender in the red hot crossover sport utility market – the right sized Mazda CX-5.
What sets it apart from the pack is that it is downright fun to drive, with Mazda engineering in just the right amount of handling without doing damage to ride quality.
For 2016 there are some minor styling changes to the exterior, but inside there is now Mazda Connect, (the connectivity system,) an electric parking brake, and bigger door pockets and floor console box for added storage. Three interior trims are offered, an aluminum-look panel, a metallic finish panel or one in piano black.
Black or parchment leather is offered on upscale models with black or sand fabric the seating surface on other selections.
You will notice the reduced noise level inside, down 10 percent when driving at highway speeds, Mazda claims.
Two four cylinder engines are offered, a 2.0 liter with 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, but you would be wise to step up a notch to the 2.5-liter rated at 184 hp and 185 lb ft of torque. The test car has the latter and it worked in perfect harmony with the responsive six-speed automatic.
You won’t spin much rubber with this combination, but it felt lively in virtually all driving situations with a 0-60 run in the low eight second range.
Economy wise, the tested Grand Touring automatic is EPA rated at 24 mpg city, and 30 on the highway for a combined 26 mpg. In a week’s worth of driving in suburbia and on interstates I registered 25 mpg.
On a long interstate trip, the CX-5 hummed along nicely, the seats never became uncomfortable, all the controls came readily to hand, and the only weak point was the tone challenged audio system, a 9-speaker Bose unit.
I loved the black gauges with white lettering that were an easy read in all lighting conditions. Another nice touch was the larger 7 inch center stage screen, up from 5.8 inches last year. Various functions can be selected via a rotary knob on the center console and that beats a touch screen while underway.
There was ample room front and rear. Mazda says the CX-5 seats five, but four adults might be more comfortable. Rear storage came to 34.1 cubic feet with the second row seats upright, and 64.8 cubic feet when folded, enough to do damage to your account at the big box hardware store.
The top-of-the-line Grand Touring model brought 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights and windshield wipers, heated mirrors and front seats, dual zone climate control, satellite radio, and leather upholstery.
A $1,505 Tech Package added navi, Smart City Brake support system, LED headlights, fog lamps, and taillights, and an auto dimming rearview mirror. That brake support system uses a laser to detect objects in front of the vehicle, and can apply the brakes if the operator does not at speeds up to 19 mph. And there is more:
The $1,500 i-ActiveSense package added automatic braking at a higher speed than mentioned above, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beam control.
Add in a few other goodies plus transportation and you end up with an MSRP of $34,140 for a well equipped compact sport utility that is also a lot of fun to drive.
The basic Sport model starts at $21,795 with front wheel drive and automatic. Next up is the Touring edition with a base of $25,515. If you are shopping for a compact crossover the CX-5 should be on your test drive list.