Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Mazda CX-5

Mazda celebrates 100 years with special edition CX-5

By Jim Bray
December 18, 2020

My favourite compact ute is back with some new tweaks for 2021, as well as a couple of new editions, one of which is a celebration of Mazda's centennial.

It's the CX-5, which started life a bit underpowered but was still lots of fun to drive, and Mazda has wisely upped the oomph ante over the years, a tad at least. But with the introduction of the company's lovely optional 2.5 litre turbo four a while back, acceleration angst is now a thing of the past. And that's wonderful!

It's also a pretty luxurious vehicle in the upper trim levels. A Signature trim was introduced for 2019, which also included that turbo four (which Mazda also makes available nearly right across its line). That version didn't come with paddle shifters, though Mazda has now corrected that oversight with the 2021 CX-5. And the paddles work well, though if you don't shift it into sport mode the transmission will go back to sleep again if you aren't prodding it enough to satisfy it. And that's fine.

Click on the image to open a slide show.

For 2021, Mazda has introduced a Kuro edition of the CX-5 as well as the special 100th Anniversary model. Mazda's sample was the centennial edition, and it's simply a splendid example of the compact SUV persuasion.

The Kuro edition, which starts at $38,476 CAD offers "exclusive styling with Polymetal Grey Metallic or Jet Black Mica exterior paint, gloss black door mirrors and 19-inch black metallic aluminum alloy wheels. The interior has Garnet Red leather seats and black honeycomb interior trimming on the dash, door panels and handle bezels. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add red stitching to help bring the bold color scheme together. The CX-5 Kuro Edition includes all equipment from the CX-5 GS AWD with Comfort Package and adds 10-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support and 2-position memory settings, and 6-way power passenger seat."

So, it isn't a faster or more fun CX-5, but it's nicer and has more stuff.

Even better is the 100th Anniversary version, which lists "all-in" for $45,626 CAD. That gets you the ultra-fun turbo (actually, you can get it on trim levels from GT upward), and all the niceties of the $44,126 Signature edition (stuff like 19-inch alloy wheels, Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery, a 360 degree View Monitor, Front and rear parking sensors, wood trim, and a bunch of other comfort, luxury and safety stuff), while adding "Snowflake White Pearl exterior paint paired with Garnet Red Nappa leather upholstery, with matching red floor carpets".

It also features a special 100th Anniversary logo on the key fob, floor mats, body, wheel centre caps, and the front seat headrests. And Mazda throws in (well, includes in the price) a "highly detailed model of the Mazda R360 which was Mazda's first passenger car in 1960, and a photo book documenting the rich and lengthy heritage of Mazda." So you can read and play while you drive, I guess.

And here I thought a 100th anniversary edition would just add wrinkles to the body's exterior as well as a bunch of creaks and moans from the structure. And why not? My Dad turned 100 this past August and that's how he is! But no, and the CX-5 looks better for the omission.

Anyway, if you can afford it (and you like white paint), the anniversary edition is the nicest version, though the Signature one is quite lovely as well. That said, if you want to save a few grand, the GT trim level is still pretty nice, and you can get into it for $41,876 with the turbo ($39,876 with the "regular" 2.5 litre four).

The base GX model, which starts at $30,576 according to Mazda's Canadian website, is still decent. For that price you get what's now the base engine, the 2.5 litre non-turbo unit that cranks out a reasonable 187 horses @ 6,000 rpm with a torque rating of 186 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm. It isn't nearly as interesting as the turbo, but it works fine. For that price you only get front wheel drive, however (the i-Activ all-wheel model is $32,076) but it's still a lot of fun and is equipped quite well.

But if you're going for the gusto, that turbo is really nice. Mazda says it cranks out 250 horses @ 5,000 rpm – but only if you use 93 octane fuel, and you'd have to be some kind of nut to shell out all that extra cash when you still get 227 horses @ 5,000 rpm with "regular" unleaded. Besides, it's the torque that pushes you back into your seat and the Dynamic Pressure turbo four is rated at 310 lb.-ft @ at only 2,000 rpm. The torque comes on quickly, too, with little lag.

Yeah, that's the ticket! 

There's also cylinder deactivation that's meant to save gas when all four cylinders aren't required, such as when you're merely cruising rather than apex carving.

Helping add Mazda's famous "Zoom-Zoom" is an independent suspension (MacPherson struts up front and multi-link stuff "out back") and electrically-assisted power rack and pinion steering that nearly feels wired into your skull. For a mainstream SUV, anyway.

Mazda's six speed automatic transmission (none of that CVT crap here!) shifts very nicely, and as mentioned above I'm pleased to see paddle shifters included now. 

Stopping power is provided by four-wheel disc brakes (with ABS etc. of course) and they work fine, with good pedal feel. There's also Mazda's G-Vectoring Control Plus system, which is meant to help you keep all four wheels grounded when the roads get interesting.

You also get stuff like Mazda Radar Cruise Control (adaptive cruise control), as well as forward sensing pedestrian detection, shut offable lane keeping assist, and high beam control. The upper trim levels also get you a frameless inside rear view mirror (who cares?), a seven-inch LCD info screen in the gauge cluster, wood trim and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Apple CarPlay can work wirelessly, too, which is very handy.

Mazda's infotainment system is a little dated but it still works well – better than some newer ones. It's slow to fire up when you start the vehicle and the LCD screen sitting atop the centre stack only works as a touch screen when you're stopped (it's also a tad far away for my stubby little tentacles), but thanks to a knob/controller thingy on the centre console (there's a volume control knob there, too) you get easy access to the stuff anyway.

Mazda's sample also had a nice head's up display you can customize.

Other features include:

  • 19" Alloy wheels
  • Power moonroof
  • Power liftgate
  • LED headlights and fog lights
  • LED rear combination lights
  • Front Wiper de-icer
  • Homelink wireless control system
  • BOSE Audio system w/10 speakers
  • Automatic dual-zone climate controls
  • Garnet red Nappa leather upholstery
  • Ventilated front seats (adjustable)
  • 10-way power driver's seat
  • Six-way power Passenger seat
  • Driver's seat memory
  • Heated front/rear seats, steering wheel
  • Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • 360-degree View Monitor
  • Smart City Brake Support Front (SCBS'F)
  • Smart City Brake Support Rear (SCBS-R)
  • Driver Attention Alert (DAA)


Basically, then, you can get pretty much what you'd expect from any reasonably state-of-the-art vehicle these days, including some purportedly higher end ones. And that's how it should be though I wish car makers would let you get more of this stuff a la carte (I'd dump some of the annoying nannies and save a few loonies).

Mazda's CX-5 has always been good, and any of the trim levels will get you a nice vehicle – but if you're looking for that legendary Mazda feeling, you'll probably be a lot happier with the turbo version, in any of the trim levels in which it's available. It really rocks!

Copyright 2020 Jim Bray

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