The compact crossover segment is filled with models, making it hard for buyers to decide on one. Well if you’re in the market for an affordable compact crossover, you definitely need to add the Mazda CX-5 to your test drive list. The CX-5 feels a class above it rivals, thanks to its sophisticated styling and luxurious interior. It’s also available with a turbocharged engine that easily out powers its two biggest rivals, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
Starting with the exterior, the 2021 CX-5 has a sculpted exterior that does without the polarizing lines that you will find on some of its rivals. The exterior has a classier feel for buyers that can do without the hard angles and over the top styling that you’ll find on other compact crossovers – think the Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4.
Mazda has continued to give all of its models high class interiors that could easily be mistaken for a luxury car. That’s the case with the CX-5 where the minimalistic interior could easily feature a luxury badge on the steering wheel. The interior is packed with high quality materials and soft leather on the upper trim levels. Overall it’s a very pleasant place to be, making your daily commute a little more comfortable. The only ding is the space in the rear where your taller friends may feel a bit more snug than they’d like.
As you move to the cargo area, you’ll also notice that the CX-5 has a smaller space for your stuff than the CR-V or RAV4, at 30.9 cubic feet. The CR-V gives you about 38 cubic feet of space, while the RAV4 has 37 cubic feet. That smaller cargo area does come as a disadvantage if you’re planning a fun road trip.
The interior is also packed with tech features, like a standard 10.3-inch infotainment display, which looks modern, but we wish that it could be operated on the go without the rotary dial. Upper trim levels also get a 7-inch LCD screen in the gauge cluster and a head-up display.
Where the CX-5 really stands out is how it performs on the road. The CX-5 is available with two engines. The lower trim levels get a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 187 horsepower, while the upper trim levels get a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with up to 250 hp and 320 pound-feet of torque. It’s worth noting that the turbocharged engine has the most power on premium fuel, but if you use the more affordable fuel the specs drop to 227 hp and 310 lb-ft.
The only downside to all that extra power is the ding in fuel economy specs. The 2.5-liter turbo is rated at 23 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive version is rated at 22/27/24 mpg. The naturally aspirated engine is rated up to 25 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined.
The turbocharged engine turns the CX-5 into a sporty crossover thanks to all that available torque. Never once did we feel like the CX-5 needs more power and it easily blows past the CR-V and RAV4. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic, which shifts smoothly and never has a problem finding the correct gear.
Driving the CX-5 around town you’ll notice how responsive and comfortable it is. The suspension does a great job of smoothing out the road, but when you enter a corner fast, it doesn’t have a lot of body roll. Mazda has managed to find the best of both worlds with the CX-5’s driving dynamics. It’s comfortable when you want it to be and sporty when you want to have a bit more fun.
On the safety front, the 2021 CX-5 comes standard with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist. The top of the line Signature model adds a nice surround-view monitor, reverse automatic braking and traffic sign recognition.
As we mentioned before, the 2021 Mazda CX-5 is affordable with the pricing for the Sport front-wheel drive model starting at $26,370, including destination. The top CX-5 Signature is priced at $38,505. Those prices are competitive against the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4.
At the end of the day, the CX-5 offers a better driving experience and more luxurious feel than many of its rivals. While the cargo space and rear seat legroom might come up a be a bit, it’s a small compromise to pay for an affordable compact crossover that’s fun to drive.