All manufacturers have several different of SUVs and Crossovers, but only few of them can offer the fun factor. It’s been few years since Mazda redesigned the CX-5, one of their bestsellers in North America. In a highly competitive market where all manufacturers redesign their entries in 3-4 years, Mazda did a great job with the current generation as it is still competitive.
Current generation CX-5 has been on the market since 2017 and Mazda decided to do mid-year refresh to 2021 model year with few changes. This is the second refresh, which we rarely see in the automotive world. Unlike last year’s tester, we decided to test drive the upper mid trim with naturally aspirated engine.
Exterior and Interior
Like many other modern Mazdas, exterior design is one of the strongest selling point. All modern Mazdas differentiate themselves by having striking exterior design. Compared to other non-premium entries, it looks so much better in every angle and not boring at all. It has a big grille in the front and narrow headlight profile for sportier look.
From the side profile, there is almost no difference since it is first released in 2017. Kuro Edition comes with special dark color 19″ alloy wheels that make the CX-5 look very sporty, and it is a great match with the gray color. Though the car looks very upscale from every angle, it just looks any other Mazda crossover for an untrained eye.
There is a little to no difference when it comes to rear design. Though it looks similar to other Mazda models, I believe this is the part where the car shows its age more than anywhere else. The brake lights have oval design inside the narrow tail light, but it does not look as good as CX-30. It comes with 100% real dual rear exhaust tips, which is rare in this segment.
The interior of the 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 is such a great place to be in. In fact, it is quite surprising to see this level of refinement for this price range. Everywhere you touch is either leather or soft-touch plastic, and fit & finish is great. The Kuro Edition trim comes with leather upholstery, not leatherette like other Japanese entries. I wish they did not use glossy black plastic on the center console.
Probably the most significant update for the 2021.5 model year is the infotainment system. Mazda decided to update the screen and whole software system with the latest version to keep the CX-5 competitive. However, you will still see lots of older parts that Mazda decided not to update, such as the steering wheel.
The seat comfort is quite nice, although I found the bottom cushion just a little bit short for people with long legs. I’m surprised to see memory seats in a mid-trim option, many other entries offer this feature at the very top trim. It does not come with 4-way adjustable lumbar support, and armrest cannot be moved forward for more precise adjustment.
The rear seat legroom is probably the biggest flaw of the whole platform. Granted, it is not a burden to sit, and it offers quite long bottom cushion for the rear passengers, but if you are a large and tall adult (over 6′) your knees will be touching to the front seat. This also means if you install a rear facing child seat, you will have to move front passenger seat slightly forward.
2021.5 Mazda CX-5 comes with same amount of cargo space of 875L behind the second row seats. If you need maximum amount of cargo space, it goes up to 1867L if you fold down the rear seats. Cargo accommodation is not class leading, but it is not the worst. Kuro Edition comes with power tailgate feature and that’s something we don’t see often with the mid-trim entries.
Engine and Drivetrain
2021.5 Mazda CX-5 comes with two different engine options. The base engine is a 2.5L Skyactiv-G naturally aspirated engine with cylinder deactivation that produces 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. If you want more roll-on power from your family crossover, there is also a turbocharged option that puts out 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque.
Our tester, the Kuro Edition is powered by the base naturally aspirated engine. I think it offers adequate amount of roll-on power if your expectations aren’t too high. All CX-5 trims come only with 6-speed automatic transmission and All Wheel Drive system.
Driving Impressions and Features
Speaking of engine and drivetrain, let’s start with how it feels driving the CX-5. Mazda has been developing Skyactiv for more than a decade and it is a tried-and-true platform as well as the 6 speed torque converted automatic transmission which Mazda has been using it for several years.
Compared to the previous generation Skyactiv engines, it comes with cylinder deactivation for additional fuel economy and our average fuel consumption was 9.5L / 100 km, which is pretty good for an all wheel drive crossover. My only complaint about this engine is that it is quite noisy especially when it is cold.
If it was my own money, I would still go with the 2.5L turbocharged engine, but that doesn’t mean naturally aspirated engine is a bad choice. If you don’t have high expectations, it is more than enough for an average user as it offers decent amount of torque throughout the powerband.
Although I appreciate the fact that it comes with an actual automatic transmission, whereas the majority of compact crossovers come with CVT, I think 6-speed transmission is not the perfect match to the naturally aspirated engine. Unlike the turbo model, you cannot compensate the gear ratios with extra torque, therefore lower gears feel tall, upper (especially 6th gear) feels short for highway driving.
Let’s talk about the steering and suspension. It is usually not as important as other features, but if you are a driving enthusiast, this is where you will feel the difference. The steering feeling is very precise for a crossover, and steering weight is spot on. The suspension is firm and there is minimal body roll, but it is comfortable enough for family hauling, it is the right balance of both worlds.
I think the Kuro Edition is a sweet spot in terms of features and prices, you get most of the features that you need on a daily basis without having to pay the premium for the top trim. It would take too long to go through all of them, but some of the features that I was surprised to see are the memory seats for the driver and power tailgate.
There are some features that could have been better. I think it’s time for Mazda to update their adaptive cruise control system. Although it works perfectly fine, it is missing lane-centering feature. Though it has lane warning feature, it is more annoying than useful, but thankfully Mazda allows you to disable it permanently.
Another feature that I was disappointed is the heated steering wheel. It does not fully heat the wheel, it only heats left and right portion. So if you are a person keep your hand on the top, you will not be able to feel the heat unless you change your hands position. I was not expecting this from a brand which positions itself as a premium Japanese brand.
As we get much bigger screen for 2021.5, it’s a blessing to have a big screen with great resolution including the rearview camera. It is definitely a decent update compared to the old screen. It still comes with traditional Mazda infotainment button layout, and like the other newer Mazda models, it does not have touchscreen feature.
Pricing and the Verdict
Mazda CX-5 keeps its unique place in the crossover world. It does not have the best interior space for larger families, but unlike most entries, it prioritizes the design, driving experience and overall refinement and this is something we rarely see in this price range. Mid-year update is more of a minor change over the course of its lifecycle.
2021.5 Mazda CX-5 starts at $28,950 with the base trim. If you need more features but still want to keep the price reasonable, Kuro Edition is a great option priced at $36.950. If you consider other Japanese entries for this price range, you definitely get less features for the money, and I believe that’s why 2021 Mazda CX-5 Kuro Edition offers a great value proposition. For more details – please visit www.mazda.ca