So, I was sitting at my desk the other day, just dreaming of sunshine and curvy roads, when my co-worker came to visit. Apparently, he and his wife are trying to decide which compact crossover to adopt. She wants a luxury model from Audi or Volvo while my friend is more concerned about payments. Both agree they want something fun to drive and ready for their first offspring. I may have the answer for marital bliss: The 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature.
Soul Of Motion
Our conflicted couple will not find a more smartly-styled ride. Crisp creases draw the flowing body taut over 19” wheels with deftly accented chrome around the window and underlining the grille. Curve-following headlamps peep from beneath a hood edge that acts as a sculpted eyebrow. Mazda’s Kodo “Soul of Motion” design philosophy is evident in the hood creases, sculpted bodysides, and chiseled-in taillamps flanking a power liftgate – all giving the vehicle a sweeping tailored appearance. It’s a crossover that beckons drivers and passengers alike.
If my co-worker’s wife was blindfolded and plopped in the CX-5, she’d miss nothing from the sassy Europeans. The cabin could have come from an Audi with its wide swaths of stitched materials, authentic wood trim, and elegant chrome. A sleek dash infotainment screen is controlled with a console knob. Our Signature edition elevated class with dark brown Nappa leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, power sunroof, and soothing ambient lighting. Everything looks and feels expensive.
It sounds expensive too with crisp sound from the 10-speaker Bose audio system – pumped from devices connected via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. I think Mazda’s infotainment system wins an award for being needlessly cumbersome, but it looks good. Passengers will better appreciate heated seats and steering wheel. The head-up display keeps eyes pointed straight ahead while radar cruise control, emergency collision avoidance braking, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection keep everybody safe.
Swift Turbo Power
My friend is a fan of high-horsepower American muscle, but he should be pleasantly surprised about the CX-5’s powertrain. Top models harbor a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 250 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque – put to pavement through a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. Click the paddles to control the cogs. It’s no Shelby Cobra, but that’s plenty of venom in a compact crossover. Fuel economy is rated 22/27-MPG city/highway – not terrible, but a few MPGs more would be welcome.
It’s been said Mazda is the Japanese Alfa Romeo and that is evident in how the CX-5 drives. The suspension is firm, but compliant enough to soak up rough pavement without doing the jig. Quick steering seeks curvy roads while the drive mode selector holds revs longer to get the most out of the powertrain. Those big wheels and all-wheel-drive keep it planted whether slaying the left lane or hitting an on-ramp with gusto. The CX-5 is comfortable for the family, yet rewards drivers with well-sorted engineering.
I suspect my co-worker and his wife will come to the same conclusion as me: The Mazda CX-5 is an expertly styled and thoroughly engineered compact crossover that’s the equal of competitors way above its price. You can buy a base model for $25,270, but our pampering chariot came to $38,505 – still a bargain against the Europeans. Closer competitors include the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue.
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2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature
Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: 2.5-liter T4, 6-spd trans
Output: 250hp/320 lb.-ft. torque
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Ride
Fuel economy: 22/27 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Hiroshima, Japan
Base/As-tested price: $25,270/$38,505