What do our experts think of the 2023 Mazda CX-50? We look at powertrain, interior options, trim levels, and more. Find out our thoughts here.
From the ground up this is an entirely new vehicle for Mazda. Aside from some components like the drivetrain and some interior pieces, every aspect of this vehicle is totally new.
2023 Mazda CX-50 – mazdausa.com | Shop 2023 Mazda CX-50 on Carsforsale.com
Excellent off-road capability
Great on-road handling
Average warranty coverage
Looking forward to a hybrid
Across all nine trims of the CX-50 lineup, every one of them has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood. What makes the top three trims different is the addition of a turbocharger to increase power. The base motor makes just 187-horsepower and as much torque. While we have yet to drive that version, we feel that it won’t be anywhere near as engaging as the turbo version.
With that Turbo, the CX-50 makes 256-horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. In our testing, it wasn’t groundbreakingly fast but it was fun. Power is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic regardless of which engine one has. Overall, driving dynamics are a real highlight for the CX-50. It carves corners quite well considering that it’s a mid-sized family crossover that starts at under $30,000.
What makes it most special though is its combination of off-road and towing capabilities. In many ways, it’s sort of an off-road-focused CX-5. Thanks to a lot of clever engineering on the software and sometimes hardware level, the CX-50 can tackle serious off-road obstacles. Steep hills or undulating trails are no big deal as the vehicle can brake specific wheels that are slipping to allow for better power delivery to those with grip. It’s a proper rival for the Subaru Forester or Outback.
In addition, it prioritizes forward motion over limiting wheel slip so if you’re slowly but surely working your way out of a rut or another somewhat slippery situation, the car’s computer won’t shut you down because it’s detecting wheel slip. Instead, it will allow for that wheel slip because it recognizes that you’re making progress. Many other brands don’t approach the problem that way.
Non-turbo CX-50 owners will have the ability to tow up to 2,000-pounds. That’s not bad for the competition it’s up against and it makes it more impressive that the turbo model can pull 3,500-pounds.
One major concern for the CX-50 is the lack of a hybrid drivetrain. Thankfully, Mazda says that it’s coming. Until then, CX-50 buyers will need to be content with an EPA estimated 24 MPG in the city and 30 on the highway. Those who choose the Turbo model will see each of those figures drop by one.
The interior of the CX-50 is a mixed bag of mostly good or even great features. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first though. The front seats aren’t very comfortable. Despite having a number of adjustments we just couldn’t find a way to feel like we fit properly. In addition, the wireless charging pad was very touchy and often wouldn’t work unless we were incredibly precise with phone placement. Finally, the materials might not end up looking and feeling stellar in the future but that’s where things change over to the good section of this interior review.
For now, the interior of the Mazda looks and feels like it should be priced considerably higher than it actually is. If it can stand the test of time it’ll end up being one of the best buys in this segment. From the way the dash and door panels are laid out to the way that the actual controls feel to use them, the CX-50 is a cut above the rest. Cargo space is another area where we think the CX-50 excels. Its rear cargo space is wide and deep and can expand to more than 55 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. That’s the kind of space you’ll never get in a compact crossover.
For the first time, Mazda has put a touchscreen infotainment system in one of its cars. Sadly, it can only be used as such while the car is employing either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. We think that choice is a bit silly but hey, progress is progress. In fact, we sort of get Mazda’s argument that by forcing the use of its physical controls that it keeps more eyes on the road.
The system itself is indeed one of the easiest to use in practice. It’s easy to memorize which buttons do what and the system itself responds to inputs quickly and accurately. The base infotainment system measures in at 8.8-inches while every other trim gets a larger 10.25-inch unit. Our test vehicle also had an optional 12-speaker infotainment system which was excellent. Most CX-50s will come with an eight-speaker unit.
Every CX-50 gets adaptive cruise control (which works spectacularly well), lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and forward collision mitigation.
The Base trim of the CX-50 is basically the only one that we’d suggest avoiding but even then it’s got some great features. It has a 7-inch driver information display, an 8.8-inch infotainment system, 17-inch wheels with a gray metallic finish, rain-sensing wipers, push-button start, cloth upholstery, and two USB ports.
The Select trim automatically adds a bunch of features. It gets two more USB ports, 17-inch wheels with a black finish, a 10.25-inch infotainment system, a mix of cloth as well as leatherette upholstery, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and tinted rear windows.
The Preferred trim adds heated side mirrors, center-mounted armrests both front and rear, a power liftgate, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats.
The Preferred Plus trim is a bit odd because all it adds is a panoramic sunroof.
The Premium trims adds a driver-seat memory function, a power-adjustable passenger seat, leather upholstery, a 12-speaker premium sound system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a shark fin antenna.
Upgrade to the Premium Plus and you’ll get 20-inch wheels, power-folding side mirrors, ventilated front seats, and a heads-up driving display.
Step up to the Turbo trim and you’ll get 20-inch wheels, special LED tail lights, adaptive LED headlights, leather upholstery, and eight speakers.
The Turbo Premium adds the heads-up display, the 12-speaker sound system, a heated steering wheel, power-folding side mirrors, and a shark fin antenna.
At the top of the range, the Turbo Premium Plus gets a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, an upgraded version of the heads-up display with traffic sign recognition, heated rear seats, integrated navigation, a wireless device charger, and parking sensors.
As of this writing, neither the IIHS nor NHTSA has commented on the safety scores of the CX-50. Despite that, we expect the crossover to do quite well considering its family history and excellent advanced safety technology.
2023 Mazda CX-50 – mazdausa.com | Shop 2023 Mazda CX-50 on Carsforsale.com
It’s hard to think of another crossover in this space at this pricing level that can do all that the 2023 Mazda CX-50 can. It’s comfortable on-road and off while offering excellent interior quality and technology. It’s also full of safety features and advanced driver assistance tech. That’s a killer combination of value and if Mazda ever manages to offer an above-average warranty we might consider this one of the very best SUVs on the market. Even without better coverage, the CX-50 is worthy of consideration for anyone in the market for a crossover of its size in its price range.