Mazda CX-5 2013-2016: problems, fuel economy, driving experience, photos

Updated: February 28, 2020

Mazda had to prove itself after its alliance with Ford was scaled back in 2012. The CX-5 was the first in-house designed Mazda that uses Skyactiv technologies and features a sleek "Kodo" design.

2016 Mazda CX-5 interior
2016 Mazda CX-5 interior.

It's a compact 5-seater SUV available with front- or all-wheel drive. Thanks to its combination of fuel efficiency and sporty image, the Mazda CX-5 is one of the top contenders in its class.

The CX-5 has a proven conventional six-speed automatic transmission. A manual transmission is only available in front-wheel drive trims with a 2.0L engine. Consumer Reports rates the CX-5 well for reliability, but there are a few issues to watch out for; read more details below.

Mazda CX-5 problems: A faulty transmission shifter assembly may cause the audio system to stay in the ACC mode when the car is turned off. Several owners reported that the problem was fixed after the shifter assembly had been replaced. It's a $280-$530 repair. We found several YouTube videos describing the problem. One of the owners mentioned that replacing only the switch that goes inside the shifter assembly solved the issue.

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A failed ignition coil can cause the engine to misfire, which feels like a lack of power. The Check Engine light might stay on or flash on and off. The Mazda service bulletin 01-014/16 recommends replacing the defective ignition coil(s) with modified one(s) if the misfiring is caused by the ignition coil failure.

2013 Mazda CX-5
2013 Mazda CX-5.

Replacing a bad ignition coil costs from $190 to $250 (not including diagnostics). Ignition coils are common to fail in many modern cars.

A failed mass air flow sensor may cause the Check Engine light to come on. A car might be difficult to start too. The sensor is easy to replace and not very expensive. Read more about the mass air flow sensor.

In the regions where road salt is used in the winter, corrosion at the rear brakes may cause them to stick and wear prematurely. There are several complaints at the NHTSA website. We strongly recommend having the brakes inspected and serviced regularly, at least once a year, to keep them safe.

There are a number of complaints about the LED day running light not working in one of the headlights in the 2016 CX-5. The repair is expensive, around $1,000, because the headlight unit must be replaced.

Fuel Economy: The CX-5 is one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs. According to the EPA, the 2014-2016 2.5L all-wheel drive CX-5 gets 26 mpg combined (24/29 mpg city/hwy). With this gas mileage, the CX-5 can travel up to 428 miles (689 km) on one tank. The 6-speed manual front-wheel drive 2013-2016 CX-5 with the 2.0L engine is rated at 34 mpg highway, 26 mpg city. The CX-5 uses regular gasoline.

Engines: The CX-5 offers two naturally aspirated (non turbo) 4-cylinder gasoline DOHC engines; both with direct injection. The 2.0L motor has 155 horsepower, while the 2.5L offers 184 horsepower.

Mazda CX-5 engine
Mazda CX-5 2.5L Skyactiv G engine.

Mazda calls them Skyactiv G. Both engines are very similar in design. Skyactiv technology is not based on something completely new. Rather, it focuses on the overall refinement of conventional engine technologies. Mazda has succeeded in that. Overall, both engines have proven to be solid and fuel efficient. In our view, Skyactiv G are currently some of the best gasoline engines on the market. Read also: Pros and cons of buying a car with Direct Injection.

Timing belt or timing chain? Both the 2.0L and 2.5L Skyactiv G motors have a maintenance-free timing chain; there is no timing belt. The timing chain does not require regular replacements.

2016 redesign: For 2016, the CX-5 received an upgraded interior with better noise insulation and a different infotainment system.

2014 Mazda CX-5 interior
The interior of 2013-2015 Mazda CX-5.

The 2013-2015 CX-5 has an audio system with regular buttons and an optional TomTom navigation. The 2016 CX-5 comes with Mazda Connect with the commander switch on the center console. The 2016.5 refresh added an electronic parking brake.

Driving experience: It's a lightweight sporty car-based SUV and that's exactly how it drives. It handles well in turns and emergency maneuvers, although the ride is more on the firm side. There is some road and wind noise, but overall it's a nice car to drive. With the 36.7 ft. turning circle, the CX-5 feels nimble in city driving and holds the road well on the highway. We drove the 2014 and the 2016 CX-5 and yes, the 2016 feels a bit quieter inside.

Pros: Fuel economy, solid engines, visibility, sporty handling, conventional automatic transmission, easy to maintain

Cons: Road and wind noise, minor squeaks and rattles, firm ride, the interior could use better materials, infotainment system glitches

Overall: The Mazda CX-5 is one of the best compact SUVs on the market. As of February 2020, Consumer Reports rates the 2013-2016 CX-5 above average for reliability. Solid engines, good fuel economy, sporty handling and interior quality are the key selling points.


Another plus is that the lower portion of the vehicle is protected by plastic trim pieces from corrosion. The 2.0L engine is good on gas, but it feels a bit underpowered. The 2.5L is a better choice in our view. The 2015 CX-5 received the least amount of complaints. If you are buying the 2016 CX-5, check if the LED day running lights are working properly and not flickering.

How capable is CX-5 4WD system? The CX-5 has a simple automatic all-wheel drive system. Front wheels are powered at all times. Some amount of torque is sent to the rear wheels when needed. It's not an off-road system, but it does help on snowy roads. In terms of maintenance, the fluid in the AWD transfer unit and in the rear differential must be changed regularly. Both services are not very expensive.

What to look for when buying a used Mazda CX-5: Check the service history records if they are available to make sure the oil changes were done regularly. Test all the functions of the infotainment system to make sure it is not lagging and all areas of the touchscreen respond to the touch. Test the heater and the air conditioner, as well as the sunroof and other electrical accessories. During the test drive, watch out for abnormal noises. In earlier models the hood could vibrate when driving on the highway. Watch out for signs of transmission issues, such as delayed engagement, slipping or slamming into gear after coasting. In the 2016-plus CX-5 check if the LED strips within the headlights (DRL) are working and not flickering. Watch out for the warning lights staying on after the engine is started. Before buying, it's a good idea to have the vehicle properly inspected by an independent auto repair shop.

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Maintenance: Mazda doesn't mention the automatic transmission fluid change in the maintenance schedule. If you want to change transmission fluid, we recommend getting it done at a Mazda dealer, as the transmission takes a special Mazda fluid. It's a good idea to change the rear differential and transfer case oil at least every 60-80K miles. Brakes need to be serviced at least once a year. We recommend using good quality synthetic oil for the engine. Spark plugs must be replaced every 75,000 miles, or 120,000 km, according to the 2016 owner's manual.

Resources: - Check for recalls by the VIN number
Mazda Connect - how it works, FAQ, How-to guides.
Mazda TomTom navigation - for 2013-2015 CX-5: help, map updates.
By Staff