Mazda’s CX-5 compact SUV continues to be the brand’s best-selling vehicle, accounting once again for more than half of all Mazdas sold in the United States in 2020. In order to increase the vehicle’s appeal in 2021 Mazada launched the CX-5 with a much-improved infotainment system and new top trim standard features.
A newly expanded 10.3-inch elevated dashboard screen now includes Mazda’s new Connect and Connected Services that can use a smartphone for internet access and vehicle functions. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto become standard.
Our test-drive was the CX-5 Signature all-wheel-drive (AWD) top trim above the company’s CX vehicles – Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Grand Touring Reserve.
Powered by Mazda’s twin-turbo SKYACTIVE-G 2.5-liter engine, our 2021 Signature trim employed as standard a graphically sharp 360-degree camera view, automated rear emergency braking and a driver-attention alert.
Many of the CX competitors often add options to improve safety, comfort, technology, but Mazda comes armed with a full plate to impress new and previous buyers.
The only extras on our test drive were ($395) for Snowflake White Pearl paint and ($125) for a rear bumper guard, keeping the cost below $40,000 and price competitive with Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue.
Popularity for this Mazda comes from CX-5’s robust engine with a six-speed automatic transmission that can also be manipulated by manual paddles. Pumping 91-93 octane gas, horsepower rises from 277 to 300. Towing rates at 2,000 pounds.
The sleek, monochromatic roadside profile is attractive with muscular fender arches, subtle contours, rising beltline and raked windshield atop 19-inch, 10-spoke wheels. When in motion whether on or off-road, the suspension produces in-cabin resistance to road imperfections and exhibits stability in off-road environments with 7.6 inches ground clearance.
Handling is impressive with G-vectoring control shifting weight and applying wheel braking as needed in curves or off-road adventuring.
Top crash safety test results mesh with Mazda’s array of driver safety aids, including lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, etc. An info-rich heads-up-display (HUD) unfortunately becomes illegible wearing sunglasses.
The spacious, upscale cabin excels with Nappa leather trim, strong fit and finish, quality materials, USB ports, elevated and comfortable ventilated seats, wood trim and satin chrome accents.
The upgraded infotainment system appears on the new dashboard screen manipulated by a center spine knob for Nissan Connect, audio, phone apps, navigation, and other features that are inoperable by touch.
Voice recognition was excellent, interior storage space ample, and 40/20/40 folded rear seats reveal a smallish cargo area with low lift over and a donut spare tire.
At a Glance
LIKES: Power, handling, ride, price, cabin, versatility, quiet, profile
DISLIKES: Mileage, non-touch dashboard screen, HUD with sunglasses
BOTTOM LINE: The Mazda CX-5 is a player in the compact SUV market
Fact File: 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD
2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve,SKYACTIV-G w/VVT
227-hp at 5,000 rpm
310 ft-lbs at 2,000 rpm
6-speed automatic w/manual shift and sport drive mode
22 mpg city/27 mpg hwy
15.3-gallon tank, regular
0-60 in 6 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.