2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD

2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD l Review

Getting old sucks, and that is especially true in the crossover world. While many pine for now-classic 1990s and older enthusiast cars, very few people really wish they could find a mint CR-V. Notice I said “very few”, I’m regularly on weird car Twitter, so I know there’s a lot of diversity in our little community. Anyway, that’s enough rambling from my multi-crossover-review-addled brain. What I’m here to do today is discuss this 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD. And I have a lot to say about Mazda’s aging SUV. So let’s get it on.

It was the summer of 2015 and (sorry humble-brag coming) I was gallivanting around Europe for an entire month. We had just pulled into a little city on the French Riviera just outside of Monaco when I got a text from my colleague Josh. Just before I left, we had read Matt Hardigree’s article The Truth About Press Cars, and decided to reach out and try to get our little motoring website on the loaner list for the DC area. Well son-of-a-bitch, it worked and Josh was texting to let me know that a 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD was being dropped off next week. I still had Switzerland and Germany left on the itinerary, so he got to crank out our first press car review. I don’t have the full scope of reviews I’ve done since then handy, but I’d say its easily in the hundreds. So, that first CX-5 meant something, even if I never drove it.

CX-5 Overview

Since then I’ve driven lots of CX-5s and always had positive things to say about them. More on that in a bit, suffice to say things aren’t as rosy as they once were. First, let’s take a quick tour of the 2021 Mazda CX-5. Here’s a quick rundown of the CX-5’s list of trim options, there are seven in all including Sport, Touring, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring, Carbon Edition Turbo, Grand Touring Reserve and the Signature that Mazda dropped off for me to test.

As you can see, there is quite the spread of starting MSRPs, from just over $25,300 for the base Sport to just over $37,500 for the Signature. Our 2016 Grand Touring model started at $29,470 before options ($34,130 as tested) which means the base Grand Touring has only gone up about a grand in five years. Even just based on inflation, $29,470 in 2016 monies is worth $33,521.52 today, so the CX-5 has stayed pretty consistent with regard to pricing.

The Signature gets you all of the options!

  • 19-inch wheels
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Power-folding mirrors
  • Heated mirrors
  • Paddle shifters
  • Upgraded driver information display
  • Navigation system
  • Satellite radio
  • 360-degree camera system
  • Parking sensors
  • Rear automatic braking
  • Head-up display
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Heated rear seats
  • Dark gray wheels
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Wood trim

Our loaner only had the Snowflake White Pearl Paint ($395) and a rear bumper guard ($125) which I assume is available during that accessory bit at the end of the “build your CX-5” online experience where I’ve normally tuned out. All in you’re looking at $39,025 for this specific top-spec CX-5.

Exterior

The CX-5 has always been a handsome thing, and even though the second generation version has been with us since 2017, it’s aged pretty well. Mazda uses an attractive grille with just enough chrome and the front end overall is a bit simpler and easier to take in than some other newer models. The narrow headlights look sporty and it’s just generally a good look overall up front.

The side profile and rear however are a bit on the dull side. Perhaps I’ve looked at too many over styled crossovers of late, but the literal absence of creases, and character lines looks a bit unfinished. Similarly the rear is, well boring. Narrow taillights highlight the absence of just about anything else other than a license plate. I’m likely 100% wrong on that take, so please let me know in the comments if that’s the case.

The most dated bit of the exterior is the push-to-lock / push-to- unlock button on the door handle. It’s incredibly nit-picky, but even cars at half of this MSRP now have the “stick your hand into the handle and it unlocks” function. There’s probably a more elegant way to say that, but the bottom line was – at night it was hard to find the button. Thankfully I wasn’t being chased by anyone, or anything.

2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD

Interior

It’s really the interior that makes you start to feel like the CX-5 is getting on in age. For 2021, they made the screen wider (10.25 inches now up from and eight-inch max before), but it lacks touch capability and that drove me bonkers. The infotainment system isn’t terribly hard to use, and I’m sure you would get into a groove eventually if you owned it, but I felt like I had to cycle through menu items for things that I could normally just reach out and select.

While I used to like the consolidation of all non-HVAC buttons down by the center console, I found that I actually had to reach further from steering wheel to reach them than I would if they were up on the dash. But again, as an owner I imagine it becomes second nature. It’s one of the (few) downsides of this gig, I only get a week with each car.

The seats were typical Mazda, bolstered in the right areas and comfortable. I wouldn’t rank the rear seat or cargo area as particularly roomy, but depending on your needs they would do the job. For comparison, the OG 2013 Mazda CX-5 measures about an inch taller, while length, width, and wheelbase are nearly identical to the 2021 version. That means overall cargo capacity has gone down over the last couple of decades. Oh and weight is up almost 400 pounds.

Driving

The CX-5 has always been about the drive, and that hasn’t changed. Highway off-ramps can be tackled rapidly without much body roll or drama. The turbo engine pulls pretty well, even if the 250 horsepower rating isn’t particularly impressive this day and age. Thankfully the 310 ft. lbs. of torque helps get things moving.

Compared to the first generation CX-5, which weighed significantly less, the extra grunt from the larger engine makes a difference and keeps the zoom-zoom feeling alive.

Summary

The CX-5 isn’t old, but it’s certainly aged. It’s a testament to just how good modern cars (even crossovers) are that people like me are able to nitpick small details that separate the latest from the late. I’m sure Mazda has a new CX-5 cooking right now, occasionally adding zoom-zoom, maybe stirring in a touch of hybrid-wankel, hard to tell. If I’m putting my money down on how good it will be, I’m leaning towards plunking some coin down on “very”.

4 Comments

  1. Old or not, these still look damned nice for a type of car I don’t want anything to do with. And Mazda always seems to strike a balance with their vehicles that favors fun driving, even when the limits are modest.

  2. I wish Mazda would put this engine and AWD transmission in a Mazda 2 (and that it wouldn’t get hit bad by CO2 taxes if it did exist, booo)

    1. There is some hope, just as a cyclical thing, it’s time for powerful, small cars to come back again. The Yaris “with balls” is one of several examples of that lately.

  3. I’m glad the CX-5 is still considered a good car since it keeps the rest of Mazda afloat in the US. I still prefer the exterior of the original CX-5, the narrower headlights look beady eyed to me and I don’t like the blank are below the lights where the previous generation had the fog lights. The interior does look nicer and airier than my 2016, which is a plus because my wife is very short and complains it’s easier to see out of my old F150. Personally I’d stick to the lower trim levels my Sport AWD has the good engine and drivetrain but no “driver aids” and less weight. I guess the turbo is a necessary evil withe the extra weigt although the 2.5 Skyactiv is an excellent engine.

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