L.A. Auto Show: Mazda updates CX-5 to keep up with competitors

With sales way up this year, Mazda’s CX-5 crossover is the hottest vehicle the brand offers. But that doesn’t mean the small Japanese automaker is going to sit back and count cars.

It unveiled a series of improvements to the crossover at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday, including better fuel economy, more safety features and sleeker sheet metal.

Keeping the CX-5 fresh in the increasingly competitive crossover market is a must for Mazda. The vehicle is a linchpin of its strategy to boost U.S. sales.

Mazda has sold 84,181 CX-5s so far this year, up 27% over the same period last year, and just 3,000 behind the brand's bestseller, the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback.

Mazda is now growing faster than the U.S. auto industry, said Jim O'Sullivan, chief executive of Mazda North American Operations in Irvine, at the company's news conference Wednesday morning.

"But why? As always is comes back to product," he said. "That's what makes this business so magical."

In the CX-5 refresh for the 2016 model year, Mazda tackled issues that have engendered criticism, including road noise and the quality of the interior.

The interior also gets an upgrade, with Mazda spending a bit more on the interior materials and improvements to the front and rear seats. It added an electric parking brake to open up the center of the cabin.

Mazda also increased the size of the door pockets and center console box.

The front-wheel-drive model with the larger 2.5-liter engine will get 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving compared to 27 mpg for the current crossover.

Mazda also is working to keep the vehicle near the top of the safety ratings by offering active safety features that are starting to appear in many other high-volume vehicles.

These include a blind-spot monitoring system that detects vehicles approaching from the sides and rear. It also incorporates Mazda’s rear-cross-traffic alert, which signals the driver when vehicles are approaching from either side as the driver backs up.

The new CX-5 also has an available automatic braking system that helps avoid frontal collisions or minimize damage when traveling at mid- to high-speed.

The automaker also has added a radar-based cruise-control system that automatically controls the vehicle speed to maintain the safe following distance in accordance with the target speed set by the driver.

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