CHATHAM, Mass. – I was throwing the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD premium compact sport utility (SUV) through the twisty, undulating roads near Cape Cod Bay when I realized this is one of the things which separates a Mazda from the rest of the pack – the zoom, zoom factor.

Tight, cocoon-like interior; responsive turbocharged powertrain; reassuring, sure-footed suspension, and capable braking produce an SUV begging to be driven quickly with verve. And I was. And I felt confident throughout the afternoon of driving. And regardless of my aggressiveness, the CX-5’s computer said I was getting about 26 miles to the gallon.

The compact SUV/crossover segment is full of all types of vehicles, many of them straightforward, boring and pedestrian. There is nothing pedestrian about the CX-5

Skyactiv makes it happen

Mazda has christened its development of powertrains designed for fuel efficiency and maximum performance as Skyactiv. The 2021 CX-5 Signature AWD is equipped with the Skyactiv-G four-cylinder 2.5-liter engine delivering 227 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque.

The powertrain includes a full-time i-Activ all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, with off-road traction assist as well as a six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.

The chassis producing the confidence-inspiring driving includes MacPherson-type struts up front with coil springs and stabilizer bar and an independent multi-link setup in the rear with coil springs and stabilizer bar.

The dark-silver 19-inch alloy wheels – part of the Signature trim — wear P225/55R19 all-season tires and encapsulate 12.6-inch ventilated rotors up front, 11.9-inch solid ones in the rear.

A comfortable interior filled with useful technology

No frills, but everything today’s motorist expects – and more – can be found in the cabin of the CX-5 Signature, which is the top of the CX-5 range.

Both well-shaped front seats feature electric adjustment (the driver’s with memory which also includes outside rearview mirror and heads-up display settings) and Caturra Brown Nappa leather upholstery, as does the 60/40-split-folding rear bench and the heated steering wheel. All five seating surfaces are heated, while those front buckets are also ventilated. The steering wheel can be adjusted manually for reach and rake.

Once comfortably seated, both front passengers can set the dual-zone automatic climate-control system to their individual liking.

The 10.25-inch color display on the top of the dashboard is the focal point of the infotainment system which includes navigation and traffic-sign recognition in the Signature model.

The infotainment display, unlike those in most vehicles on the market, is not a touch screen but is controlled by a rotary dial on the console which can also be depressed and pushed to navigate the various menus and functions. A series of buttons and another, smaller rotary knob (to control volume/mute) surround the major dial to allow for simple, quick operations like switching between navigation and audio, without having to move through a series of menus on the display.

Fusion TIFF File

This setup enhances safety by removing the need to look and find images on a screen to operate vehicle systems, an action which forces a driver to look away from the road ahead.

A 10-speaker Bose developed sound system amplifies the infotainment system’s audio output from the AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/Bluetooth streaming/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto sources.

i-Activsense safety features part of the Signature package

As a means of further distinguishing the CX-5 from the rest of the compact-SUV segment, especially those with a price below $40,000, the product developers included a very comprehensive list of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) under the Mazda i-Activsense umbrella.

Included are:

  • Blind-spot monitor
  • lane-departure warning
  • lane-keep assist
  • rear cross-traffic alert
  • anti-lock brakes with electronic-brake distribution and brake-assist
  • smart-city brake support: reverse
  • dynamic stability control
  • traction-control system
  • advanced smart-city brake support
  • Mazda radar cruise control with stop/start
  • front and rear parking sensors/warning
  • 360° view monitor

Mazda does it their way

Mazda has always been a bit different from the rest of the auto makers. They pioneered and sold sedans and sports cars powered by a rotary engine, something unique to them. And the company was not – and is not – afraid of taking other engineering chances, doing things their own way (like an infotainment screen not touch activated, lessening distracted driving potential by maintaining knobs, switches and dials which can be adjusted without one’s eyes leaving the road).

Their cars, minivans and SUVs/crossovers had distinctive looks, which is true of the CX-5. Curves in places where others have angles provide unique character and say “look at me, I dare to be different.”

And the differences are well worth it.

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD is great value. My time behind the wheel came at almost 28 miles for each gallon of gas, a number above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 27mpg highway rating, let alone the 24mpg overall one (22 in the city).

The value story continues with the CX-5’s price: All of the features, equipment and technology discussed is included in the $38,630 price (the lone additions within the number above the Signature AWD base price are $125 for a rear bumper guard and $1.100 for delivery, processing and handling).

Very few compact SUVs can deliver this much vehicle for this kind of price. And it does it in a package that does not sacrifice driving fun for its efficiency.

Next week TBR Drives the new Subaru Outback Wilderness.