Model tested: 2.5 turbo with Premium Plus package
Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter inline 4 with twin-scroll turbocharger
Transmission: SKYACTIV drive 6-speed automatic
Torque: 310 lb.-ft.
EPA ratings: 23/city, 29/highway, 25/combined
Base price: $42,300
As tested: $44,170
Overview: The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is an all-new SUV that’s slightly larger and more adventuresome than the popular CX-5 — which is still being produced and was refreshed for 2022. Mazda says the CX-50 isn’t a replacement and they will be sold side-by-side. Hmmm… Made in Huntsville, Alabama, at the Mazda/Toyota joint plant there, the new CX-50 is built on the same unibody platform as the CX-30, with all-wheel drive standard on all trim levels.
Walkaround: Boasting a sleek profile and Mazda’s popular shark-like grille, our soul red crystal metallic test driver amassed tons of positive comments on the color. Looking much like the CX-5 at a glance, the new CX-50 has an appealingly rugged and aggressively planted stance, enhanced by 20-inch black alloy wheels. Strengthened roof rails allow use of an optional roof rack. The rear doors open wider than the CX-5, making it easy to use the back door opening as a step to access gear stowed on that rack.
Interior: Mazda interiors are well designed, and the new CX-50 is no exception. Materials are high quality and our two-row, five-seat test driver featured heated and ventilated leather-trimmed seats, with the power driver’s seat having a lumbar adjustment and two-position memory. While the new CX-50 offers an active and outdoorsy interior ambiance, it’s surprisingly luxurious inside, especially with the panoramic moonroof — a first for Mazda. Overall, the cabin is pleasantly quiet at freeway speeds and comfortable over long distances. The overall layout is driver-focused, with symmetrically arranged controls. Except for the entry-level 2.5 S, all CX-50s have a 10.25-inch touchscreen. The leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel has some redundant touchscreen controls and boasts paddle shifters. It also has AM/FM/XM/HD radio played back through a 12-speaker Bose system, along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and four USB ports. The slightly lower roof line means a little less headroom than in the CX-5, but the folding rear bench seat is a bit more comfortable and offers more width and legroom than the CX-5. The cargo area in the CX-50 is slightly wider, making it more useful.
Behind the wheel: The turbocharged, 2.5-liter four-banger delivers 227 spirited horses with excellent torque, sending power to all four wheels via the six-speed automatic transmission. It handles well overall, and the CX-50 offers normal, sport and off-road drive settings. While the new CX-50 has been designed to drive and handle as well on-road as the CX-5, Mazda has tuned it for added confidence off-road. Although it’s not built for serious four-wheeling, there’s slightly more ground clearance than the CX-5, firmer suspension damping and an all-wheel-drive system with a new off-road mode that keeps CX-50 moving even when a front and rear wheel are off the ground.
Bottom line: The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a nice vehicle that offers both lots of value and fun for the money.