Auto123 reviews the 2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition.
It’s fitting that for 2021, Mazda is offering an 100th Anniversary model of the CX-5 crossover, among other models in the lineup such as the MX-5 roadster and Mazda3 compact. The CX-5 has made good on Mazda’s claim, made back when the model first launched, that it could outsell the popular 3, and if you’re going to celebrate your 100th anniversary, you want to do with a) your big-selling core models and b) those that help define the brand.
A quick note for the eagle-eyed Mazda-philes among us: yes; it’s true that Mazda Motor company actually got started in 1920, which would make 2020 its 100th year and thus these 2021s a year late. We asked Mazda about this, and they say that these 2021 models started production in 2020, so that’s why they get the moniker. Carry on.
The 100th Anniversary package costs $1,200 and further gussies up the top-spec Signature trim with adds Garnet Red interior (that includes the carpets, which look like nothing else but the insides of a red velvet cake), white exterior colour, special badging on the fenders, headrests and carpets and special wheel caps. That last feature is my favourite addition, as those caps could look cheap but instead look of high-quality thanks to a raised Mazda logo and smart black-and-red colouring. I think the only way they could look any better is ff they were set against black wheels, but that is not an option, as the 100th is only available with the silver 19-inch wheels seen here.
Oh, and let’s not forget the 165-page Mazda photo book and scale model of the Mazda R360 microcar that comes with the purchase of every 100th Anniversary model, or the special badging on the key fob. All great stuff.
Do I like the red interior? Yes, I would say that I do as it’s in a tint that’s on the right side of retina searing. What I’m less enamoured with, however, are the surfaces on the centre console and doors that are finished in contrasting white leather. Added to the black leather that tops the dash and covers the wheel, it all starts to look a little busy. I think they would have been OK extending that black to where the white currently sits.
The rest of the interior is all CX-5, meaning you can count on a great driver’s seating position, plus there’s a low-profile centre stack harbouring the climate controls (including heated and cooled seats) and that’s about it, as well as a quasi-digital gauge cluster and infotainment display that sticks out rather awkwardly from the dash. The new Mazda3 and CX-30 get lower-profile versions of this, and I’d like to see that make its way to the CX-5. And while I’m on that, I’d like to see Mazda’s new infotainment system also make its way to the CX-5 because the one it currently has is a bit on the low side and it doesn’t get the great new high-definition backup camera the CX-30 and Mazda3 now feature.
The reason Mazda’s able to keep the centre stack’s button and knob count low is because the designers have moved all the infotainment controls to the centre console, just before the shift lever. This makes perfect sense as it keeps those controls easy to reach while driving, and reduces the clutter on the centre stack.
Overall, the interior’s fit and finish as well as front seat space are top notch; the rear seat is slightly on the snug side, though, and a rear-facing child’s seat will drastically affect legroom up front. I do love the 40/20/40 split folding rear seat, though; it makes it so you can load longer items without costing yourself a entire outboard seat; I was surprised to find it even works with two child seats installed in back. There’s also heating for the back seats, though having to flip down the centre armrest in order to get to the seat heating controls – as well as a back-seat USB port – is awkward.
Power for the Signature CX-5 comes from one engine choice, and it’s a doozy of a powerplant. We’ve seen this 2.5L four-banger in the CX-5 for years but here, it gets turbocharged and generates 227 hp (250 hp if you use premium fuel) and 310 lb-ft of torque. On paper, that’s a lot of grunt for what is not that big of a vehicle.
In practice, moreover, it really is a whole lot of grunt. Power is quickly fed through the 6-speed transmission to all four wheels – but mainly the fronts, unless the rears need to step in to help out – with minimal turbo lag. Yes, a 6-speed gearbox may seem a little old-fashioned these days especially since so many of the CX-5’s competitors are moving to to CVTs or autos with 8-plus gears, but the CX-5’s transmission and engine are nicely in sync, helping provide brisk forward progress even when climbing steep hills.
It was here that the non-turbo model always struggled and where there seemed to be a gap in communication between the transmission and engine but that’s no longer the case. Add a pair of paddle shifters, and you have a compact crossover that feels downright athletic.
All this before we even get to the steering and handling, which remains the CX-5’s calling card, as it does so many Mazdas. Turn-in response is crisp as soon as you turn the small-ish steering wheel, and the body roll that you worry about feeling upon aggressive turn-in doesn’t really appear. Part of that is down to damper tuning but we also have Mazda’s clever g-vectoring system to thank here.
Basically, what g-vectoring does is reduce power delivery – only incredibly slightly – as soon as you turn the wheel. What that does is put a little more weight over the front axle for better turn-in, grip and body control. You’ll never really feel it happening, but what you’re left with in your hands is an incredibly point-able crossover that punches way above its weight class – and its pay grade – in terms of dynamics.
I’m not sure if people shopping in the non-luxury compact crossover sphere are really expecting that much power from their vehicle but Mazda has decided to provide it anyway, and with the handling to back it up.
The Signature is the CX-5’s top trim and since Mazda doesn’t have a luxury arm such as Honda does with Acura or Toyota does with Lexus, the Signature editions are tasked with conquering a few sales from the other guy’s luxury offering. This CX-5 has put its best foot forward in order to do so – and in 100th Anniversary form, it gets a few special goodies to boot.
Great turbo grunt
100th Anniversary package a nice touch
We like less
Rear seat space issues
Some ergonomic quibbles
Aging infotainment system