2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
The 100th Anniversary is a big turning point and a testament to success and stability for any company. And Mazda, the Japanese manufacturer of fine, high-quality automobiles is celebrating its success. Our tester, the CX-5 compact SUV pays homage to a century of successful existence. Although this generation gets older and will be renewed in the next few years, it is still a decent alternative if you are looking for the most “premiumized” mainstream small SUV.
The CX-5 is one of the anniversary models (the other two being CX-3 and the Cx-9) with the high built quality and a level of equipment that can challenge luxury models such as Acura or Lexus. In the ultra-competitive compact SUV segment, big names such as Toyota RAV-4 and Honda CR-V dominate the market in Canada. However, if you are looking for exclusivity without compromising Japanese quality, the CX-5 is an option you cannot miss.
As we mentioned also in our previous reviews of Mazda3 and Mazda6, this brand is shining for a decade if not more. The vehicles offer a driving pleasure that you could find at vehicles that cost 10 or 20K more. Under the concept of “Skyactiv”, Mazda has been delivering a huge success in engineering and design, to optimize the internal combustion engine for more performance, smoothness, fuel economy and driving pleasure. These efforts in fact go beyond the engineering and covers also the powertrains, suspension and other components that deliver a better vehicle in every sense. And of course, the CX-5 is no exception.
Exterior and Interior
Like the other Mazda models, it looks gorgeous. We can’t believe we say this to an SUV, but Mazda was able to make it look sporty, yet elegant. It is still one of the best looking SUV in this segment. What makes it even more interesting is that the current generation is one of the oldest platforms in the crossover segment, but still there is nothing like CX-5 when it comes to the overall design. Of course, it has been refreshed in 2018 and it looks more modern, but it still keeps the same design language and body lines.
When we get into the CX-5, you feel that it is much more refined compared to the mainstream crossover segment. Everywhere you touch is mostly leather or soft-touch plastics. There are some piano black plastics in the center console, which is not easy to take care of and sort of an outdated fashion. HVAC controls as well as essential features have all physical buttons, which is great for long term ownership.
2020 Mazda CX-5 has a little bit below average interior space, compared to the rivals. You feel the difference in the rear seat, as well as cargo space. It has 31 cubic feet (877 lt) of cargo space when the rear seats are up, and it goes up to almost 60 cubic feet (1700 lt) when you fold the rear seats down. The good thing is, it comes standard with the 40/20/40 folding seats which offer more flexibility for family and cargo hauling.
Engine and Powertrain
The Mazda CX-5 has the same 2.5-L turbo 4-cylinder engine under the hood as the Mazda 6 we tested earlier. This engine delivers 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque at a moderate 2000 rpm when running on premium fuel. With the regular fuel, the power drops to 227 hp and 310 lb-ft. No matter which option you choose the power and torque are more than sufficient and driving pleasure is always under your right foot.
The engine does not like revving too much, but it loves hanging around the low and mid-rpm range. 320 lb-ft of torque comes and hits you very hard almost from idle all the way up to 4000 rpm. Anything above 4000, it wants you to upshift. In fact, Mazda tuned the transmission in a way that you never pass 5000 rpm at wide-open throttle, much before the redline, so you get the most out of the torque curve. You can only pass 5000 rpm if you shift through the paddles.
Mazda avoids being the early adopter as they focus more on reliability, this can be seen in the drivetrain department. It only comes with 6-speed torque converted automatic transmission. Granted, it does not have a CVT like most other competitors, so we appreciate Mazda’s decision to keep the traditional automatic transmission, though there are more modern transmissions available in the premium segment.
The 6-speed transmission is not the fastest, but it is tuned very much focused on on-road comfort and smoothness, and it is doing a pretty good job. Is it our favourite automatic transmission? Definitely not, but we would prefer this one over any kind of CVT in this segment, and that’s where the CX-5 shines as almost everyone uses CVT in the mainstream crossover segment.
As it has fewer gears than today’s modern 8+ speed transmissions, it is less flexible – that means gear ratios are significantly taller to get more fuel economy. Although this is not a problem for the turbocharged engine, as it has tons of torque down low RPM, you don’t need to downshift to accelerate. So this engine choice is a great fit for the transmission.
2021 Mazda CX-5 has two different drivetrain options. You can choose a front-wheel-drive (FWD), and all-wheel drive (AWD). FWD is only available in base and mid trims, whereas AWD is available in all trims. You cannot get the top trim with the AWD system. Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD is a real-time all-wheel-drive system that watches for tiny variations in wheel speed and controls the distribution of torque. It can range from full FWD to 50/50 distribution.
Driving Impressions and Features
Mazda didn’t design CX-5 to be a track weapon or weekend warrior, but it still has Mazda’s traditional sporty driving feeling. Steering weight is definitely on the heavier side, even in comfort driving mode. Seat comfort is also great, though the bottom cushion may feel a little bit on the short side if you are a tall person. 100th Anniversary Edition comes with special two-colour leather and it makes the car look much more premium from the inside.
Where it falls behind and shows its age is the infotainment system. Unlike Mazda3, CX-5 has the old infotainment software, which is quite laggy by today’s standards. We would have expected to have the updated software, but it seems like Mazda will implement that in the next generation. Although it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sometimes it takes a lot of time to start the app. Screen resolution is also low, and the rear camera view is not very clear and unfortunately, you are forced to use the knob in the center console when the car is moving, so no touchscreen unless you fully stop.
If you can live with slightly outdated infotainment, this car feels very solid and upscale. You would be surprised how the CX-5 feels similar to a premium German crossover in the interior. Of course, suspension tune helps that upscale feeling, as it absorbs the bumps extremely well for this price range. We are a little bit surprised how the steering feels heavy to make it feel more sporty, but the suspension is focused more towards comfort, totally different ends of the spectrum. This does not make the CX-5 bad, it just makes it more unique and that’s what we need most in this crowded SUV segment.
Pricing and Specifications
For details of pricing and equipment, please see the window sticker below:
If you are looking for a vehicle comparable to luxury rivals without paying the premium of several thousand dollars in the very-competitive compact SUV segment, Mazda CX-5 is probably the perfect choice for you, particularly the exclusive 100th Anniversary Edition.
For more information please visit: http://www.mazda.ca
Article by Varol McKars & Dan Gunay with photos by Burak McKars