The last time we tried out a Mazda, we were in full summer mode, circling Lake Superior on a family road trip. We appreciated how the CX-9 handled on the highways, the radar cruise control, its roominess and the radar cruise control, which made the vehicle ideal for a long- distance road trip and all the gear we needed.
But the days of summer have flown by, as they always do. The leaves have started to turn, and a crisp breeze rummages through the trees.
“Winter is coming,” the cool air seems to whisper. “It’s beautiful now, but you know what’s ahead.”
Before we dig out the shovels though, we wanted to take advantage of days that still have enough sunlight and warmth with some nearby outings as we tried out the Mazda CX-5. Here’s what we thought of the ride and our autumn city jaunts.
The Ride: A 2017 Mazda CX-5
This compact crossover SUV suited our family to a tee. It was roomy enough to fit our growing teens and groceries to feed them (and we’re talking a lot of grub when you’re fueling a 15-year-old boy), but compact enough to easily navigate city streets and busy parking lots.
The first thing I noticed about the vehicle is how effortlessly the CX-5 steered. Why? I turned to an expert. “The rack and pinion steering is very responsive,” says car enthusiast and engineer, Grant Houston, who added that the “11 metre turning radius provides excellent maneuverability.” What all this means is that it was much easier to squeeze out of tight parking spaces. The rear-view camera helped as well, providing not only a view of what’s behind, but also pinging when a moving vehicle or a pedestrian came from any direction.
Backing out of our driveway one morning, a silent scooter flew by on the sidewalk. Though I had seen him, I was impressed how the alert went off before he was directly behind me, despite his speed. We live in a residential neighbourhood, teeming with kids of all ages, skateboarding, chasing balls and riding their bikes, so I absolutely loved this feature and wished every vehicle were equipped with it.
Safety is obviously a selling point for us and the CX-5 delivers. At speeds above 16 km per hour, the Smart Brake Support (SBS) alerts the driver and applies the brakes if a collision is about to occur. When driving at low speeds, the Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) detects objects ahead and prepares the vehicle by adjusting the brake pads. If you don’t brake yourself, they’re applied for you. Thankfully, I didn’t have to use these Knight Rider features, but it was reassuring to know they were there.
One safety element that I frequently relied on when driving in the city was the Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring System (ABSM), which alerted me before a fast-approaching vehicle entered my blind spot. There were also icons in the mirror, showing clearly when it was safe to pass. Both proved useful in situations, like when a maniac driver was using the Gardiner Expressway as a speedway or a cyclist passed in the middle of two lanes and then proceeded to turn in front of the car.
As important as safety is, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention other details that added to the enjoyment of driving the CX-5. It was quiet, both when started and while driving. Even my neighbours mentioned this fact, which gave me pause, wondering if perhaps the rackety, clunky engine of our current vehicle might be disturbing them. It was a pleasant change not to have to raise my voice at the Starbuck’s drive-thru for the barista to hear my order. And it made humming along to tunes from the satellite radio, while being stuck in morning rush-hour (all day rush-hour traffic if you’re on the DVP), more palatable.
Frivolous I know, but I also loved the colour –a burnished red that wasn’t flashy but definitely stylish. The official name of the colour is Soul Red Crystal Metallic, which sounds more like a lipstick hue; but regardless, it’s a winner in my book. And then there’s the feeling of the steering wheel, covered in a smooth, soft leather. It’s heated, too. But I didn’t dare turn it on, preferring not to listen to what the cool breezes are telling me.
Try as I might to ignore it, winter will come, as it always does.
But before we hibernate, here were some outings the CX-5 helped us to enjoy.
Black Creek Pioneer Village
Wander through 40 buildings, including homesteads, a tinsmith, a mill, a church and a cooper’s workshop, all reflecting village life in the 1860s on this 30-acre outdoor living history museum.
Historical interpreters and traditional tradespeople dressed in period costumes demonstrate forgotten skills of yesteryear, transporting you to a different time (at least until your cell phone rings). The historic Brewery Restaurant & Pub, located in the Halfway House Inn, is an atmospheric place to have lunch and find out how beer was made 150 years ago.
In the heart of Cabbagetown, a short drive from downtown Toronto, you'll find an honest-to goodness farm complete with a century-old farmhouse, a barn and the animals you’d expect - sheep, pigs, ducks, horses, donkeys, chickens, goats and turkeys. A trail leads down to a pond, where you may spot turtles basking in the sun, groundhogs foraging through the bushes or a Great Blue Heron catching its lunch. It's a lovely place to bring a picnic (there's a small eatery onsite as well) and escape for a couple of hours. From May to October, there's a popular farmers' market on Tuesday afternoons.
The Don Valley Brick Works manufactured bricks and clay products on the site for over 100 years, which were used in prominent public buildings, including Old City Hall, Osgoode Hall and Massey Hall. Today, this former quarry land has transformed into an environmental centre with a number of green initiatives and outdoor recreational activities for all ages. A garden centre, children's nature play area, weekend markets and hiking and biking trails are some of its popular features. Tours are offered Saturday and Sunday 2-3PM.
Every weekend, you’ll witness multiple wedding parties getting photographed in these beautifully landscaped 35-acre gardens. Paths twist and turn through colourful floral displays and rock gardens; ducks swim lazily in the stream while people of all ages unwind and escape from the city that seems far away. It’s also the site of the Toronto Botanical Gardens, which have 17-themed gardens and host numerous educational programs and workshops. The Leeds Certified building has a library and gift shop. An autumn audio tour is available, so you can explore the beauty of the changing season as you stroll through the gardens at your own pace.
In 1837, this downtown site was the largest producer of whiskey in the British Empire and continued production in one form or another for 153 years (which was why it was saved from the demolition that befell most of older Toronto). Today it’s a national historic site with more than 40 Victorian industrial heritage buildings that house galleries, cafes, restaurants, boutiques, artisan workshops and the Soulpepper Theatre Company. Stroll down the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets as you take your pick among the many temptations – Soma Chocolates, Mill Street Brewery, Sweet Escapes, Balzac’s Coffee, Brick Street Bakery and El Catrin. Or sign up for the Deluxe Tasting Tour, which offers snippets of history along with samples.
For more day-tripping inspiration visit www.seetorontonow.com