2021 BMW X1 vs. 2021 Mazda CX-5: The Savvier Choice Is Still the Same

Comparing a small luxury SUV like the BMW X1 to a mainstream one like the Mazda CX-5 may seem odd, but it’s really not. Both models are at the top of their respective classes. They offer similar driving experiences too. 

The 2021 BMW X1 and the 2021 Mazda CX-5 appeal to the same type of driver 

A silver 2020 BMW X1 European model travels on a paved road on a rocky hill
BMW X1 | BMW of North America, LLC

Both the X1 and the CX-5 earn praise for sporty handling and peppy engine power. The 2021 X1 features one powertrain, and that’s a 228-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder linked to an eight-speed automatic. This BMW is also fuel-efficient with an EPA rating of a combined 27 mpg. 

Overall, the X1 delivers comfort and fun, but some might feel that it’s rather stiff at times. You could say the same thing about the CX-5, but it gets plenty of high marks for being cushiony. As Car and Driver put it, the CX’5s ride quality “is neither stiff nor floaty.” Base CX-5 models come with a 187-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The base engine is OK, but the turbocharged version on the upper-level trims delivers an authentic luxury experience. CX-5s with the available turbo-four are rated at 250-hp. 

A metallic red 2021 Mazda CX-5 is parked next to a gray concrete building
2021 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda North American Operations

A six-speed automatic is standard across the CX-5 lineup. And like the X1, the CX-5 gets good gas mileage. Customarily, both models are available with front- or all-wheel drive. 

The CX-5’s car cabin can outclass the X1’s 

Cockpit area of the 2021 Mazda CX-5
2021 Mazda CX-5 Interior | Mazda

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The CX-5 and the X1 are both five-seaters. However, the CX-5 is technically a compact SUV, and the X1 falls into the subcompact SUV realm. That said, you may gravitate toward the CX-5 if you want a smallish crossover with more passenger and cargo space. 

Furthermore, we recognize the CX-5 for its classy interior that’s somewhat unusual for its class. Oppositely, reviewers at U.S. News have complained that the X1’s cabin has some “low-rent” materials, i.e., hard plastic finishings. Still, the X1 looks stylish on the inside, and it comes with synthetic leather upholstery. To spice things up, you can upgrade your X1 with BMW’s Luxury package to get genuine leather; other options include wood trimmings and heated seats.

BMW's X1 provides a comfortable, upscale interior.
2020 BMW X1 interior | BMW

The entry-level CX-5 comes with cloth, but you’ll want to go up to at least the Touring trim to get faux leather upholstery and heated front seats. A distinguished red leather interior is on the CX-5’s new Carbon Edition trim, and more conveniences are available on the Grand Touring models. If you can afford to splurge, there’s the top-level Signature trim with Nappa leather and ambient lighting. 

What about tech?

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The new and X1 and CX-5 offer plenty of in-car tech. Both come with modern infotainment gadgets, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is some give and take here, though. For instance, the CX-5 comes with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, and the X1 comes with an 8.8-inch one. Satellite radio and navigation are standard for the X1, while the CX-5 comes with a wifi hotspot. 

Additionally, the BMW and the Mazda provide modern safety equipment too. They come with forward-collision warning and lane departure warning functions. The CX-5’s safety offerings are more well-rounded, though.

We’d still go with the CX-5

Many will say that the X1 is more stylish and prestigious than the CX-5. Even so, the CX-5 can give you more power and luxury at a bargain. The 2021 Mazda CX-5 ranges between $25,270-$37,405, depending on the features you pick. The 2021 BMW X1 falls between $35,400 – $37,400, which is cheap for a Beemer. But keep in mind the X1 has one of the worst resale values.