Last month, while the folks at Mazda USA were in Southern California doing an unveiling of some of their upcoming rides for 2017, I was here in Northern Illinois enjoying one of their most recent releases – the 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD. Now, I think a lot of readers might not be familiar with a mid-model-year update, as it’s far less common these days as it used to be. Quite simply, the CX-5 received some updates to carry the ’16 into ’17, and hence the 2016.5 moniker. Thanks to the unseasonably warm temperatures and some suburbs-to-city adventures I had planned (the Nintendo Switch launch, for one), I was able to spend a solid week with the car, giving it a hands-on evaluation in several conditions. More importantly, I got some real family time in this one, using one of its Mazda siblings (and one of my favorite cars of the past year) for some comparison… the CX-9.
As a crossover, the CX-5 is middle-of-the-road in terms of size. With seating for five, it’s comfortable without being overly spacious, but its size make for some decent mileage – something important for families like ours, where one parent has a highway commute. The combined city/hwy 26MPG is solid (24 city/30 highway), with an estimated savings of $250 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle.
What Mazda did for their mid-year deal is an update to some of the standard features, packing in a ton of value as standard equipment. I’m talking features like back-up camera, rear cross-traffic alert, power moonroof, etc., and that’s barely scratching the surface. The Grand Touring package adds a bit to the price here, but overall we end up with a great-looking vehicle that works well for a family of four. I ended up using the CX-5 to pick-up our first-ever load of Girl Scout Cookies (proud dad of a first-year Brownie)!
One of my few gripes with Mazda over the past few years has been their “tablet style” infotainment system, which essentially looks like a tablet that’s standing on the dashboard. I was very excited to see that absent on this one, with a more traditional, in-dash screen included. For whatever reason, the forthcoming 2017 CX-5 is back to the tablet thing – not a deal-breaker for me, but I’m not a fan of that choice.
2016.5 Mazda CX-5: Starting at $21,795 | MSRP as driven: $34,385
For larger families, the CX-9 seats seven with fold-down third-row seating. I had the CX-9 Signature AWD edition here at Rock Father HQ last October, and I sorta fell in love with it. It’s just a really comfortable and great-looking car, and everything from its Machine Gray exterior to Auburn interior just fit like a glove for me.
What was particularly striking for me is the audio – the 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2 Surround Sound system. It’s no secret that Bose makes some great products, but in this particular configuration, in this particular car, there’s something magical happening.
I took our family to the final night of Chicago White Sox baseball for the season, a page-turner as the name on Comiskey Park was about to be switched from US Cellular Field to Guaranteed Rate Field going forward. Appropriately, it was “Rock and Roll Night,” but the Sox still lost. At least our family was traveling in style!
The combined city/hwy 23MPG could be better (21 city/27 highway), with it estimated that buyers will spend $750 more in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle. As you go larger in vehicle, the mileage typically drops, and that’s the case here – though the CX-9 hardly feels what I would call “large.” It’s comfortable, though for our family of four, we really wouldn’t have much use for third-row seating as a norm.
Still, the CX-9 ranks among my favorite vehicles of the past year, and one that I would happily drive on a daily basis.
2016/17 Mazda CX-9: Starting at $31,520 | MSRP as driven: $45,215
Match-Up! Mazda CX-5 vs Mazda CX-9: Which would I choose? For my personal tastes and three-factor review system of style, function and safety, the CX-9 ranks tops, with its stylish interior and exterior just feeling right. But what would I probably buy? For our family, the CX-5 is the more sensible choice when considering the amount of daily drive miles, interior size plus the total price. Both are excellent vehicles, but for the average family, the CX-5 wins out in this match-up, even though I’d be inclined to go with the CX-9 despite the cost.
Check out MazdaUSA.com to see the full lineup. Thanks to Mazda and DriveShop for coordinating our review vehicles.