2023 Mazda CX-50

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2022
The Car Connection
2022
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 6, 2022

Buying tip

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 offers the best value in middle trims, but those lack the turbo’s power.

features & specs

2.5 S AWD
2.5 S Preferred Package AWD
2.5 S Preferred Plus Package AWD
MPG
24 city / 30 hwy
MPG
24 city / 30 hwy
MPG
24 city / 30 hwy
MSRP
$26,800
MSRP
$29,500
MSRP
$31,940

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 nudges toward a more rugged future, but agility’s still a strong suit.

What kind of vehicle is the 2023 Mazda CX-50? What does it compare to?

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a compact crossover SUV that seats five passengers. Longer, wider, yet lower than the CX-5, the CX-50 hitches its off-roadable wagon to the adventure lifestyle craze proliferating through the segment with vehicles such as the Ford Bronco Sport, Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, Toyota RAV4 Adventure and many more.  

Is the 2023 Mazda CX-50 a good SUV?

Review continues below

Sharing a platform with the Mazda CX-30 but built alongside the Toyota Corolla Cross, the larger CX-50 adds a puzzling piece to Mazda’s small but strong lineup. We give it a 6.4 out of 10, with a nod for features but a question mark remaining for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2023 Mazda CX-50?

Sold in six grades of non-turbo trim from S to Premium Plus, and three with a turbo-4, the 2023 CX-50 deviates from Mazda’s traditional style of round wheel arches and a long nose with short overhangs. Squared-off black cladding over the wheels and bulging fenders merge with a more subtle roofline, but Mazda clearly has its sights on a more rugged future here. The interior looks like many other Mazda crossovers, except the black-on-black ethos can be trimmed out with tan accent stitching. A display screen crowns the low-set dash, and can be navigated with a console-based dial and buttons. The 2.5-liter engines under the hood come with or without turbocharging. The base 2.5-liter inline-4 has 187 hp, and as it is in the smaller CX-30, it’s not one to light up the scoreboard. The swole power of the 227-hp 2.5-liter turbo-4 suits it better, but comes with some low-end lag. Both engines get a 6-speed automatic that holds gears longer for more engaging feel, but that comes with a penalty in cabin noise. 

All-wheel drive comes standard as with all other Mazda crossovers, and the CX-50 uses the same front struts and rear torsion beam suspension found on most Mazda SUVs. The CX-50 differs with its more advanced traction control system to better handle off-road challenges—but it’s on pavement where it shines, with a taut ride that mind-melds with smartly tuned steering. It’s good, versus the truly hot-hatch feel of early CX-5 crossovers.

The CX-50 has well-bolstered front seats and enough rear-seat leg room for four adults to find a sweet spot for driving, riding shotgun, or snoozing in back. A fifth passenger should be slim, short, and rare. There’s somewhat less overall cargo space behind the front seats than in the CX-5, but Mazda says the CX-50’s cargo bin has a more usefully arranged space—both wider and longer, for flat-pack furniture enthusiasts and ladder-of-the-month clubbers alike.

The CX-50 has automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors and other standard driver-assist features, but no crash-test scores yet. 

How much does the 2023 Mazda CX-50 cost?

For $28,025 the base CX-50 has all-wheel drive, an 8.8-inch touchscreen (more on that below), wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and cloth upholstery. We like the $35,625 2.5S Premium for its bigger 10.3-inch display, synthetic leather upholstery, panoramic glass roof, and Bose 10-speaker audio.

Where is the 2023 Mazda CX-50 made?

In Mazda’s shared plant with Toyota in Huntsville, Alabama, alongside the Toyota Corolla Cross.

7

2023 Mazda CX-50

Styling

The fluid grace of other Mazdas gets a jolt in the CX-50.

Is the Mazda CX-50 a good-looking car?

Handsome from most angles, but awkward from the corners, the CX-50 drops the formal grace of Mazda’s old SUV lineup. The cabin? It’s familiar if not altogether friendly with its dark-on-dark color combos. We give it a 7, with a point each for the exterior and interior.

From the front, the wide front end of the CX-50 embraces the trend for bigger, deeper grilles. Thin headlights knit it all together for a cohesive look that breaks at bowed-out front fenders that look like they’re from an altogether different vehicle. The heavy fender motif repeats itself at the rear, squaring off over the rear wheels while the roofline stamps out a crisper, angular look than the more curvaceous CX-5. Mock air outlets at the rear hang like saddlebags, beneath squared-off taillights that shift this SUV out of the softly rounded past. 

Inside, Mazda drapes its usual dash shape over a horizontal bar that provides a platform for an 8.8-inch or 10.3-inch touchscreen. Pared down to a minimalist set of toggles and switches, with splinters of metallic trim across the dash and around the vents, the CX-50 cabin does more with less, except on its feature-filled steering wheel. There’s still a rotary control knob on the console, and most drivers will have to learn to live with it, since the CX-50’s touchscreen sits so far out of reach.

Review continues below
6

2023 Mazda CX-50

Performance

The CX-50’s more agile than entertaining.

Is the Mazda CX-50 4WD?

All versions come with all-wheel drive. 

How fast is the Mazda CX-50?

Two powertrains take up slots in the CX-50 lineup. Base models tap a 187-hp, 2.5-liter inline-4 that must work hard to earn its keep. We’ve driven this powertrain with all-wheel drive in the older CX-5 and it makes for a vehicle of an entirely different order—and not a higher one. The Mazda 6-speed automatic doesn’t have as many gears as its rivals, and with the added weight of all-wheel drive, the CX-50 won’t be ripping off six-second 0-60 mph runs. 

We’ve spent lots of time in the 2.5-liter turbo-4 in top trims. With its 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque (on regular gas; with 93-octane fuel, it’s 256 hp/320 lb-ft of torque), the turbo engine also is fitted with the 6-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. With some low-end turbo lag, even when flicked into a Sport drive mode, the CX-50 lags before it spools up fully; when it’s on boil it delivers most of its available torque from 2,000 rpm upward, and that leaves it better tuned for passing, particularly on highways. Around town, it’s less responsive.

In either case, the CX-50’s charm is in its steering and ride. It’s longer than the CX-5 and the petite CX-30, and doesn’t suffer the lumpy responses those crossovers can exhibit on rumpled roads. It’s an excellent interstate cruiser for that reason, with a solid steering feel that sticks to the center and tracks down the highway without the wandering, inattentive feel of some of its South Korean competitors. 

Mazda doesn’t fit the CX-50 with any adaptive dampers or air suspension, but its poise gives a second or two of pause. It’s a joy to thread through canyon passes, both composed and comfortable to flick through esses.

With new Off-road and Towing drive modes, the CX-50 can lug up to 3,500 lb (2,000 lb on the base model). The former delivers more rear-wheel torque and filters off some steering feedback for smoother trail riding. With up to 8.3 inches of ground clearance on base cars or 8.6 inches on turbo versions, the CX-50 can pull a box trailer or plot a moderately challenging course on gravelly paths with more than the usual flair.

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7

2023 Mazda CX-50

Comfort & Quality

Mazda’s newfound noise issues surface in the spacious CX-50.

Mazda once was known for its ambitious and hushed interiors, but that’s a pairing from the past. The CX-50 has great front seats, good cargo space, and in high-cost versions a lovely interior decor—but it’s noisy when pressed. It’s a 7 here.

The CX-50 shares a platform with the CX-5 and the smaller CX-30, but it’s been stretched out to make the CX-50 longer and wider than the CX-5 by a fair margin. The CX-50’s 110.8-inch wheelbase is 6.4 inches longer than the CX-30’s and 4.6 inches longer than the CX-5’s. At 185.8 inches long and 75.6 inches wide, it’s also 5.7 inches longer and 3.0 inches wider than the incumbent CX-5.

The fit and finish of the CX-50 vies for attention from anyone who’s driven a lesser rival. Mazda pays a lot of attention to the materials it stitches inside, and the CX-50 shows them off even better with the available panoramic sunroof. We haven’t sampled a cloth-interior car, but the leather-lined CX-50 has supportive and well-shaped front seats, with good adjustment and power assist on most trims. 

It’s not much larger than the still-on-sale CX-5, and so the CX-50’s back seat doesn’t strike us as substantially better. It’s big enough for two adults to stay calm for a long road trip, but a third should be slight of stature. 

Cargo room behind the back seats has increased to 31.4 cubic feet, versus the CX-5’s 29.1 cubic feet, but it’s lower with those seatbacks folded down—56.3 cubic feet, versus the CX-5’s 58.1 cubic feet. Mazda says the space is both wider and longer in the newer car, and thus more useful; we’ll let IKEA enthusiasts weigh in there. 

While the CX-50’s tactile qualities rise to the occasion, the audibles get lost in the din. Tire, road, and wind noise counter the CX-50’s upscale interior game; if Mazda’s going to break through, it needs to pair more power with less noise.

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2023 Mazda CX-50

Safety

No crash-test scores have been published.

How safe is the Mazda CX-50?

There’s no data on its crash performance yet, but the CX-50 does offer standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, automatic high beams, and active lane control. A surround-view camera system is available, as are parking sensors—which are recommended, since outward vision to the rear is a weak spot.

We’ll update this score when more information is made available.

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9

2023 Mazda CX-50

Features

The CX-50 ticks the right boxes, but skips the warranty questions.

If features were SATs, the CX-50 would be on the fast track for early admissions. It’s a 9 here, with points for standard and optional features, value, and infotainment—missing out on a single point for its middlebrow 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, which doesn’t even include a free oil change.

Mazda sells the CX-50 in nine separate trims, which is too many. The base $28,025 version gets all-wheel drive, power features, keyless start, cloth upholstery, and an 8.8-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Mazda only enables touch inputs on Android and Apple screens, though—for native functions, users must spin the knob on the console, a tedious affair at best. 

Which Mazda CX-50 should I buy?

We nominate the $35,625 2.5S Premium for the best value here. It takes the above and straps on a bigger 10.3-inch touchscreen, a power tailgate, leather upholstery, power heated front seats, a panoramic glass sunroof, 10-speaker Bose audio, and 17-inch wheels.

How much is a fully loaded Mazda CX-50?

A high-end 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus can cost $42,775, bundled with a surround-view camera system, heated rear seats, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, and steering support for blind-spot monitors.

Mazda says soon it will add a tenth Meridian model to the CX-50 family. It will add on roof crossbars, all-terrain tires, and even more rugged styling.

Review continues below
3

2023 Mazda CX-50

Fuel Economy

The CX-50 lapses in fuel economy.

Is the Mazda CX-50 good on gas?

It’s not stellar. The EPA rates it at 24 mpg city, 30 highway, 27 combined in base form. That earns a 3 here.

To compare, a base Hyundai Tucson with all-wheel drive earns 29 mpg combined; a Subaru Forester, 33 mpg.

With the turbo-4 engine, the CX-50 dips to 23/29/25 mpg. As of now, no hybrid edition has been confirmed.

Review continues below
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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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$26,800
MSRP based on 2.5 S AWD
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6.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety N/A
Features 9
Fuel Economy 3
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