The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD debuts a new engine plus offers abundant safety and creature comforts.The 2016 Jeep Renegade is an award-winning small SUV with a big heart and plenty of capability.

Two small SUVs provide fun, safety, and off-road delights

     The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD we tested recently was another reason we like SUVs, large or small. With its Machine Gray exterior it looks like a beast, but it handles like kitten.

     Our distinct likes in the CX-9 are plentiful, but a few notables include the new SKYACTIV-G 2.5-L turbo engine, heated power mirrors with turn signals, power moonroof, power open/close rear lift gate, heated front seats, LED fog and daytime running lights, Mazda’s superb navigation system, and the acoustic Bose Centerpoint2 Surround Sound audio system with 12 speakers.

     Safety is paramount in the CX-9 Signature i-ACTIV AWD model, and with its SKYACTIV body-ring structure, it provides high rigidity but a lighter body, plus excellent crash protection. Add to that Dynamic Stability Control, traction control, and Roll Stability Control, as well as front and rear stabilizer bars, and we can attest this little kitten performs well off road. And part of that safety performance comes with standard 20-inch all-season tires mounted to 20-inch alloy wheels.

     With seven-passenger seating, comfort on the interior is at the top of its class, including those wonderful heated seats with Napa leather and Rosewood trim. The Signature has classic design elements and instruments are easy to use, the eight-inch pop-up screen with a rear view camera is clear and colorful, and the navigation system and Active Driving Display work perfectly.

     Also inside are features such as front and rear door courtesy lights; LED Accent lighting for the shifter area, door pockets, and door pulls; auto-dimming rear view mirror; second row retractable window sunshades; three-zone climate control; and much more, including the MAZDA CONNECT Infotainment System.

     With multiple cargo configurations, there is up to an astounding 71.1 cubic feet of cargo volume. As we normally do with our testers, we loaded it to the hilt and it hauled our goods with ease.

     The 2.5-T engine in the CX-9, which produces an amazing 310 lb.ft. of torque at just 2,000 RPM, is mated to a SKYACTIV-DRIVE six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift and sport mode. The combination allows for class-leading fuel ratings; on the award-winning Signature AWD model they are 23 MPG overall (23/city and 29/highway). We noted almost 26 MPG combined fuel economy during our weeklong test, including some off-roading.

     MSRP on the CX-9 Signature AWD was $40,015 and we had just one option-the Machine Gray exterior paint for $300.


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The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD debuts a new engine plus offers abundant safety and creature comforts.


Jeep’s small SUV offers big performance

The 2016 Jeep Renegade Latitude 4x4 recently tested was indeed a fun drive. With its rugged interior appearance and tight independent suspension this little creature is pleasurable on- or off-road.

Our tester was powered by a 2.4-L I4 Multi-Air engine (a $1,480 option; a 1.4-L is standard) that provided plenty of power and amazing performance with the standard nine-speed automatic transmission. Fuel ratings are 24 MPG overall (21/city and 29/highway) and even with a little off-roading and hauling some heavy goodies, we experienced 25 MPG for a week of driving.

With class-leading interior space, the Renegade offers all sorts of seating options, plus 50.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the front seats.

Our likes on the Renegade include heated power mirrors, Selec-Terrain System (tunable 4WD system with auto, snow, sand, and mud modes), All-Speed Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and Hill Start Assist. We like these and the Active Drive Low 4x4 System because we enjoy being off-road a bit and the systems provide a safe and controllable ride.

The Active Drive Low 4x4 System is particularly usable in certain off-road driving conditions. The torque management system has all-weather capability and the low range automatically disconnects the rear axle when needed. Great for steep off-road downhill driving.

Another likeable aspect of the Renegade is the price.

The MSRP is $23,395 for the Latitude 4x4 and our tester had six option packages that included a tire/wheel upgrade from standard 16-inch to 17-inch; keyless entry; a safety package with rain-sensor wipers, tonneau cover, security alarm, and blind-spot/cross path detection system; larger screen and GPS navigation system; remote start; and BeatsAudio premium audio system. All that and the final price was still under $28,000. That equates to a lot of crossover SUV for a relatively small amount of money, hence best buy awards from Consumer Digest and Autobytel.

     From plenty of connectivity to clean instrumentation to dual-zone climate control, the Renegade offers a lot and rides well. While not a Jeep Grand Cherokee, it is a great little brother.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.