Mazda has been known for decades as a driver’s brand. More recently the company has been working to shed its economy vehicle image while still being affordable. They call this idea “Mazda Premium” and it’s a real thing.
Yet Mazda remains a niche brand compared to behemoths like Toyota and Honda. Here’s my challenge to you — just test drive the Mazda and see for yourself how it drives and feels before you go buy your fourth RAV4 or CR-V in a row. That’s all I’m asking.
The Mazda CX-50 is a compact two-row crossover SUV introduced for the 2023 model year. It’s sort of a replacement for the aging but popular CX-5, but it’s built on the same scalable platform as the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback car, and the smaller CX-30 crossover.
All CX-50 models feature all-wheel-drive, but you have your choice of naturally aspirated or turbocharged gas engines. There is as yet no hybrid or plug-in from Mazda in this size. You need to bump up to the larger CX-90 for a plug-in.
The great thing about Mazda SUVs is that they all look pretty much the same. Mazda has a very definite and attractive design language, and you’re basically just buying the SUV in the size you want. The Mazda SUV look is characterized by a long hood, swept-back windscreen, and very nice body shaping that catches the light, especially if you invest in one of Mazda’s amazing premium colors like Soul Red Crystal Metallic for $595.
The CX-50 is the bad boy of the lineup, with a little more lift in the suspension and protective body cladding. You really can take the CX-50 on light off-road trips, while the smaller CX-30 is more urban and the bigger CX-90 more suburban.
Inside the cabin, you’ll really notice the Mazda Premium ethos. Mazda seats are some of the most comfortable in the industry, and the company really does start every design with the driver in a comfortable pose, and then they build the vehicle around that.
Then your touch surfaces are all carefully prepared at the level you’d expect from a premium European brand, or one of the premium Japanese brands. Compare the Mazda interior to the RAV4 or CR-V and you will be impressed.
You can get the CX-50 with a basic 187-horsepower engine, and that’s fine, but the SUV really comes alive with the 256-horsepower turbo 2.5-liter engine we tested. The Mazda SkyActiv-G engine is interesting — if you want to save some money and run on regular gas, that’s fine. You’ll get 227 horsepower out of the turbo engine.
If you pony up for Premium, you’ll get all 256 ponies. Smilarly, you will get 310 or 320 lb-ft of torque depending on your fuel choice. If you tell the Mazda dealer you’ll be towing, you can get a turbo model rated up to 3,500 pounds of trailer, or 2,000 pounds with the base engine. The CX-50 comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel drive.
Safety and Technology
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the CX-50 as a “Top Safety Pick” among all 2023 crossover SUVs. The CX-50 comes with all the safety intervention and driver assistance features you expect in a modern vehicle, plus blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and road-keeping assistance as standard equipment on all trim levels.
All trims include a 10.25-inch full color infotainment display, and an 8-speaker sound system, but the top turbo trims bump that up to a 12-speaker Bose audio system. All trims support wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, and the Turbo models include a wireless mobile device charging pad and satellite radio capability.
Driving the CX-50 is where this SUV becomes markedly different from the competition. The CX-50 has the soul of a sports car and the ride of a luxury SUV. Honestly, it’s easy to find yourself speeding because the CX-50 is so smooth and composed on the road. We had to use the cruise control or we’d find ourselves creeping up the speedometer.
When you get to the curves, the CX-50 is precise and again, composed is the best word for it. The SUV just soaks up bumps and gives you confidence. Even the back seat passengers will notice the ride quality and stability. The road is where the CX-50 will easily outpace the bigger-selling SUVs from the competition.
2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Specifications
|L: 185.8 inches/W: 72.9 inches/H: 63.9 inches/Wheelbase: 110.8 inches
|2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; 6-speed automatic transmission and AWD
|23 mpg city/29 mpg highway/25 mpg combined
|256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $30,300; As tested: $45,270 including $1,375 destination charge
There are eight trim levels of the CX-50, four with the base engine and four with the Turbo. Pricing ranges from about $30,000 to about $45,000 once all the fees are applied. So you can pretty much pick the CX-50 you want and hopefully that is also the CX-50 you can afford.
There’s very little downside to the base engine, it’s a nice unit and more than enough for most people. But if you want a little more zip, then the Turbo model starts at about $40,000. At that point you might as well go the extra $5,000 and get the top 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus trim, and get all the goodies.
2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the CX-50 bigger than the CX-5?
The CX-5 measures 180.1 inches in length and 72.6 inches in width, while the CX-50 is slightly longer at 185.8 inches and broader at 75.6 inches. The CX-5 offers slightly more cargo space, making it a better choice if you prioritize storage capacity.
Is the CX-50 selling well?
Yes, sales of the CX-50 are up 456% from this time last year.
Is Mazda more reliable than Toyota or Honda?
Yes, according to consumer reports, Mazda is the most dependable car manufacturer, followed by Toyota. Honda’s average reliability rating did not even place it in the top 10.