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2021 Mazda CX-5 Review

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 challenges for a top spot in the competitive compact SUV class thanks to its engaging handling and refined interior.

Pros & Cons

  • Sporty handling
  • Potent turbocharged engine option
  • Upscale interior
  • Long list of standard features
  • Below-average cargo space for the class

New for 2021

  • 10.25-inch touch screen, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay now standard
  • Driver attention monitoring and reverse automatic emergency braking newly optional
  • Diesel engine discontinued
  • Carbon Edition trim debuts

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Mazda CX-5's #2 ranking is based on its score within the Compact SUVs category. Currently the Mazda CX-5 has a score of 8.5 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 27 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

8.5

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 9.8
Performance: 8.5
Interior: 7.9
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.9 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Mazda CX-5 a Good SUV?

Yes, the Mazda CX-5 is a very good compact SUV. It's one of the most fun-to-drive entrants in the class, a designation resulting mostly from its agile handling. The standard engine delivers a bit of pep, but the optional turbocharged variant injects a lot more vigor.

The CX-5 offers a sophisticated and elegant interior, comfortable seating, and a revamped infotainment system. The biggest knock against this Mazda is its below-average cargo space.

Why You Can Trust Us: 27 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 27 Mazda CX-5 reviews – along with reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2021 CX-5 is the right new car for you.

This 2021 CX-5 review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2017.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Mazda CX-5?

As long as you're not looking for a ton of cargo space in this class, the CX-5 should be high on your list. It's a great value thanks to a long list of standard infotainment and driver assistance features, and higher trims offer plenty of options to those looking for more amenities and who have wiggle room in their budgets.

Find a 2021 Mazda CX-5 for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Mazda CX-5: What's the Difference?

Mazda made several changes to the CX-5 for 2021. A larger touch-screen infotainment system (10.25 inches, up from 7), Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay are newly standard. These features were optional in the 2020 CX-5. Driver attention monitoring and reverse automatic emergency braking are available for the first time, and Mazda no longer offers the CX-5 with a turbodiesel engine. Lastly, there's a new Carbon Edition trim, with a unique paint color, wheels, and red leather upholstery.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 CX-5 »

Here are the key changes for the Mazda CX-5 over the last few years:

  • 2017: fully redesigned with more powerful base engine, newly standard infotainment system and rearview camera, and drop in cargo space; manual transmission discontinued
  • 2018: added standard blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert; several driver assistance features gained expanded availability
  • 2019: turbocharged engine, diesel engine, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay became available; Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims debuted; ventilated front seats, parking sensors, and a surround-view parking camera system became available
  • 2020: adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights added to standard features list; 8-inch touch screen became optional; turbocharged engine gained more torque
  • 2021: larger touch screen and smartphone integration now standard; more available driver assistance features; turbodiesel engine discontinued; Carbon Edition trim debuts

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 CX-5, 2019 CX-5, and 2020 CX-5 reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Mazda CX-5 Cost?

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 starts at $25,270, which is an above-average base price for the class. Several higher trims increase in price up to about $30,500, and all come standard with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is a $1,400 option. The range-topping CX-5 Signature has one of the highest prices in the class at $37,405.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

Mazda CX-5 Versus the Competition

Mazda CX-5 vs. Honda CR-V

The Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V are both high-ranking compact SUVs. The reasons driving each one's success, though, are different. The Mazda dusts the Honda in handling, and it boasts a nicer interior and a longer list of standard infotainment features. The CR-V, conversely, has one of the largest cargo holds in the class, expansive rear-seat legroom, and marginally better fuel economy. Both of these crossovers come with a good list of active safety features and have satisfying engine power.

You can't go wrong with either of these competitors. Your choice will likely come down to whether you like the elegance and agility of the CX-5 or the space and utility of the CR-V.

Compare the CX-5 and CR-V »

Mazda CX-5 vs. Mazda CX-30

The Mazda CX-30 is the automaker's newest vehicle, and it competes in the subcompact SUV class alongside the entry-level Mazda CX-3. The CX-5 and CX-30 both offer the same standard and optional engines, commendable handling, and similar fuel economy estimates. There's little reason to choose one over the other for performance. Instead, your decision will likely come down to your budget, how much space you need, and the features you want.

The CX-5 is several thousand dollars more expensive than the CX-30 across its entire trim lineup, but it has a larger infotainment screen and serves up more than 10 extra cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats. A few features – such as Nappa leather upholstery, wood interior trim, and ventilated front seats – are exclusive to the CX-5 and are not available in the CX-30. If you have a bigger budget, getting the CX-5 is worth it.

Compare the CX-5 and CX-30 »

Compare the CX-5, CR-V, and CX-30 »

CX-5 Interior: Luxe Factor

CX-5 Cargo Space

The Mazda CX-5 is on the low end of the compact SUV class for cargo space. You get about 31 cubic feet behind the second row, and folding down the back seats opens up about 60 cubic feet.

The hatch opening isn't the largest, and some might find the liftover height a little high. Still, this Mazda has enough utility to hold several suitcases without impacting rear visibility, and you can fill up the cargo area with a whole family's worth of luggage.

How Many People Does the CX-5 Seat?

The CX-5 has five seats, but in reality it can only seat five people if everyone in the second row is on the smaller side. The middle seat is narrow, and the outboard seat cushions encroach on middle-seat space.

On the plus side, this Mazda can comfortably seat four adults. Both rows of seats offer ample headroom, even in models with a moonroof. Second-row legroom isn't class leading, but it should be fine for regular trips. The CX-5's front seats offer plenty of comfort and support. The driver enjoys a high and commanding seating position with good visibility in all directions.

CX-5 and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats. There’s also a tether anchor for the rear middle seat, which has the ability to borrow lower anchors from either side. All of the tether anchors are easy to find, and the lower anchors are mostly user-friendly as well. However, they're set a little deeply in the seat cushions.

CX-5 Interior Quality

The CX-5 feels like a luxury vehicle with a cabin featuring high-end materials everywhere you look and touch. The top trim comes with amenities that few affordable crossovers offer, including Nappa leather upholstery and real wood trim pieces.

CX-5 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Mazda gives its top-selling vehicle a much-needed technology update for 2021. A 10.25-inch touch-screen infotainment system, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay are now standard. Previously, a 7-inch touch screen was standard, and an 8-inch touch screen with smartphone integration was optional.

The new setup should alleviate complaints about the prior system having some outdated graphics and slow response times. In addition to the touch screen, you can control the system with a rotary knob on the center console.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 10.25-inch touch-screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Mazda Connected Services, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a four-speaker stereo, and HD Radio
  • Available infotainment features: two rear USB ports, a six-speaker stereo, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, satellite radio, and navigation
  • Other available features: dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, a moonroof, a universal garage door opener, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, and ambient interior lighting

Read more about interior »

CX-5 Performance: Crossover to the Fun Side

CX-5 Engine

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 comes standard with a 187-horsepower naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. It helps you scoot away from a stop with little drama, and the six-speed automatic transmission delivers precise shifts. Most people should find the powertrain satisfactory for getting up to higher speeds or when you need extra power for passing or merging.

However, drivers who may be a little underwhelmed at its top-end power will want to opt for the available turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With regular gas, it’s rated at 227 horsepower, and with premium fuel it puts out up to 250 horses. There's no hesitation or lag from this powertrain, and it helps give the CX-5 a properly enthusiastic character.

CX-5 Gas Mileage

This Mazda’s fuel economy is decent for a compact SUV. With its base engine and standard front-wheel drive, the 2021 CX-5 returns an estimated 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The turbocharged engine contributes to an estimated fuel economy of 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Pairing either engine with optional all-wheel drive causes a loss of just 1 mpg in both the city and on the highway.

CX-5 Ride and Handling

Responsive steering and general fun from behind the wheel are hallmarks of any Mazda offering, including the CX-5. This Mazda feels planted around corners, with all-wheel-drive models exhibiting even more noticeable road grip.

In keeping with its upscale aspirations, the CX-5 delivers a somewhat comfortable ride, but it isn't as forgiving as some class rivals are.

Read more about performance »

CX-5 Reliability

Is the Mazda CX-5 Reliable?

The 2021 CX-5 has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average.

Mazda CX-5 Warranty

Mazda covers the CX-5 with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

CX-5 Safety

CX-5 Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Mazda CX-5 an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not evaluated the 2021 CX-5. However, the organization gave the similar 2020 model excellent ratings across the board.

CX-5 Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Forward collision warning
  • Forward automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Rearview camera
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers

Available advanced safety features:

  • Adaptive headlights
  • Head-up display
  • Reverse automatic emergency braking
  • Driver attention monitoring
  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Traffic sign recognition

Read more about safety »

CX-5 Dimensions and Weight

The CX-5 is 14.9 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,541 to 3,825 pounds, and its gross vehicle weight rating is between 4,575 and 4,806 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Built?

Mazda builds the 2021 CX-5 in Japan.

Which Mazda CX-5 Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 comes in six trim levels: Sport, Touring, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. A four-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive, and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine is optional in the Carbon Edition and standard in the two highest trims. All-wheel drive is optional for $1,400 in most trims and is standard in the Grand Touring Reserve and Signature.

The base model is enhanced for this model year with a new infotainment system and smartphone integration. All CX-5s come with a healthy list of active safety technology as well. It's worth springing for the Touring and its nicer upholstery and heated front seats. That trim also offers a package full of other attractive features that lets you purchase them at a lower price without having to jump to a higher trim.

Mazda CX-5 Sport

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 Sport starts at $25,270. Standard features include push-button start, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a 10.25-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Mazda Connected Services, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a four-speaker stereo, and HD Radio.

The CX-5 also comes standard with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic high-beam headlights, a rearview camera, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Mazda CX-5 Touring

The CX-5 Touring starts at $27,010 and adds synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker stereo, two rear USB ports, a rear center armrest, and proximity keyless entry.

The Touring Preferred SV package ($1,445) adds a 10-speaker Bose premium stereo, genuine leather upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a six-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a power liftgate, a moonroof, a universal garage door opener, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Mazda CX-5 Carbon Edition

The new CX-5 Carbon Edition features the amenities of the Touring trim and its optional package, along with an exclusive paint color, red leather upholstery, and unique styling for its wheels and the interior trim. Prices start at $28,855 with the base engine, and the Carbon Edition Turbo retails for $30,660.

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

The CX-5 Grand Touring costs $30,460 and comes standard with genuine leather upholstery, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, satellite radio, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, a moonroof, paddle shifters, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, a power liftgate, fog lights, adaptive headlights, and heated outside mirrors.

The GT Premium package ($1,625) adds a head-up display, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and ventilated front seats.

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Reserve

The $35,285 CX-5 Grand Touring Reserve gains a head-up display, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and ventilated front seats. Navigation and traffic sign recognition are available.

Mazda CX-5 Signature

The top-of-the-line CX-5 Signature retails for $37,405 and adds reverse automatic emergency braking, driver attention monitoring, a surround-view parking camera system, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, navigation, Nappa leather upholstery, genuine wood interior trim, and ambient interior lighting.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

See 2021 Mazda CX-5 specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 has one of the best combinations of performance and luxury in a segment sometimes known for offering bland, commuter-friendly crossovers. Its healthy list of standard technology makes it a good value, but if you prioritize passenger and cargo space, you may want to shop around the compact SUV class.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Mazda has shown us that its attention to detail is more than skin-deep, with thoughtful ergonomics and engaging driving dynamics. … Despite a smaller cargo area than its key competitors, the 2021 CX-5 shines brighter than all its classmates and even some more-expensive alternatives." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is one of the sportiest compact crossover SUVs available, thanks in part to its responsive steering and top-notch balance. What’s more, the Mazda CX-5 feels like a premium model but is priced more like its mainstream competition." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "When it comes to fun-to-drive compact crossovers, it's hard to beat what the … Mazda CX-5 has to offer. While some small SUVs tout good fuel economy or a versatile interior, the CX-5 lays claim to these attributes while serving up a healthy dose of performance, styling and interior luxury." -- Autotrader (2020)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 16, 2020

Descending Sales: Sales of the Mazda CX-5 rank mid-pack among compact SUVs this year. CX-5 sales have dropped by 8.3 percent in 2020 relative to the same span last year. Top sellers in the segment, such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, have both outsold it by more than 2 to 1. While the CX-5 is not the best seller in its class, the CX-5 is far and away the most popular vehicle in Mazda showrooms. Its sales have accounted for more than half of all Mazda sales so far this year.

Research more buying advice »
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