Mazda's 2021 CX-5 AWD compact crossover combines utility with sporty handling while boasting top safety scores
It’s been Car & Driver Magazine’s 10Best cars again in 2020, and has been for the fourth year in a row. It also had its best sales month in December with almost 18,000 sold. What we’re talking about is Mazda’s CX-5 AWD compact crossover.
The CX-5 is midway in Mazda’s line of fine crossovers that includes the smallest CX-30, CX-3 then CX-5 followed by the larger CX-7 and largest CX-9. All attractive five doors.
Mazda’s CX-5 combines spirited performance, sporty handling with the utility of an SUV. It’s offered in base Sport, CX-5 Touring, Touring Preferred SV, Grand Touring, Signature (that we tested) and new for ’21, Carbon Edition that has special color schemes inside and out.
As the top-shelf model, our Signature came standard with Nappa leather trimmed heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, moonroof, 10.25-inch display plus a very long list of safety features that includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and Smart City Brake Support that senses an imminent accident and sounds an alarm. If the driver doesn’t react, the system will automatically apply the brakes and will do so up to 50 mph. And it includes pedestrian detection as well.
As for the display, it gets most of its commands from a console mounted rotary controller. Offered as well is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto plus Travel Link with embedded weather map/forecast, sports scores and fuel prices, navigation, rearview camera with 360 birds’ eye, frontal, close-up, wide angle and side views, plus, Bose audio with satellite radio. All-encompassing amenities.
CX-5’s interior is classy and comfy. All operating controls, including HVAC, are easy to view and simple to use.
Surprised though that Mazda didn’t use the large bin on the forward portion of the console for a wireless phone charger. But they did include hardwire phone receptacles.
A toggle switch on the console selects Normal and Sport modes, with the latter increasing rpm shift points on the 6-speed automatic transmission for more spirited acceleration and overall performance. Mazda is to be applauded here for not using a CVT trans in this dandy compact crossover.
The gauge cluster features a large speedometer with embedded driver information display for alerts and various operating functions. Included too is a Head-Up-Display on the windshield showing vehicle speed, posted speed limits and stop signs/signals.
After a mere 18.5-inch step-in into the cockpit, you’re treated to heated/cooled perforated leather seats that are comfy soft with sensible lateral support. Back seats are equally as comfy however leg room is adequate for two adults and that’s provided the fronts aren’t racked well rearward. Head room is ample with assist handles over all four doors.
CX-5’s cargo area has a low 25-inch lift over for easy loading and is rated at 30.9 cubic feet that measures 37.5 inches deep, 44 wide and 31 high. Pull two tabs on the cargo wall and the 40/20/40 split seats flip forward to expand cargo capacity to 59.6 cubic feet for 66 inches of cargo loading depth. Beneath the cargo floor is a space spare tire, car jack and tools, but little room to stow small items.
CX-5 gets its spunk from a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that generates 227-hp and an impressive 310 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to the quick shifting 6-speed automatic trans, the combination garnered EPA mileage ratings of 22 city, 27-highway mpg. As said, Sport mode livens performance even more.
With Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus, the system performs torque reductions along with brake pressure that maintains enhanced cornering ability similar to a sports car. Unlike many competitive crossovers, the CX-5 can he tossed in the turns and remains planted. And with its responsive electric power steering, CX-5 parks easily within a small footprint.
Mazda’s i-Activ AWD combined with off-road assist, provides added traction in nominal snow depths. Because of a low undercarriage clearance, CX-5 is suited mainly for mild off-roads.
Shod with Toyo 19-inch tires, CX-5 rides like a much larger crossover. It’s smooth and exceptionally quiet.
CX-5 comes with all of the aforementioned safety features plus tire pressure monitoring and stop-go radar cruise control.
With an extremely long list of standard features, the CX-5 Signature carried a base price of $37,408 with the only options being metallic gray paint ($495) and bumper guard ($125) plus delivery, that took the bottom line to $39,125.
To its credit, CX-5 was awarded a full five-star government overall safety rating; five for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front/rear seat side crash; and four for rollover. All impressive safety scores for an exceptional crossover.
Like all Mazda crossovers, CX-5 comes with a 60 month/60K mileage powertrain and 36/36K bumper-bumper warranties plus 24-hour roadside assistance.
With the exception of not having a wireless phone charger, our only gripe is with the keyfob that has door and hatch switches on it edge, not on the face. It requires some finger manipulating to find the correct side, especially in the dark. Most new cars have the switches on the face of the fob. Otherwise, CX-5 is one compelling crossover.