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2021 Mazda CX-5 improves tech, retains sharp driving experience  Featured

Posted On Sunday, 13 December 2020 05:19 Written by
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The 2021 Mazda CX-5 gains a larger, 10.25-inch screen at the center of its infotainment system, and retains the peppy Mazda drive quality that has come to symbolize the brand. The 2021 Mazda CX-5 gains a larger, 10.25-inch screen at the center of its infotainment system, and retains the peppy Mazda drive quality that has come to symbolize the brand. Photo courtesy of Mazda

Finding an SUV that offers a truly enjoyable driving experience is harder than you might think. Too often, in the process of improving other areas of the vehicle, the drive quality becomes a neglected area on many of the top-selling SUVs.

The good news is that some companies, such as Mazda, don’t go that route. They recognize that people want to enjoy their drive time and offer a vehicle that allows people to do so.

For 2021, the CX-5 retains this feature, which separates it from the competition in the compact SUV category, while also improving its technology offerings by adding a new standard 10.25-inch center display as part of Mazda’s infotainment system.

I recently tested a 2021 CX-5 and I’m back with a full report.


LOOKS
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 I tested featured a beautiful “Soul Red Crystal Metallic” paint job, a truly unique color that lets you know it’s a Mazda and nothing else. Other unique colors offered include Machine Gray Metallic, and Snowflake White Pearl Mica.

The exterior design is also impressive, with the unique Mazda grille and its overhang design, as well as attractive contoured lines. There’s a level of sophistication to this design that many other SUVs do not offer.

The interior featured quality materials, including Nappa leather-trimmed seating and detailed stitching. This was no surprise to me, as Mazda's interiors are among the industry's best in the nonluxury category. They truly look and feel upscale without paying luxury prices.

There are also some nice design tweaks, such as little speakers embedded into the A pillars, next to the windshield. Heated front and rear seats and heated steering wheel were also included.

Standard features in the CX-5 include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, push-button start and keyless entry, automatic on/off LED headlights, 17-inch wheels and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Higher trim levels upgrade to 19-inch wheels with all-season tires, and a power moonroof is also offered.

Seating capacity in the CX-5 is five passengers, and it’s comfortable and roomy for all 5 people, which not all entries in the compact SUV category can say. As far as cargo space, you get 14.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 71.2 feet with the seats down.

HOW’S THE RIDE?
A couple engine options are available on the 2021 CX-5.

The Signature trim level that I tested featured a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo engine, which was paired with an automatic transmission (and the option to use paddle shifters connected to the steering wheel for more manual control). It also featured all-wheel drive, and the output numbers are 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.

Most of the lower trim levels come with a non-turbo four-cylinder engine, offering 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. These trim levels come with FWD standard, and optional AWD.

To get to the point I’ll say, with confidence, that the CX-5 with the turbo engine offers one of the best drives you’re going to get in an SUV, period.

There’s nothing humdrum about it. It gets you moving quickly (Just over 6 seconds from 0-60 mph), it’s extremely responsive to driver input, handles tremendously both on the regular roads and the freeway, and is quite frankly a true joy to drive. The engine can be a bit noisy but it's not overly distracting. 

A Sport mode is available to enhance your experience further, and the vehicle features off-road traction assist. The machinery that allows for this tremendous drive quality includes an independent front and rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, electric power assisted steering and i-ACTIV All-Wheel Drive.

The CX-5 also features Hill Launch Assist, as well as G-Vectoring Control Plus, which makes the car feel more stable to passengers when straightening the vehicle after making a turn, through the use of subtle braking and reducing weight transfer to the rear wheels. These are the type of touches that put Mazda above most of the competition in terms of drive quality.

To sum it up, if you love driving, the CX-5 is definitely one SUV that needs to be on your test drive list before you make a purchase.

TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY
Mazda steps up its technology game in the 2021 CX-5, with a larger 10.25-inch color display now standard, which looks great. The system is operated by a dial in the center of the vehicle.

It’s a well-designed overall system on-screen, and easy to use, though the dial control adds too many steps when doing things by hand. Voice commands work well to control the music and phone, but for navigation I found the system to be less accurate in its understanding of my voice commands than other vehicles.

The CX-5 also features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility for phone mirroring, the Mazda Navigation System with traffic sign recognition, plus Mazda Connected Services — which allows for smartphone control of lock/unlocking doors, starting/stopping vehicle, and other functions.

The vehicle features a 10-speaker Bose audio system, and three free months of SiriusXM satellite radio. Bluetooth allows for streaming your calls and music to the vehicle, and you get an AUX jack and four USB inputs.

Moving on to safety, the 2021 CX-5 earned nearly perfect safety ratings in government testing (All but one rating was 5 out of 5 stars, and that was 4 out of 5 stars for rollover rating). So you and your family can feel very safe in this sturdy and well-designed vehicle.

This is in part due to the bevy of safety features on the CX-5, including: LATCH child safety seat anchors, anti-theft engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitoring system, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning System, Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, dynamic stability control, and traction control.

Front, side and rear air bags are included, as are Mazda’s radar cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a sharp-looking 360-degree view monitor and the very helpful Driver Attention Alert that reminds you to keep your eyes on the road and stay alert.

With so much safety equipment, much of which is part of the standard Mazda i-Activesense suite and on all trim levels, Mazda is going all-in on safety with their SUV lineup.

MPG
Official fuel mileage numbers on the 2021 Mazda CX-5 are 22 city/27 highway/24 combined. But I only averaged 20.5 mpg during my time in the vehicle. Most of the competition in the compact SUV segment will beat these numbers, without a doubt, but it’s also true that those vehicles are less fun to drive.

This is a tradeoff I can accept, especially in this new world where remote work is becoming more acceptable and less driving is in most people’s futures. Don’t let any fuel mileage gap dissuade you from the CX-5, as it makes up for it in many other ways.

PRICE
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 base model will run you about $26K. My test vehicle, a 2021 CX-5 Signature AWD at the top of the trim lineup, was priced at $39,225. So there’s a wide range depending on your budget. Warranties include a 60-month/60K miles powertrain warranty and 36-month/36K bumper-to-bumper warranty.

BOTTOM LINE
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is the best compact SUV for anyone who enjoys a truly driver-focused vehicle. The CX-5 takes the cake vs. its more cookie-cutter competition in terms of performance, while also offering high-quality design and excellent safety features.

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Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.



Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Mazda CX-5
  • Price as tested: $39,225 (starts around $26K)
  • Best feature: Sporty ride, sharp design, safety features
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: SUV drivers looking for a classy, sporty ride aimed at those who love to drive
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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