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Review of the 2023 Mazda CX-50: An Advanced Vehicle Ready for the Future

Image Source: O P Z Creative / Shutterstock

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 leans towards a more robust future while still maintaining strong agility. This compact crossover SUV can accommodate up to five passengers. It is longer, wider, yet lower than the CX-5 model. The CX-50 aligns its off-road capabilities with the adventure-driven lifestyle trend that is growing within the segment, alongside vehicles like the Ford Bronco Sport, Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, Toyota RAV4 Adventure, and others. Despite sharing a platform with the Mazda CX-30, it is built alongside the Toyota Corolla Cross, adding a unique element to Mazda’s compact yet robust lineup.

The CX-50 showcases a departure from the fluid elegance seen in other Mazda models. Featuring sharp edges and corners, the CX-50 exudes a handsome appeal from most perspectives. Unlike Mazda’s previous SUV lineup, the CX-50 embraces a more modern and edgy design approach. The front end of the CX-50 boasts a wide grille, in line with the current trend of larger and deeper grilles. The thin headlights complement the overall appearance, harmonizing the design with bowed-out front fenders that add a distinct touch. The rear of the vehicle also showcases heavy fender accents over the rear wheels, coupled with a sharp, angular roofline that sets it apart from the curvier CX-5 model. Mock air outlets at the back add a unique flair, below squared-off taillights that give the SUV a departure from its previously softer design.

The CX-50 offers a more agile than entertaining driving experience. The lineup features two powertrain options, with base models equipped with a 187-hp, 2.5-liter inline-4 engine. Paired with all-wheel drive, this powertrain necessitates significant effort to deliver performance. In comparison to its counterparts, the Mazda 6-speed automatic transmission lacks as many gears, and with the added weight from all-wheel drive, the CX-50 is not designed for quick acceleration like achieving six-second 0-60 mph sprints.

Top trims are powered by the 2.5-liter turbo-4 engine, generating 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque (or 256 hp/320 lb-ft with 93-octane fuel). This turbo engine, also linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, exhibits some low-end turbo lag before delivering optimal torque from 2,000 rpm onwards. This setup is better suited for passing maneuvers, particularly on highways. All models come standard with all-wheel drive.

The CX-50’s allure lies in its steering and ride quality. Compared to the CX-5 and CX-30, the CX-50’s longer wheelbase helps it deliver smoother responses on uneven roads, making it an excellent cruiser for highway drives. Its solid steering feel ensures stability and precision on the road, without the wandering sensation often felt in some of its competitors from South Korea. While lacking adaptive dampers or air suspension, the CX-50’s poised handling provides a sense of confidence. It offers an enjoyable driving experience through twisting canyon roads, remaining composed and comfortable through corners.

Equipped with new Off-road and Towing drive modes, the CX-50 can tow up to 3,500 lbs (2,000 lbs on the base model). The Off-road mode redistributes rear-wheel torque and reduces steering feedback for a smoother off-road experience. With ground clearance ranging from 8.3 inches on base models to 8.6 inches on turbo versions, the CX-50 can handle towing tasks or navigate moderately challenging terrains with a touch of flair.

However, the CX-50 falls short in terms of fuel efficiency, as it is not exceptional. The EPA rates the base model at 24 mpg city, 30 highway, and 27 combined. In comparison, a base Hyundai Tucson with all-wheel drive achieves 29 mpg combined, and a Subaru Forester, 33 mpg. The turbo-4 engine version of the CX-50 drops to 23/29/25 mpg. At present, there is no confirmation of a hybrid variant.

While crash-test ratings are not yet available, the CX-50 offers standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, automatic high beams, and active lane control. An optional surround-view camera system and parking sensors are recommended due to limited rearward visibility.

Internally, Mazda retains its signature dash design with a horizontal bar that houses an 8.8-inch or 10.3-inch touchscreen display. Featuring minimalistic toggles and switches with metallic trim accents, the CX-50 interior optimizes efficiency while maintaining functionality. The inclusion of a rotary control knob on the console may require some adjustment for most drivers, given the touchscreen’s placement at a distance.

Sharing a platform with the CX-5 and CX-30, the CX-50 has been elongated to exceed the CX-5 in length and width. A longer wheelbase of 110.8 inches provides more interior space, making it 6.4 inches longer than the CX-30 and 4.6 inches longer than the CX-5. With dimensions of 185.8 inches in length and 75.6 inches in width, it surpasses the CX-5 by 5.7 inches in length and 3.0 inches in width.

The refined craftsmanship of the CX-50 competes with top rivals in its segment. Mazda pays close attention to material quality, evident in the enhanced finish showcased inside the CX-50, especially with the optional panoramic sunroof. The leather-trimmed interior features supportive and well-contoured front seats with ample adjustment options and power assistance on most trims. While the back seat mirrors the space in the CX-5, accommodating two adults comfortably for extended trips, it may feel snug for a third passenger.

Cargo capacity behind the back seats has been expanded to 31.4 cubic feet, surpassing the CX-5’s 29.1 cubic feet. However, with the seatbacks folded down, the space reduces to 56.3 cubic feet, compared to the CX-5’s 58.1 cubic feet. Mazda claims the newer model offers wider and longer cargo space, presenting added utility.

The CX-50 caters to various preferences and price points, available in nine distinct trims, offering a wide range of options. The base model, starting at $28,025, includes all-wheel drive, power features, keyless start, cloth upholstery, and an 8.8-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support. It’s notable that touch inputs are enabled only on Android and Apple screens, while native functions require the use of the console knob.

The $35,625 2.5S Premium trim stands out as the best value option, expanding on the base features with a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen, a power tailgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, 10-speaker Bose audio system, and 17-inch wheels. For those seeking more premium additions, the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus variant, priced at $42,775, incorporates a range of advanced features such as a surround-view camera system, heated rear seats, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, and support for blind-spot monitors. Mazda plans to introduce a tenth Meridian model to the CX-50 lineup, featuring roof crossbars, all-terrain tires, and enhanced rugged styling.

The new CX-50 stays true to Mazda’s successful formula as a high-performing SUV with a stylish design and excellent reliability. By increasing the size of the CX-50, Mazda has improved its competitiveness in the market. It’s a versatile crossover that can inject excitement into every drive, suitable for daily use. The choice between models ultimately depends on individual driving preferences. Opt for the Premium trim for fuel efficiency concerns, or choose the Turbo variant for enhanced power; either way, you’ll enjoy a fantastic midsize SUV.

Image Source: O P Z Creative / Shutterstock

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