The 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD: A Compact SUV For all of Life’s In-Between Moments

Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

When life demands more than a sedan but doesn’t quite need you to go full SUV, try the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD.

This Mazda is a compact SUV, which means you’ll have the space and functionality of a two-row SUV without feeling like you’re driving a yacht. It’s the perfect in-between for when you find you’ve moved on from your single girl sedan days, but you’re not quite ready for the family-forward full-size SUV. You’ll have trunk space for all your goodies and knee room for your backseat passengers, but you can maintain a sporty ride. Nice, right?

The Mazda CX-5 base model starts at $25,270, but we drove the top-of-the-line model that clocked in at $39,125. I’ll be honest; I usually advocate for sticking to a tight budget, but the Signature trim is worth the extra money. Not only will you thank yourself for splurging on sleek Nappa leather ventilated and heated seats, but you’re going to love the fact that this model comes with all-wheel drive and a turbo engine. What does that mean for you? A more capable drive that you can have some fun with.

Related: Mazda’s New CX-5 Is Here: 6 Reasons to Get Excited

Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

My only qualm with the driver console was the fact that the cupholders required me to reach behind myself to grab my drink. Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

I Love My Old Mazda 2… But I’ve Been Thinking About Something Bigger.

My 2013 Mazda 2 was the first car I ever bought and paid for with my own money, and I love it. The sporty hatchback may not have been particularly spacious, but it was perfect for me when I lived in downtown Austin, Texas as a single college student. It had all the room I ever needed, and the bare-bones base model version I owned was more than fine with me. It had an AUX cord and air conditioning, and that was all I needed!

As I’ve grown older, gotten married, and find myself making longer drives, though, I’ve begun to realize the value of something a little bigger. But not much. I’m not in the “need a full-size SUV” portion of my life yet. But a nice compact SUV with some extra space and a few more bells and whistles sounds like a dream come true.

That’s exactly what I got with the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Turbo. It retains that signature Mazda pep that I absolutely love without compromising on performance or space. It’s like my sweet hatchback grew a little more mature and refined, found its place in life, and started to get into the art of hand rolling sushi. I can still retain that youthful thrill you can only find in a small, quick car, but I can also feel better about having a friend sit in the back seat.

Related: 7 Luxurious Reasons to Love the 2021 Genesis G80 Sedan

Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

There’s enough storage space in this compact SUV for luggage and large purchases like truck tires and jack stands. Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

You Don’t Always Need a Full-Size SUV

There’s a pretty common misperception that adopting the SUV lifestyle means you have to buy a 3-row vehicle that can tow a boat and go off-roading as easily as it can transport a family of five and their groceries. But if you’re someone who lives in a more urban area, who doesn’t have a large family, or who just wants something that isn’t a sedan, you still have options. You can opt for a crossover or a compact SUV — something like the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Turbo.

What I love about this car is that it’s well-situated to take advantage of a gap in the market. There are plenty of folks out there who need more flexibility than they can achieve with a sedan but who don’t want to go full-SUV mode. It shows that an SUV doesn’t have to be huge to make an impact, and that it doesn’t need to look beefy to draw a crowd.

The Mazda CX-5 is subtle. Its front nose is slim and low, betraying a possible past as a low-slung sedan — but as you move back, you’ll find a taller, sleeker machine that can contain passengers and luggage without feeling overwhelming. It’s like your favorite single girl sedan grew into the curves she’d been dying for. You can’t help but be happy seeing her living her best life.

My husband and I used the CX-5 to pick up supplies to outfit our garage for emergency maintenance. We picked up spare tires, jack stands, an air compressor, and a small generator, and we found that we didn’t even need to lower the second row to make space. Sure, the trunk was a little tight at that point, but with just the two of us, we rarely cram that much into one vehicle. I was impressed; it was more than either of us would have been able to fit into our single-person cars, but at no point did the CX-5 feel unwieldy. It maintained an unassuming presence on the highway similar to that of my tiny Mazda 2 while still being able to zip up to speed in moments. You don’t always have to opt for the largest SUV on the market.

Related: 2021 Buick Encore GX: From Grandma’s Car to Your Teen’s First Vehicle


get ready for the gorgeous 2021 Mazda CX-5 @agirlsguide2cars #mazda #mazdacx5 #carreview #cargirl #crossover

♬ Fun Day – Bensound

Fun Features Make Driving a Breeze

There are so many wonderfully intuitive features on the Mazda CX-5. The command center is composed of easy-to-use and within-reach button and dials that control the climate, volume, and infotainment system. The screen itself is controlled by a dial; it’s not a touchscreen. Sport mode is activated by the flip of a switch. The chrome-look steering wheel controls are intuitive and simple to use.

I loved the thoughtful touches included in this compact SUV. The Signature trim is equipped with road sign detection software, so when it sees a speed limit sign, it displays that speed on your speedometer with a little red line; you’ll be able to see the point when you exceed the limit. The rear seats could be folded down with the pull of a tab in the trunk. You could select multiple different camera angles to check your blind spots while parking.

The best part, though, was the ingenious center console between the rear seats. Fold it down, and there aren’t just cup holders for your backseat passengers. There are also heated seat controls and USB ports. This sleek design incorporates key comfort elements in a very luxe package; when you’re done in the back, you just fold up the console and stow it away. That said, you won’t be able to access those features with a passenger in the middle seat.

My only qualm with the Mazda CX-5 came in the form of its infotainment controls, which you can see me illustrate in a quick video below:

Basically, turning the dial left and right doesn’t scroll through your SiriusXM channels. Instead, it brings you to your list of favorite channels. In order to scroll through all the channels, you have to press the dial, select the channel list, then scroll down to the channel you desire. As someone who likes to easily flip through different stations, it was frustrating to have to do this by taking my eyes off the road — and I hate letting my husband think he can pick our music!

Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

Backseat passengers will love their swanky heated leather seats. Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Price and Trim Breakdown

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available in seven different trim levels

  • Mazda CX-5 Sport ($25,270 FWD / $26,670 AWD): Base model with leather steering wheel and shift knob, electronic parking brake, remote keyless entry, rearview camera, automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, cloth seats, Bluetooth, and rain sensing windshield wipers
  • Mazda CX-5 Touring ($27,010 FWD / $28, 410 AWD): Add heated front seats wrapped in leatherette, dual-zone climate control, rear air vents and charging ports, a six-speaker audio system, and advanced keyless entry
  • Mazda CX-5 Carbon Edition ($28,855 FWD / $30,255 AWD): All of the above, but add special gray paint, 19-inch black alloy wheels, red leather seats, 10-speaker Bose premium stereo, leather upholstery, 8-way power adjustable driver seat, 6-way power adjustable passenger seat, moon roof, power liftgate, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Mazda CX-5 Carbon Turbo Edition ($30,660 FWD / $32,060 AWD): All of the above, but add a turbo engine
  • Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ($30,460 FWD / $31,860 AWD): Add 10-speaker Bose premium stereo, leather upholstery, 8-way power adjustable driver seat, 6-way power adjustable passenger seat, moon roof, power liftgate, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, paddle shifters, LED taillights and fog lights, 19-inch silver alloy wheels; only available with the standard 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated engine
  • Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Reserve ($35,285): All of the above, but add head-up display, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, automatic folding mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer. Only available with turbocharged engine and AWD
  • Mazda CX-5 Signature ($37,405): Add 19-inch dark silver wheels, Nappa leather seats, wood trim, black headliner, ambient lighting, more safety technology. Only available with turbo engine and AWD

We reviewed a 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD that started at $37,405. Our model also included the following optional features:

  • Machine Gray metallic paint, add $495
  • Rear bumper guard, add $125
  • Delivery fee, add $1,100
  • Total price of the car we reviewed: $39,125
Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

Just look at those rims! Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Who Is the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Turbo For?

  • Someone looking for something more spacious than a sedan but not quite a full-sized SUV
  • Or, someone tired of driving a large, heavy vehicle but who doesn’t want to compromise on storage space
  • Anyone who enjoys longer road trips that can be completed in comfort
  • Small families with children that like to control their own temperature zones
  • Single women that love their luxury but have to stick to a budget
  • Couples that might transport their adult friends
Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

The buttons and knobs on the command center are all very tactile. Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

What We Loved

  • Vented front seats — a must for humid Texas days!
  • Rear seat USB ports, cup holders, and heated seat controls that were tucked into the fold-down middle seat
  • The get-up-and-go of the turbo engine — just enough to make you feel powerful without being overwhelming
  • Easy, one-pull rear seat folding handles
  • The luxe key fob that looks like it belongs to a more expensive car
  • Silky smooth Nappa leather seats
  • Gorgeous trim details that highlight Mazda’s signature grille
Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

One of my favorite features in the Mazda CX-5 compact SUV? The red line on the speedometer that indicates the speed limit. Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

What You Need to Know

  • Skyactiv 2.5-liter turbo engine
  • 227 horsepower
  • 310 lb-ft of torque
  • MPG: 22 city / 27 highway / 24 combined
  • Off-road traction assist
  • 10.5-inch color screen
  • Bose 10-speaker stereo
  • SiriusXM, Bluetooth, and AUX capable
  • Four USB ports – two in front, two in the rear
  • Android Auto / Apple CarPlay
  • Wireless charge port
  • Sport mode option
  • 8-way power seats with lumbar support
  • Heated front and rear seats
  • Ventilated rear seats
  • Nappa leather
  • Power moonroof
  • Safety features: stability control, traction control, hill launch assist, smart brake, radar cruise control, parking sensors, 360 degree camera, lane keep assist with lane departure waring, rear cross-traffic alert
Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

With the second row folded down, you can easily transport awkwardly shaped items like lumber or furniture. Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Can it Tow?

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Turbo has a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 lbs. That means you’ll be able to tow a lightweight trailer, a smaller aluminum fishing boat, two or three ATVs, or a light load of furniture. You won’t want to go too crazy because the CX-5 isn’t designed for heavy loads, but it’ll serve many of your very basic needs.

Mazda Cx-5 Compact Suv

I loved the dial controls in the Mazda CX-5 — I just think Mazda needs to rethink how those dials change your radio station. Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

What We Listened To

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is a fun, zippy little car that warrants an upbeat playlist to accompany your trip. Check out some of our favorites below.

Have a thought or comment? Share it with us on social media! You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And be sure to sign up for our email newsletter!

I'm Elizabeth Blackstock, managing editor of AGGTC, blogger, journalist, novelist, editor, MA/MFA graduate student, wife, motorsport fanatic, and bearer... More about Elizabeth Blackstock