Monday, 28 November 2022

2023 Mazda CX-50 debuts with bold looks, thrilling drive Featured

Posted On Wednesday, 02 November 2022 22:00 Written by
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The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a brand new model and can tow up to 3,500 pounds The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a brand new model and can tow up to 3,500 pounds Photo courtesy of Mazda

As the reinvention of their SUV lineup continues, Mazda continues to introduce impressive new models.

The latest is the 2023 Mazda CX-50, a compact crossover that will battle with leading competitors in the segment including the Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape.

And just to clarify, the CX-50 is different from the already existing CX-5, another compact crossover currently in the Mazda lineup (which may or may not continue to coexist in coming years). The CX-50 shares a platform with the smaller CX-30, and upcoming models in the pipeline that are anticipated include the larger CX-70 and CX-90.

While the introduction of these new vehicles brings in some new designs, what doesn’t change is the quality of what’s under the hood, and that’s the excellent Mazda power plants that made this brand stand out in a bevy of SUV competitors, especially for driving enthusiasts who want to enjoy their daily drive.

I recently tested a 2023 Mazda CX-50, and I’m back with a full report on how the new offering measures up to Mazda’s lofty standards.

LOOKS

Slightly larger than a CX-5, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 features an exterior with more rugged styling that makes a strong impression, and it’s designed to better handle light off-roading excursions and towing.

Despite this rugged look, it’s at the same time classier looking than many vehicles in its price range, both inside and out.

The vehicle I tested had a sharp Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint job, and featured 20-inch alloy wheels (17 inches come on the base model), LED headlights, roof rails, and an optional panoramic sunroof.

It also featured rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated, automatic power-folding side mirrors, adaptive front lighting system, LED headlights and taillights, self-leveling adaptive headlights that move to provide better lighting in curves, and a power liftgate.

Inside the CX-50 is where Mazda truly shines, as per usual. The high-quality design is unmatched among non-luxury brands, and you’ll feel pampered without paying luxury prices. The leather-trimmed seating is comfortable on long drives and controls are well placed. There’s a decent amount of room for the back seat passengers, and five can sit comfortably in the CX-50.

Interior features include: Power driver’s seat with lumbar and memory, power passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel (including paddle shifters), dual-zone climate control and rear air conditioning vents. 

Controls for climate and other features are well set up and won’t take long to master.

You lose some headroom vs. the design of the CX-5, but it’s not enough to make a major difference and the improvements outweigh any negative changes. The only downside about the interior I can find is that cargo space is somewhat limited vs. other vehicles in the segment. 

Storage numbers are 31.4 cubic feet with the second row up, and 58.3 cubic feet with the seats down. The rear seats also feature a 60/40 rear split to increase versatility. These storage numbers are not great for the segment, though. Up front there is decent storage in the center console.

HOW’S THE RIDE?

Mazda’s tradition of being a top choice for those who love driving is upheld well on the CX-50.

The base engine offers a non-turbo 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine boasting 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. But to truly enjoy the CX-50, drivers should opt for the turbocharged engine and its 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet.

All versions of the CX-50 come with all-wheel drive, another benefit over its competition.

And paddle shifters are offered for those who want more control over the gears.

Overall, the CX-50 is flat-out fast and truly fun to drive on all kinds of roads. Its 0-to-60 time is under 7 seconds, which is respectable, but there’s so much more to driving that it does well beyond pure acceleration.

Cornering is super smooth, driver input is immediately felt, and braking is fast when you need it. LIke all great SUVs aimed at enthusiasts, you often forget this is an SUV and it feels like you’re behind the wheel of a smaller sedan.

For towing, the CX-50 can pull a respectable 3,500 pounds, making trips to the lake manageable despite this not being a large vehicle.

The CX-50 also features Hill Launch Assist, as well as driving modes including Sport, Off-Road and Towing. Don’t go too crazy with the off-roading, but it can handle a dirt path or inclement weather quite well, and you will have up to 8.6 inches of ground clearance.


TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY 

The tech setup on the Mazda CX-50 features an 8.8-inch display (with an option for a larger 10.25-inch screen), is controlled by a dial in the center console, and is easy to learn and use. The system in my test vehicle had a few minor issues while I was driving the CX-50, but overall it was very impressive.

Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included on all trim levels, you can opt for a wireless phone charging pad on the top trim level, and all models feature multiple USB ports. The standard sound system features 8 speakers (a bolder-sounding 12-speaker Bose premium offering is available to enhance the sounds).

The navigation system in the CX-50 is strong and responds well to voice commands, and it was also a breeze to change radio stations by voice command. Connecting phones to the vehicle for streaming of calls and music was a smooth process.

Moving on to safety, the CX-50 impresses with a bevy of standard safety features, including lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control to keep you car safely behind the traffic ahead. A frontal collision mitigation system will warn you of a collision and brake in emergencies. 

Many more features are optional on the safety side, including a comprehensive 360-degree camera system, and a head-up display that shares information directly in front of the driver on the windshield.

Other safety features on the 2023 Mazda CX-50 include: Blind spot monitoring, child safety seat anchors, anti-theft engine immobilizer, rear cross traffic alert, anti-lock brakes, traction control, a full array of airbags, and the driver attention alert.

MPG

Official fuel mileage numbers for the turbo engine are 23 city/29 highway/25 combined, and those numbers climb to 24 city/30 highway/27 combined on the base motor.

My real-world experience was nowhere near those numbers. I averaged under 20 miles per gallon in my turbo-powered CX-50, which isn’t great for the segment. But I accept it as the tradeoff for having such a powerful and sporty ride.
 

PRICE

My fully loaded test vehicle was priced just over $44,000; and the base price starts about $28K. This range is a bit pricier than some rivals, but the CX-50 is also a better vehicle than most or all competitors — with its standard AWD and its upscale “luxury-light” design quality.

There is a 3-year/36,000 mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, and you get 3-years/36,000 miles of roadside assistance.

Trim levels are plentiful, including: S, Select, Preferred, Preferred Plus, Premium, Premium Plus, Turbo, Turbo Meridian, Turbo Premium and Turbo Premium Plus.

BOTTOM LINE

The brand-new 2023 Mazda CX-50 is one of the best SUVs you can buy if you're looking for a fun, well-designed, rugged yet upscale ride that's also safe and tech-savvy.

It’s arguably at or near the top of the class in year one, which is hard to do in this segment full of strong contenders, but its upscale interior and strong performance capability will earn a lot of fans straight out of the gate. If the CX-50 is any indication of the direction Mazda is going with its SUV designs, they’ve chosen wisely.

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AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page. Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @Autotechreviews. Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.



Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2023 Mazda CX-50 
  • Price as tested: $44,170 (starts around $28K)
  • Best feature: Mazda’s excellent drive quality, sleek design 
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars   
  • Who will want this vehicle?: SUV buyers wanting a rugged, classy and sporty compact SUV offering
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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