The 2023 Mazda CX-50 has three selectable driving modes: Normal, Sport, and Off-Road. The little Mi-Drive switch next to the gear lever, of course, makes this a statement of fact, but it’s also a very apt symbolic description of the whole CX-50’s ambiance. This car is a bit of a shapeshifter.
It can go from efficiently crawling down a snowy, icy slope one moment to carving a dry, supple back road the next. And then when you want it to settle down as a smooth, civil commuter vehicle to take you home, it’s very good at that too. Normal, Sport, Off-Road – the transitions are smooth.
Mazda CX-50 2023 specifications
Base price (Canadian spec GT Turbo as tested) $28,175 USD ($47,950 CAD)
Powertrain 2.5 liter four cylinder turbo 6 speed automatic | All-wheel drive
Horse power 227 at 5000 rpm (256 on 93 octane)
Torque 310 at 2000 rpm (320 at 2500 rpm on 93 octane)
Curb weight 3,907 pounds
Seating capacity 5
Shipment size 31.4 cubic feet behind second row | 56.3 cubic feet behind the first row
Land clearance 8.6 inches
EPA fuel economy 23 mpg city | 29 Highway | 25 combined
Take it quickly Like the PlayStation 3 of yore, the Mazda CX-50 is a car that just does it all.
a result 9/10
The CX-50 sits alongside the impressive (for now) CX-5 as the compact middle child in Mazda’s crossover lineup, sitting below the three-row CX-90 and above the subcompact CX-30.
Mazda may be one of the last automakers you think of when you think “butcher” but the CX-50 aims to change that image. It’s lower and wider than the CX-5, and more squat—its flared fenders make it look like a CX-5 that’s been hitting the gym, eating nothing but out-of-season grilled chicken breasts, and could really come in handy when it comes time to move apartments. However, it does so while maintaining Mazda’s attractive design language with its kodo-style square grille, heart-pounding turn signals, and Mazda’s ever-impressive red paint.
Just like the exterior, the CX-50’s interior is a more solid, muscular interpretation of Mazda’s look and design. The HVAC vents are more vertical and the shapes are more square, but in typical Mazda fashion, details remain relatively fancy for the price. The knobs are knurled, the chrome is tasteful, slightly odd orange stitching and squishy leather adorns the dash and door cards. However, compared to the CX-5 Signature, it feels a little lower in rent. This may be down to personal preference, but I miss that car’s wood trim and car-like style. The CX-50 also seems to use hard plastic in more places than the CX-5.
There are two engine options for the CX-50: a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, or a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. On regular fuel. Turbo numbers rise to 256 and 320 respectively, if you opt for 93 octane. The CX-50 tested here is, of course, the turbo.
Driving a Mazda CX-50
At this point, no one should be surprised that a Mazda product drives better than it should, but — pretend to be shocked and horrified, everyone — the CX-50 is excellent behind the wheel. It’s easy, intuitive and convenient everywhere. The way it drives, accelerates, rides, and stops: none of it is too light, floaty, stiff, or twitchy. This is absolutely true. The brake pedal, in my view, deserves special praise for being one of the friendliest and well-calibrated pedals I’ve ever encountered regardless of class or price, and the best in this car’s range.
The steering is positive and responsive, and feels more connected to what’s happening beneath you than you get in other crossovers like this. The steering wheel rim itself is also thin and sporty, as if it came from a Porsche. Highway cruising is smooth while city crawling is trivial, and this turbo engine generates enough power and torque for normal driving. Even when you’re on a winding road, you feel at home. There are sedans that aren’t that efficient or fun.
And because I drove this thing while there was still snow on the ground, I can already attest that a CX-50 with all-wheel drive and Pirelli Scorpion winter rubber will climb a snow hill and carve huge power slides in a parking lot buried in fresh powder with little drama. Or complain.
Frankly, the only mainstream crossover that can compare to this in terms of driving experience is its fellow CX-5. This was likely a deliberate and creative choice on behalf of Mazda’s engineers, but the CX-50 drives a stiffer car than the CX-5. It feels lower, wider and heavier because it is lower, wider and heavier. Even the noise its engine makes is a little louder than ever. Ride comfort is consistently good and adequate, but harsh bumps come with a bit more impact than you’d get from a CX-5 or, say, a Toyota RAV4. The busiest trip isn’t far from a deal-breaker, but those looking for the ultimate comfort while driving may want to keep their options open.
Although, there’s a chance that Mazda has already gone ahead and addressed these mild dynamic deficiencies because it’s already been announced that the 2024 CX-50 will have new dampers and recalibrated power steering.
Highs and lows
Even before it receives this mild update, the CX-50 is an attractive, good-driving car that’s well-designed all around.
Although it’s not a touchscreen, Mazda’s rotary knob-based infotainment system has quickly become one of my favorites in the entire industry. The clean-looking software is simple and clearly laid out so the handle can do most things quickly. Even entering the site name was relatively trivial. There are just the right number of shortcut buttons to make it easy to navigate between navigation, media, home, and bookmarks, and there’s a convenient volume knob in a logical, convenient place. A lot of automakers can learn a lot from this system.
The rear seats are suitably roomy, with plenty of legroom thanks to a large cubby under the front seats where you can tuck your feet while headroom seems average for the class. One final pro to shout out is the fact that washer fluid exits the wipers, a luxurious, car-like touch that reduces overspray and makes cleaning better.
As good as the CX-50 is, there’s still room for improvement. For example, the bottom of the driver’s seat isn’t quite as comfortable or supportive as I’d like. Again, the interior materials are noticeably less nice to me than those of the CX-5 Signature, with a particularly ugly line between the top of the dashboard and the center vent area. I know it’s not important, but it still stands out.
Mazda CX-50 Features, Options and Competition
Pricing for the 2023 Mazda CX-50 starts at $28,175. Standard equipment includes an 8.8-inch infotainment screen, eight speakers, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7-inch LCD screen, 17-inch wheels, and a 2.5-liter engine. On the other end of the spectrum, the top-of-the-range Turbo Premium Plus has the turbo engine, heated rear seats, ventilated and heated front seats, a wireless phone charger, and a 12-speaker Bose sound system, among other luxuries. . There are specifically seven other models between the base model and Premium Plus, but for reference, the latter starts at $42,925.
Trim route varies in Canada where this tester is from, but for what it’s worth, this GT Turbo model costs $47,950 CAD as tested, according to the Mazda Canada spec sheet.
Shoppers in this sector are spoiled for choice. Everyone knows about the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, which are solid buys if you’re OK with not having the most exciting or interesting thing coming your way. There’s also the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage for those looking for Korean value and style. The Ford Escape and its sicker, surprisingly capable sibling, the Bronco Sport, might be worth a look, too. But if it’s my money, it’s hard to beat the sheer fashion and luxury-car simulation quality of the Mazda CX-50 and CX-5.
According to the EPA, the CX-50 gets 23 mpg city, 29 highway, and 25 combined, which is decent for this type of car and matches its all-wheel-drive rival, the Hyundai Tucson. However, the Honda CR-V gets 29 mpg thanks to a liter less displacement, while the 2.5-liter Toyota RAV4 bests them all by 30 mpg thanks to the Toyota Efficiency Witchcraft.
Environmental Protection Agency
Most competitors also offer hybrid versions of their compact crossovers that obviously have better numbers than these, but Mazda remains one of the few electric cars in the segment.
Value and judgment
When it comes to compact crossovers, most examples only specialize in two (at most) of these three: everyday capability, off-road prowess, and back-road ability. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are great in normal day-to-day stuff, but they’re not very exciting or very capable off-road. The Subaru Forester dominates the track thanks to its symmetrical all-wheel drive system, but as you’ll notice, enthusiast readers
CD player You may vividly remember the difficulties of having a car that you would like to live with on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the Mazda CX-5 is a solid sports car that’s nice for passengers, but I suspect it’s not as powerful or good off-road as this one.
The CX-50 somehow successfully straddles the three. The Mazda CX-50 starts at $20,000 and goes up to $40,000, which is right in line with its competitors and exudes a versatile character that puts it at the top of its class. As a city dweller who rarely does any kind of off-road work, the only compact crossover I’ll get will likely be the more pedestrian but luxurious CX-5.
Imagine being so good at building compact crossovers that the only car that can really compare to a new compact crossover is, well, yours.
last Compact crossover. Like having to choose whether you want to paint your CX-50 Spirit Red Crystal or Zircon Sand Metallic is a good problem to have.
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