Handling, turbo lift ’21 Mazda CX-5

The CX-5 shows sleek styling rearward from its prominent nose. (Bud Wells photo)

“Merry Christmas” was my 2020 holiday greeting from the open window of the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature all-wheel-drive edition.

The message was muffled somewhat by the mask on my face, adhering to suggested practice in the face of the severe pandemic of the past nine or 10 months.

Finished in snowflake white pearl, the Mazda fit perfectly into the winter holiday scene.

The CX-5 holds its own in one of the most competitive fields in the automotive industry, the crowded compact sport utility division. In fact, it is considered one of the best.

One of the rating agencies I follow placed it second-best among top five compacts with Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue.

The well-equipped Signature trim level model provided for my testing performed and handled exceptionally well with the optional 227-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. Moving it into sport mode sharpens responses and eliminates any hint of understeer. It rides on Toyo P225/55R19 tires.

The CX-5’s overall length of 179 inches is 3 inches shorter than the Honda CR-5 and an inch less than the Ford Escape. When it comes to measuring cargo space, Mazda’s 30.9 cubic feet behind the rear seat is noticeably smaller than Honda’s 39 or Ford’s 37.

A couple of highway drives helped the CX-5 to an overall fuel mileage average of 24.9 miles per gallon; its EPA estimate is 22-27.  Base engine for the Mazda compact is a 187-hp, 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, which is rated at 24/30 mpg.

An interior highlight is a 10.25-inch touchscreen serving navigation, 10-speaker Bose audio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

While pricing of the lower-level Mazda CX-5 Sport with all-wheel drive begins at a bit under $28,000, the loaded Signature AWD review model was sticker-priced at $39,025, including heated and cooled Nappa leather-trimmed front seats and heated steering wheel.

A lengthy list of items also shows power rear liftgate, power moonroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers and paddleshifters. Included among safety features are lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, forward automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and pedestrian detection.

The CX-5, built in Hiroshima, Japan, became a part of the Mazda lineup when introduced in 2012 as a ’13 model. It quickly soared to the top in Mazda sales. It is the brand’s runaway leader, almost tripling sales in 2019 over Mazda3, the runnerup.