- Looks good inside and out
- Taut ride and handling
- Available turbo power
- Decent value in most trims
- Turbo lag
- Moderate acceleration in base version
- Cramped back seat
- Inferior infotainment
features & specs
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 crossover has some priorities out of order; it doles out fine handling while it delivers a skimpy back seat.
What kind of car is the 2021 Mazda CX-5? What does it compare to?
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is a five-seat compact crossover SUV that puts ride and handling at the top of its priority list. Its competition includes the Toyota RAV4, VW Tiguan, and Volvo XC40.
Is the 2021 Mazda CX-5 a good car?
We like its road manners, its shapely body, and its leather-lined luxury in top models. It’s trying hard to be sporty, though, and that intrudes sometimes on its crossover duties; its infotainment system needs a reboot, too. We give it a TCC Rating of 6.7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
What’s new for the 2021 Mazda CX-5?
A new Carbon Edition gets gloss-black trim and 19-inch wheels, as well as red leather seats and a turbo-4 engine option. All CX-5s now come with a 10.3-inch infotainment display.
The 2021 CX-5 wraps pretty lines around a compact interior, and from the outside we can’t come up with a single complaint. The grille and headlights are slim, the body sculpted to Pilates perfection. Inside, it’s handsomely arranged on horizontal lines with a few standout details, like its geometric air vents, doing a lot of visual work.
The CX-5 doesn’t fumble with clumsy steering feel or bumbly ride quality like some of its rivals. It feels weighty but precise, taut and well-controlled, all at once. It’s also saddled with a 187-horsepower base engine that puts out government-grade acceleration through a 6-speed automatic, through the front wheels or, if we’re getting fancy, all four wheels. Spend up into the 227-hp turbo-4 and the CX-5 scoots around more quickly, with a bit of turbo lag and a fair amount of powertrain rumble.
The CX-5’s slim hips betray a slim interior. It’s somewhat narrow, and though its front seats have lots of bolstering for great long-distance support, the back seat trims back on head room and seat comfort. Three adults across will just be cross. Cargo space is fine, but for the same price, a Honda CR-V delivers much more interior room; Mazda’s high-spec CX-5 cabins with nappa leather and wood trim trounce most rivals, though.
Crash scores are top-notch, and every CX-5 has a full ration of standard safety gear including automatic emergency braking. All come with power features, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen that’s not wired to respond to touch. Mazda’s control-knob interface takes a lousy number of spins and clicks to land where you want; it’s like the Vegas version of “Wheel of Fortune.”
How much does the 2021 Mazda CX-5 cost?
Prices start at $26,470 for our recommended model, the CX-5 Sport.
Where is the 2021 Mazda CX-5 made?
2021 Mazda CX-5
The CX-5’s neat style omits useless detail.
Is the Mazda CX-5 a good-looking car?
It’s very handsome, with a low profile, sleek roofline, and a refreshing absence of useless detail, inside and out. We give it an 8, with two extra points for its body and one for the cabin.
Mazda sought a rear-drive appearance for the CX-5, one with a longer nose and a shorter rear end. It sort of succeeds, but it’s almost beside the point. Mazda’s figured out how to mold a tall and long wagon body into what looks like a slippery shape. From its slim and delicately rendered grille, to its narrow headlights and taillights, the CX-5 has a clean and cohesive style that will still look appealing long after it’s racked up thousands of miles.
The cabin has more of the same restrained style. The dash sits low, for good outward vision, and the surfaces and lines are generally understated. We’re no fans of the billboard-style screen stuck in the top of the dash, but the strong horizontal lines across the dash and doors and the geometric shapes of the air vents give it a harmony that’s even better in top trims dressed in wood and nappa leather.
2021 Mazda CX-5
The CX-5 excels at handling, but its engines aren’t as impressive.
Mazda sells the CX-5 as the sporty alternative to the usual crossover crowd, and it delivers that in ride and handling. It’s quick too, but even with turbocharging, its engines aren’t as compelling. We give it a 6 for performance, with an extra point for its road manners.
How fast is the Mazda CX-5?
Base models are strictly midpack. With a 2.5-liter inline-4 rated at 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, most CX-5s can turn in 60-mph acceleration in just under nine seconds. The engine’s not especially quiet or powerful, and it’s paired with a 6-speed automatic, not an 8- or 9-speed like some rivals. It could benefit from more gears, but what’s there works well enough for decent highway passing and acceptable straight-line performance.
The more expensive versions of the CX-5 can be equipped with a turbo-4 that spools up 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. With all-wheel drive, performance improves, but not vastly. Mazda estimates 0-60 mph times in the mid-seven-second range; in our drives, we noticed better passing power and a more responsive feel when we put the drivetrain in a selectable Sport mode, but we experienced some turbo lag when driven normally in urban commuting.
Is the Mazda CX-5 4WD?
All-wheel drive is available on every model. The system can transfer up to half the torque from the front wheels to the rears when traction falters. Though it’s confidence-inspiring, the CX-5 doesn’t have the ground clearance of some rivals to make it a true off-roader.
Where it excels is in ride and handling. The impression given by its thick steering wheel is correct—the CX-5 is eager to tackle the thin ribbons of road some crossovers shy away from. It has weighty steering with good feedback, and holds a cornering line without the constant corrections required from sloppier truck-based SUVs. We like the CX-5’s well-damped but firm ride, too. It’s most comfortable on base 17-inch wheels with their softer tires and taller sidewalls, but even on the available 19-inch wheels, the CX-5 has a calm and collected ride that rarely rattles its occupants.
2021 Mazda CX-5
Comfort & Quality
Mazda puts the driver and front passenger first; the back seat’s small.
The 2021 CX-5 crossover has a smaller back seat than many of its rivals, but it’s still usefully large for cargo and has supportive front seats—so it’s a 7 here.
Just shy of 180 inches in wheelbase, the CX-5 has a five-seat cockpit that’s better suited for four adults. In front, Mazda fits a pair of well-bolstered buckets, and adds power adjustment, heating and cooling as well as synthetic or real leather as prices rise. The CX-5’s cockpit has enough head and leg room in front for a wide range of body types to fit nicely for a commanding view of the road, too.
In back, the CX-5 lays out almost 40 inches of leg room, but has narrow door openings and a flat bench seat, not to mention a slim-hipped body. In all that means two adults will fit, not three.
The cabin’s a compromise in other ways. The doors have deep pockets to hold water bottles, but the infotainment controller eats up potential storage space in the center console. Mazda applies a higher grade of materials to the cabin than you’ll find in some rivals, and the most expensive CX-5s have truly luxurious interiors with wood trim and nappa leather.
The rear seats fold down to expand the roughly 31 cubic feet of storage space to about 60 cubic feet, and the cargo floor sits low enough to be easily loaded.
2021 Mazda CX-5
The CX-5 posts excellent crash-test scores.
How safe is the Mazda CX-5?
With five-star scores from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, the CX-5 has a great crash-test track record. It also comes standard with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors, to earn an 8 here.
It would earn more points, but its optional surround-view camera system and head-up display only are offered on the most expensive models, and rearward vision around its thick C-pillars isn’t great.
2021 Mazda CX-5
The CX-5 offers good value, but has frustrating infotainment.
We like the CX-5’s bundle of standard features, and it’s a good value at its mid-$20,000 price. Its warranty is average, and so are its options—and its infotainment system is frustrating. We give it a 6 here.
Which Mazda CX-5 should I buy?
We wouldn’t spend much more than the $26,370 price for the base CX-5 Sport. It gets cloth upholstery, a power driver seat, power features, and—new this year—a 10.3-inch screen with baked-in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
CX-5 Touring gets synthetic leather upholstery, upgraded audio, heated front seats, and keyless start, and can be fitted with a sunroof, a power tailgate, and Bose audio. A new Touring Preferred SV package gets leather upholstery, power front seats, and a power tailgate, while a new Carbon edition gets gloss-black trim and 19-inch wheels, as well as red leather seats and an option for the turbo-4 engine. The CX-5 Grand Touring has leather upholstery, Bose audio, and a sunroof standard.
How much is a fully loaded Mazda CX-5?
At the top end, both the $36,385 Grand Touring Reserve and $38,505 CX-5 Signature come with the turbo-4 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.
A word about Mazda’s infotainment system: though it now comes with a wide 10.3-inch display, it’s not a touchscreen. A control knob on the center console drives infotainment (with redundant steering and voice controls), and it’s a clumsy system that requires too much time and concentration to use.
2021 Mazda CX-5
Fuel economy’s OK in the CX-5.
Is the Mazda CX-5 good on gas?
The CX-5’s gas mileage is average. We give it a 5 here based on the EPA ratings of its most popular model, with the base engine and all-wheel drive. It’s pegged at 24 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined. With front-drive, the same drivetrain’s rated at 25/31/28 mpg. With the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, the CX-5 checks in at 22/27/24 mpg.