2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD - Review By David Colman +Video
This is the Miata of Crossovers!
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Let's say you're a sports car enthusiast. You've been thinking about buying Mazda's iconic MX-5 Miata, but you can't swing the deal because you've got a family to transport and the tiny two-seater's interior will barely hold two adults and a box of Kleenex. On top of that, the condensed trunk of Mazda's trophy sports car is good for just 5 cubic feet of storage. Well, here's an idea that might sound crazy at first - reset your sights on the Mazda CX-5.
This diminutive crossover, similar in price range ($26,545-$37,405) to the MX-5, will cater to all your family transit needs while devouring pavement with the ferocity of a Miata. And, with 30.5 cubic feet of cargo room, this hatchback's flat storage floor will hold 6 times the stuff you can pack into a Miata. If you raise the CX-5's folding rear seats, you can pack a family of 5 inside the sleek cabin, and still have suitable suitcase space left over in back. Opt for the top echelon Signature AWD CX-5 like the one we drove, and the rear hatch door will rise and shut at the press of a button.
What differentiates the CX-5 from every other compact crossover in this otherwise boring segment is its devotion to Mazda's precise, communicative, invigorating engineering DNA. That family chromosomal strand is every bit as evident in the CX-5 as it is in the MX-5. In practical driving terms, this means that the steering feedback is sublime, the engine response is instantaneous, and the ability to shred curves borders on the phenomenal. Not for nothing has Car&Driver elevated the CX-5 to their vaunted 10Best list for 2021. We particularly enjoyed all the fine leather and techno sizzle of the top line Signature model, which retailed for $39,225. That total included an up-charge of $595 for Soul Red Crystal metallic paint, a deep candy apple shade Mazda has been painting its Daytona Prototype winners in the IMSA sports car series.
New for 2021 in the CX-5 line is a 10.3 inch infotainment system screen which replaces the former 7 inch spread. The larger screen now displays a Mazda Connect interface which brings you an assortment of Mazda Connected Services such as a WiFi hotspot, and access to remote vehicle functions through a smartphone app. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, but the WiFi service is subscription-based. However, SiriusXM service is provided for a 3 month free trial, as is 3 years of SiriusXM traffic and travel information. The XM tunes sound crystal clear on the Signature model's 10 speaker Bose AM/FM/HD/SAT tuner system. Station selection is moderated by a multi-function Commander Control located atop the transmission tunnel. This device has proven itself antithetical to logical operation. It unnecessarily complicates simple tasks like changing your station on SiriusXM. Such choice requires you to depress the Commander in order to select channel choices, and the sequence of this operation is by no means clearly demarcated.
Thankfully, no such stumbling blocks interfere with your pursuit of apexes on a twisting back road. Mazda equips the Signature CX-5 with Toyo A35 radials (225/55R19) which are surprisingly adhesive for mud & snow-rated rubber. In fact, these tires are glued to the pavement by the CX-5's advanced suspension system, which is independently sprung front and rear, equipped with stabilizer bars front and rear, and held in strict check by Mazda's patented "G-Vectoring Control Plus" system of adaptive thrust modulation. But what really puts the CX-5 in a class of its own is its electric power-assisted steering, which provides exceptional feedback at the steering wheel and allows you to place the front wheels on each apex with complete confidence.
You can buy an entry level Sport CX-5 for just $26,545, but it won't provide you with the kind of power this chassis is capable of handling. The Sport version, as well as the $28,285 Touring and the (new for 2021) $30,130 Carbon model all drive just the front wheels. They do so with a normally aspirated 187hp four that is unlikely to up your heart rate. However, should you opt for any of the upper level models (GT, Carbon Edition Turbo, GT Reserve, and Signature), Mazda adds all-wheel-drive, and dumps the base motor in favor of a 250hp intercooled and turbocharged inline 4. This Skyactiv tweaked powerplant drives through a paddle-shifted 6 speed automatic transmission. Its 250hp and 320lb.-ft. torque produce a 0-60mph run of 6.1 seconds, a governed top speed of 130mph, and a standing start quarter mile run of 14.7seconds at 94mph. Not only is the CX-5 Signature AWD family- practical and handsome to behold, but sneaky fast in a Miata sort of way no one else but you needs to know about.
2021 MAZDA CX-5 SIGNATURE AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, intercooled and turbocharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/27MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $39,225
HYPES: Surgical Handling, Deceptively Spacious Inside
GRIPES: Commander Control Kaput
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10