2021 Mazda CX-5

By January 6, 2021

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is a five-seat compact crossover recognized for its shapely body, taut handling and composed ride. The cabin is handsome and compact, and in the top models it trounces rivals for luxury, with nappa leather and wood trim.

For 2021, every CX-5 gets a large 10.3-inch infotainment display that’s not a touchscreen, as Mazda prefers to use a clickwheel controller. For 2021 there’s also a new Carbon Edition model, with red leather upholstery, glossy black trim and 19-inch wheels.

The standard engine is a 2.5-liter inline-4 making a modest 187 horsepower, mated to a 6-speed automatic. It’s not especially quiet. The CX-5 is front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available, although a car like this begs for the versatility of all-wheel drive.

The upgrade engine is a turbo-4 making 227 horsepower. The stronger acceleration is welcome, although the price is less economical and there is a bit more rumble from the engine.

With front-wheel drive and the base engine, the EPA rates the CX-5 at 25 mpg city, 31 highway, 28 mpg combined; with all-wheel drive it gets 2 less combined mpg. With the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, the CX-5 drops to 22/27/24 mpg.

Its safety scores are excellent, with five stars from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors.

Model Lineup

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 comes as Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and the new Carbon Edition. There’s also a Grand Touring Reserve and CX-5 Signature.

We think the Sport is the best value, with a price of $26,370. It comes with power features, cloth upholstery, a power driver seat, and 10.3-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The CX-5 Touring adds synthetic leather upholstery, upgraded audio, heated front seats, and keyless start. A new Touring Preferred SV package adds leather upholstery, power front seats, and a power tailgate.

The CX-5 Grand Touring gets leather upholstery, Bose audio, and a sunroof.

The new Carbon edition gets red leather seats, gloss-black trim and 19-inch wheels.

At the top end, both the $36,385 Grand Touring Reserve and $38,505 CX-5 Signature come with the turbo-4 engine and all-wheel drive. Both get a head-up display, cooled front seats, and heated rear seats. The Signature also adds nappa leather and wood trim, navigation, a surround-view camera system, and 19-inch wheels, along with rear automatic emergency braking.

Exterior

The CX-5 is very handsome, with a low profile, sleek roofline, and a refreshing absence of gratuitous trim. It looks more like a rear-wheel drive car than a front-drive one, with its long nose and a short rear end; it’s a long wagon body with a slippery shape.

The grille is delicate, the headlights and taillights slim, and the body sculpted to Pilates perfection.

Interior

The cabin mirrors the body’s clean style, with understated horizontal lines across the instrument panel and extending to the doors. Subtle details give it harmony, for example the geometric shapes of the air vents; other details are all about function, for example the deep door pockets. Even in the base Sport model, the materials are of a high grade. In the top expensive models, the Grand Touring Reserve and Signature, the nappa leather and wood trim bring it all together in luxury.

Mazda thinks it has a better idea by not using a touchscreen, but the clickwheel system it’s put in place is clumsy and requires too many spins and clicks to reach the desired function.

There’s a price for beauty. The CX-5’s slim hips and sleek roofline mean a slightly slim interior. It’s not felt in the front, where the bucket seats offer excellent bolstering; but the back seat is shy on hip room and head room. It’s great on leg room, with nearly 40 inches—but the rear door openings are narrow, and the rear bench seat is flat.

The CX-5 has 31 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which fold to expand to 60 cubic feet. Not only is that good for a car with this wheelbase, but the cargo floor is low, to make loading easy.

Rearward vision is blocked by thick C-pillars; we’d buy the optional surround-view camera system.

Driving Impressions

With a 2.5-liter inline-4 making 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, the CX-5 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in an acceptable but underwhelming time of just under nine seconds. The engine’s not particularly quiet, and it’s mated to a 6-speed automatic that could benefit from more gears like some rivals. But the powertrain works well enough for decent highway passing.

The available turbo-4 makes 227 hp and a huge increase in torque to 310 lb-ft; that engine also comes standard with all-wheel drive. Mazda estimates 0-60 mph times in the mid-seven-seconds, which is a big difference in acceleration compared to the non-turbo engine. There are driving modes, and Sport mode is significantly the most responsive. There is some turbo lag, even when driving without any particular urgency.

The all-wheel-drive system can transfer up to half the torque from the front wheels to the rears when traction is needed, although the CX-5 isn’t intended for trails, as it lacks the ground clearance.

The CX-5 is the best-handling crossover in its class, with steering that is precise and weighty. The CX-5 is eager to tackle twisty roads that make many crossovers nervous. The thick steering wheel gives good feedback, and the wheels hold a line without corrections, a quality that’s supported by the firm suspension.

The ride is taut and well-damped, and it too exceeds most rivals. The CX-5 is most comfortable on its standard 17-inch wheels with their softer tires and taller sidewalls, but even on the available 19-inch wheels, the ride is calm and collected.

Final Word

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 delivers excellent safety and stylish looks. It’s blessed with superb handling and a taut ride, as well as a handsome cabin with good space. We’re no fans of the infotainment system and it’s slightly smaller than its rivals, but there’s no passing the CX-5 for its driving feel.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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