2021 Mazda CX-5 Review
  • Car Review

2021 Mazda CX-5 Review

By Autolist Editorial | December 9, 2020

Quick Facts:


  • Sportiest handling in its class.
  • Powerful turbocharged engine.
  • Top quality interior.


  • Less utility than the competition.
  • Base engine underpowered in passing situations
  • Average fuel economy.

Would we buy one? Definitely.

Vehicle Type: 4-door, 5-seat compact crossover SUV.

Price Range: Pricing for the 2021 Mazda CX-5 starts at an MSRP of $26,370 in base Sport trim, and top-tier Signature trim starts at $38,505. Prices include destination fees but no optional equipment.

Powertrain: Two engine options are available for the 2021 Mazda CX-5; the base is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 187 horsepower.

The optional engine is the same size, but an added turbocharger helps it make 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are backed by a six-speed automatic transmission.

Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional.

Competitors: Kia Sportage, Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox, and Hyundai Tucson.

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Overall Score: 7.9/10

Safety Features: 9/10


All Mazda CX-5s include a standard suite of safety features Mazda calls i-Activsense. This system includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, Smart City Brake Support with pedestrian recognition, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning.

The IIHS picked the CX-5 as a 'Top Safety Pick Plus' for the 2020 model year, though 2021 ratings have not been released. The CX-5 received the highest 'Good' rating in IIHS crash tests. The NHTSA awarded the Mazda CX-5 a five-star crash test rating as well.

Value: 8/10


With great standard safety and tech features across all trim levels, the Mazda CX-5 offers excellent value. In base Sport trim, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, and dual USB ports are standard. All higher trim levels include dual-zone climate control, leatherette or leather seating surfaces, and an overall quality that outpaces the class.

The high-quality materials and upholstery compete better with some luxury SUVs than within the Mazda CX-5's price class. The Signature trim includes rich Nappa leather and real wood interior trim pieces, punching well above its sub-$40,000 retail price.

The Mazda CX-5 includes a 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Tech Features: 8/10


Standard tech features on the Mazda CX-5 include a massive new touchscreen for the 2021 model year. All trim levels of the CX-5 now get a 10.3-inch touchscreen to run the infotainment system. Also standard for the new model year is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Included Mazda Connect means many functions on the CX-5 can be controlled via a smartphone app.

Most optional tech comes with upper trim levels, getting technology like a power moonroof, a power liftgate, a Bose premium audio system, dual-zone climate control, and a head-up display.

The Touring Preferred SV Package adds many of those techy items to the Touring trim.

The GT Premium Package likewise improves the Grand Touring trim with many of the items from Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims, like heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and automatic power-folding side mirrors.

Practicality: 7/10


The Mazda CX-5 seats 4-5 adults in relative comfort; however, it lags behind the competition with its cargo space. The CX-5 has room for 30.9 cubic-feet of cargo behind the rear seats and 59.6 with the seats tucked away. Compared to the blockier shape of the RAV4 with 37.6 cubic feet behind the seats, or the CR-V with 39.2 cubes, the Mazda's stylish body limits its cargo-carrying ability.

The CX-5 fall offers competitive towing capacity in the segment. With many rival models towing around 1,500 pounds, the CX-5 manages a decent 2,000 pounds, matching the Jeep Cherokee. Buyers needing to haul more will want to look to the RAV4 with its 3,500-pound maximum towing capacity.

Styling & Design: 8/10


Outside, the Mazda CX-5 is a handsome crossover, with enough elegance to avoid looking dull, but a less busy design than some of the competition. Swooping lines keep the body modern, giving the CX-5 a timeless look.

Inside, reviewers found every detail to be well thought out. An infotainment system that incorporates a touchscreen, wheel, knobs, and steering wheel controls so that every adjustment is always within reach, is just one example. Beyond ergonomics, quality is apparent at each trim level, and the interior of the Mazda CX-5 is at the top of the class.

A new Carbon Edition is available for the 2021 CX-5. This package adds many of the higher trim levels' features, including the turbocharged engine. The CX-5 Carbon Edition also gets some striking exterior and interior appointments, including black wheels, a blacked-out grille, and stunning red leather seats.

Driving Experience: 9/10


The base engine provides plenty of power for most low-speed situations, but some reviewers found the engine lacking in highway passing or high-speed merging. The turbocharged engine is engaging and delivers instant power at any speed. The six-speed automatic provides crisp shifts and always found the optimal gear for the moment.

Across the board, the driving dynamics of the CX-5 receive rave reviews. The suspension delivers excellent steering confidence while remaining supple enough to absorb road imperfections. Handling is truly car-like, and feedback from the wheel is excellent. Reviewers also found the brakes to provide a great feel and progression.

Fuel Efficiency: 6/10


With the base 2.5-liter non-turbo engine, the Mazda CX-5 gets an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 31 highway mpg, 25 city, and 28 combined. Adding all-wheel drive to that engine decreases mileage to 30 highway mpg, 24 city, and 26 combined. In turbocharged trim with FWD, the Mazda CX-5 gets an estimated 28 highway mpg, 23 city, and 25 combined. Again adding AWD penalizes mileage, dropping each category by one mpg.

These numbers are slightly behind the competition, like the base RAV4, which gets 35 mpg highway and 28 city, and the Honda CR-V, which gets up to 34 highway, and 28 city.

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