2021 Mazda CX-5 Review

By Alexi Falson on 23 Apr 2021
image for 2021 Mazda CX-5 Review The Mazda CX-5 has been one of the hottest-selling midsize SUVs in Australia for a number of years now. In a typically Mazda fashion, it’s a competent, economical and reliable SUV that in recent years has managed to become even more sophisticated in its looks and driving comfort.

More often than not in road tests and reviews for mid-size SUVs, you’ll no doubt see the CX-5 get a mention or two. Even in the most competitive segment of the market, Mazda has managed to provide, year after year, a quality offering that will leave few disappointed.

We here at OnlineAuto have two questions, though: have all these years at the head of the leader’s pack made Mazda complacent with its latest 2021 CX-5? And with more than six different models to choose from, what is the best CX-5 to buy without paying for added features you’re unlikely to use?

Let’s find out.

Starting Price: $31,190

OnlineAuto Savings: $4,498

Mazda CX-5 - MAXX (FWD) Specifications

Model Date 2021
Model CX-5
Series CX-5J
Variant MAXX (FWD)
Transmission 6 SP MANUAL
Drive FWD
Engine DIRFI
Engine capacity 1997
Engine configuration VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM / 16 valves
Engine RPM 6000 / 4000
Cylinders 4
Torque 200
KW 115
Fuel tank size 56.0
Fuel usage specs 6.9 / 0.0
CO2 160
ANCAP security rating 5

For more details and other variants, check Mazda CX-5 car page.

How Much Does It Cost?

As per usual with Mazda’s lineup, it can get a little complicated when it comes to prices. The cheapest CX-5 is the manual, front-wheel drive Maxx, which is priced from $31,190. Stepping up the range into the all-wheel drive Maxx with an upgraded engine increases the price to $36,190.

The middle of the range Maxx Sport in front-wheel drive form is $36,490, while the AWD Maxx Sport model sells for $39,490. From here, we move to the more expensive Touring model priced at $41,280, and into the GT model priced at $46,990 and eventually to the range-topping Akera that, depending on your choice of engine, will cost $49,380 all the way to $52,380.

While yes, it’s complicated, it also means that Mazda has made the CX-5 more accessible to people of all budgets. 

How Much Can OnlineAuto Save You?

Using OnlineAuto’s car buying service, you could save between $1,800 and around $5,000 by sourcing one of our car specialists to help you find the best value model for you.

What Features Does the CX-5 Have?

The base CX-5 Maxx comes heavily equipped with features, despite its entry-level price tag. For your money, you’ll get keyless entry, 17-inch alloys, stylish LED headlights, an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB digital radio, power folding mirrors, automatic wipers and push-button start. 

Moving up the ranks to the Maxx Sport adds some luxuries like dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, gear levers by the steering wheel, auto-dimming rear view mirror, some added practicality at the rear of the cabin with armrest storage and USB chargers.

Stepping up to the GT and Akera models adds a larger, 10.25-inch infotainment system with all the connectivity you’ll need, 19-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, electric seats, leather interiors with wood finishes, as well as a premium 10-speaker sound system from Bose.

Range Features: 

  • 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Automatic LED headlights
  • Emergency autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control
  • Dual-zone climate control (Maxx Sport)
  • Head-up display with parking sensors and sign recognition (Touring)
  • 19-inch alloy wheels, sunroof and Bose sound system (GT)
  • 19-inch alloys, 360-degree camera and adaptive LED lights (Akera)

Mazda CX-5 Colours

Deep Crystal Blue Jet Black
Eternal Blue Machine Grey
Soul Red Crystal Sonic Silver
Titanium Flash Snowflake White Pearl
Polymetal Grey

Is it Comfortable to Drive?

Now we’ve got all the complicated stuff out of the way, let’s get down to the basics. The Mazda CX-5 - in whichever model you choose - is absolutely class-leading when it comes to driving dynamics, passenger comfort and overall drivability. It’s a supremely comfortable SUV that can handle everything from an urban commute to a state-wide road trip without a fuss, and keep all its occupants happy.

The front-wheel drive variant is obviously lacking in terms of ability off-road or in tough driving conditions, but if you’re planning to primarily commute with the CX-5, you won’t feel short-changed. 

The CX-5 range comes with four choices of engines, one for the cheaper models and two for the more expensive variants. The base Maxx and Maxx Sport come as standard with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit pushing out 115kW and 200Nm of torque; a somewhat underwhelming, but very much on point amount of power for this price point.

There is also the option of a larger 2.5-litre petrol, 2.2-litre diesel and turbocharged 2.5-litre engines for the Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera models. These produce anywhere between 140-170kW and 252-450Nm of torque.

The choice of engine depends largely on the type of car you’re looking for: something on the slower, but much more economical side, or a sleeper SUV with ample amounts of power in the more expensive models.

Is it Practical and Spacious?

As per usual with Mazda’s vehicles, practicality and attention to the everyday details of owning a car have been front and centre of the development of the CX-5. At the front of the cabin, there’s a number of storage spots and cubby holes, and in the rear of the cabin, there’s enough legroom for taller passengers, although head room may well prove an issue on longer trips if you’ve got any teenagers in the family.

For a midsize SUV, Mazda has done a great job with the packaging of the CX-5, and would surely stand the test of any medium-sized family on the weekly commute or come holiday-time. Around the back, there’s a very respectable 442L of storage in the boot, which grows to 1342L with the rear seats folded down. There are some dimension restrictions due to the wheel arches inside the boot, but overall, the CX-5 is able to eat up even the bulikest of loads.

Is it Safe?

The Mazda CX-5 has been awarded ANCAP’s maximum Five-Star safety rating, and throws in a heap of safety equipment free of charge even on the base Maxx model. For your money, you’ll get autonomous emergency braking with night-time pedestrian detection, adaptive radar cruise control, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, as well as curtain, side and front airbags.

Is it Fuel Efficient?

This is an area that opting for the cheapest CX-5 may end up causing you some trouble in the future. While Mazda’s claimed fuel economy rating of 6.9L/100km on a combined cycle is exceptionally good for a car of this size, it’s somewhat difficult to achieve in the real-world.

This is the result of a pretty small engine being asked to do a lot of work, which ends up hurting your fuel economy. The rest of the CX-5 engine range has fuel economy rated anywhere between 7.5L/100km for the 2.5-litre petrol, 8.2L/100km for the turbocharged petrol and just 6L/100km for the diesel variant. 

Our Verdict: Is the CX-5 Worth it?

The Mazda CX-5 is a car that is able to wear a lot of different hats, and look good in all of them. It’s by no coincidence that it’s the second biggest seller in the category - behind the Toyota RAV-4 - and continues to dominate sales charts.

Do your homework and determine exactly how much you’re looking to spend, what luxuries you absolutely need, and what you can live without. With five different variants and four different choices of engine in the CX-5 lineup, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and not know exactly what you’re buying.

Our verdict is to opt for the more powerful 2.5-litre engine and treat yourself with some added luxuries inside with the mid-spec Maxx Sport or Touring model.

Five Specs You Need to Know

  1. Prices range between $31,190 and $52,380
  2. 17-inch alloys replace steel wheels on the base model
  3. Automatic LED headlights standard on base model
  4. Engine power ranges from 115kW to 170kW
  5. Genuine wood trim and Nappa leather available on Akera variant


  • Comfortable and sophisticated driving dynamics
  • Safety Equipment
  • Mazda reliability


  • Complicated line up
  • Economy figures difficult to match
  • Rear occupant headroom

OnlineAuto Rating: 9/10

Mazda CX-5 Competition

Mazda CX-5

Toyota RAV4
Mazda CX-3
Hyundai Tucson
Subaru Forester
Honda CR-V

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Alexi Falson

Alexi is an automotive journalist and road tester hailing from Byron Bay. He has an affection for both cars and motorbikes, a great admiration for the simplicity of old-school engineering, and a fascination of new technology making its way to modern cars. When he's not road testing, you'll find him surfing, hiking or helping people find their dream cars.

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