Mazda’s latest addition to its small but robust lineup is the 2023 CX-50, a compact crossover SUV that accommodates five passengers. Unlike its predecessor, the CX-5, the CX-50 is longer, wider, and lower, reflecting the adventure lifestyle trend that has taken over the segment.
With an attractive appearance from most viewpoints, although somewhat clumsy from some angles, the CX-50 departs from Mazda’s previous SUV lineup’s formal elegance. The cabin is recognizable, but the dark-on-dark color combinations might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
In Polymetal Gray Metallic exterior paint with black and brown interior, our test car exudes a cohesive look with a wide front end, deep grille, and thin headlights. However, the bowed-out front fenders and heavy fender motif at the rear make it seem like it’s from an altogether different vehicle. The CX-50’s roofline has a crisper, angular look than the CX-5, with squared-off taillights and mock air outlets at the rear.
Mazda has designed the CX-50 with its signature dash shape that includes a horizontal bar serving as a base for the 10.25-inch color center display. The luxurious top trims feature rich leather and cross stitching that add an extra touch of refinement to the cabin. The minimalist set of toggles and switches, complemented by metallic trim accents, create an uncluttered look in the cabin; however, the CX-50’s feature-packed steering wheel includes a rotary control knob, while the touchscreen remains inconveniently distant for most drivers.
Equipped with a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, the CX-50 we tested delivers different power outputs depending on the fuel octane used. Running on regular 87, it generates 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, while using 93-octane fuel increases the output to 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque.
The standard all-wheel-drive system in the CX-50 receives its power via a six-speed automatic. If you’ve driven a turbocharged CX-5 before, the engine will feel familiar, offering great mid-range punch sandwiched between laggy off-the-line character and peaky performance near the 6,300-rpm redline. The six-speed automatic is smooth and predictable once moving, but like the engine, it feels lethargic when rolling off the line.
Mazda has always been known for their impressive handling, and the CX-50 is certainly no exception. Its steering is particularly noteworthy, with a thin rim and small diameter, along with a tight dead zone that contributes to quick reflexes and makes the CX-50 the most entertaining vehicle in its class to drive. The suspension is firmer than usual, allowing for more aggressive driving compared to its competitors.
Priced at an MSRP of $41,550, the 2023 CX-50 2.5 Turbo with the Premium Plus Package AWD only has a $395 optional add-on for paint, bringing the total cost to $43,170.
Mazda’s latest crossover, the CX-50, has a larger size compared to the CX-5, targeting the current trend of adventure-oriented off-road upgrades in the compact crossover segment. Although it lacks electrified powertrain options for a few years, the CX-50 still holds a slight advantage over some of its competitors.
For the RAV4, Toyota offers Adventure and TRD Off-Road grades that meet the same needs as the CX-50. As one of the top contenders in the segment, the RAV4 has a slight advantage over the CX-50 and other competitors.
In contrast, Honda’s CR-V continues to lead the segment with its electrified powertrain options, leaving a significant gap between it and the CX-50 and RAV4.
Based on its Escape foundation, the Ford Bronco Sport is smaller and features a more boxy design than the CX-50. Although it presents two engine options and various all-wheel-drive modes, it fails to match the CX-50 and RAV4 in several aspects.
In general, although some competitors excel in specific areas, the CX-50 and RAV4 stand out in the compact crossover segment due to their off-road capabilities, size, and overall performance, giving them a slight advantage over their rivals.