Mazda has done it again. Their CX-50 compact SUV is another new winner in their AWD stable of superb vehicles.
The 2023 CX-50 is based on Mazda’s CX-30 chassis and is a bit larger than Mazda’s CX-5 crossover. It differs in that it’s more off-road oriented with added ground clearance of 8.7 inches, firmer suspension and an AWD system that offers a separate off-road mode that helps prevent the drive wheel from spinning or slipping during off-road jaunts.
CX-50 is offered with two engine choices of a non-turbo and turbo so trim levels are designated as such. With standard trims it’s 2.5 S, 2.5 S Select, 2.5 S Preferred, 2.5 S Preferred Plus, 2.5 S Premium and 2.5 S Premium Plus. For turbo versions it’s 2.5 Turbo 2.5 Turbo Premium, 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus that we were privileged to test and 2.5 Turbo Meridian Edition.
Mazda’s CX-50 has a sleek design with touches of ruggedness such as faux front and rear air vents and black fender-bumper guards that promote it’s (mild) off-road prowess.
Mazda engineers always design upscale and snazzy, workable interiors. And the CX-50’s is no exception. The exterior Terracotta paint on our test car contrasted ever so nicely with the saddle brown leather seats that were adorned with a Terracotta stripe down the middle and with Terracotta stiping along all seam edges.
A 10.25-inch color display perches non-obtrusively atop the dash and serves the gamut of audio, rearview camera w/overhead and wide-angle views, weather report, weather radar, traffic reports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and much more. It’s controlled by a large rotary dial on the console.
Large HVAC controls are simple to use and view that make for eyes-on-the-road operation once acclimating to their position on the panel.
Below them is the robust gear selector for the standard 6-speed automatic transmission that’s flanked by the mode selector toggle switch for Sport, Normal, Off-Road modes. Sport mode increases engine rpms by 500 for more livelier throttle response and quicker acceleration.
CX-50s console box opens in clam shell style and the very front of it houses the wireless phone charger. To charge the phone the box top can be opened or the phone can be slipped in under the lip of the box lids.
Over on the gauge cluster, it offers large easy to view gauges and the speedometer doubles as a driver information display for alerts, features and functions such as selected modes. In Sport mode, the outer perimeter of the speedometer turns red, and for Off-Road, it changes to gold.
Upon a low 18.5-inch step in into the heated back seat that has wide opening doors for easy ingress/egress, the comfy seat can accommodate two adults with good leg and head room. A third passenger would have to be a youngster as a high transaxle hump limits leg room.
A spacious cargo area has a power liftgate and a low lift-over of 28 inches for easy loading of gear or luggage. With the back seats upright, there’s 31.4 cubic feet of space that measures 42 inches deep, 41.5 wide and 28 high. Flip the back seats by pulling a handle in the cargo area and cargo capacity expands to 56.3 cubic feet for 72 inches of loading depth. A full six feet. And there are two bins on either side of the cargo area for small item storage as the underfloor merely houses the space saver spare tire plus tools.
CX-50 gets it grunt from one of two engines. The base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder produces 187-hp and 186 lb/ft of torque. On the Premium Plus trim model we tested, it came with a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 227-hp and an impressive 310 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 23 city, 29-highway mpg. Coupled to the 6-speed auto transmission, the combination carries a tow rating of up to 3,500 pounds.
There’s certainly no want for power. At full, even half throttle, acceleration is an explosion of pent-up torque. Of course if punching the throttle hard too often, gas mileage suffers. But the extra power is nice to have when needed and there’s virtually no discernible turbo lag.
With Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system, handling is impressive. CX-50 remains planted and secure in sharp turns. The suspension nicely absorbs road imperfections and tar strips. Even on mild off-roads, the suspension maintains consistent control. The CX-50 also came with steering assist that maintains the SUV between the roadway lines. And it’s a quiet, smooth ride on Goodyear 20-inch all-season tires.
The Premium Plus model came with a very long list of standard safety features such as lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear smart brake support, blind spot prevention and more.
On the nicety side, there was rain sensing wipers, wiper de-ice, auto power folding mirrors and heated side mirrors and Mazda radar cruise control to mention a few.
For all this, the CX-50 carried a base price of $41,550 with the only extra cost option being the Polymetal Gray paint ($395) that took the bottom line with delivery to $43,170. This is about the going market price that puts the CX-50 in a crowded field of comparable SUVs and crossovers. But like other fine Mazda’s, there’s seems to be a model for almost everyone’s needs.
CX-50 comes with a 60 month/60K mile powertrain warranty, 36 month/36K mile bumper-bumper coverage plus 24-hour roadside assistance.