Excellent new Mazda CX-50 makes strong case for class leader

By Jim Prueter

(July 29, 2022) The CX-50 tested here is an all-new model for the 2023 Mazda brand in the hotly contested and crowded compact crossover utility vehicle segment. Competitors include such rivals as the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue and others. The CX-50 is based on same platform as the smaller subcompact CX-30 and Mazda3. It’s also longer and wider than the CX-5 with more ground clearance yet a lower roof height and profile.

The CX-50 is being offered in six trim levels all powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 187-horsepower four cylinder:  S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium and S Premium Plus. Three additional trim levels – 2.5 Turbo, 2.5 Turbo Premium and our CX-50 tested here, the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plu

At first look, the CX-50 could be mistake
s, have a more powerful 256-horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

n as a CX-5 with plastic body cladding and meatier tires, but it’s much more than that including standard all-wheel drive and a wider stance. It’s a generous five-seater with long cargo room behind the rear seats.

The interior is especially attractive finished in a great looking perforated Terracotta colored leather upholstery with black leather trim and hand stitching accents along with piping on the seats, dash and door trim. The color goes especially well with the $395 optional Polymetal Gray Metallic exterior color that to my eye suggests a gun metal blue.

Seat comfort is some of the best we’ve sat in for quite some time. The leather is supple yet firm and one sits “in” the seat rather than on the seat. The power adjustable lumbar support is well positioned, and seat comfort doesn’t fade over longer drives. Rear seats are similar to the front, nicely shaped, supportive with generous foot, knee and legroom.

The overall artfully crafted interior speaks premium materials with the dash, instrument panel, upper door panels and center console cover all trimmed in soft, thick padded leather and again more Terracotta cross stitching. Switchgear is for window, steering-wheel control buttons, climate control switches and vehicle operation buttons and switches on the center console are tactile with a nice upscale perceptible touch. One of our favorite features is the feel of the steering wheel that felt sculpted to the hands not just a thick round orb trimmed in leather.

Still, not is all perfect in the cabin. While the physical knobs and buttons work well, we were unimpressed with the CX-50’s infotainment system with its clumsy process to operate through the console mounted dial controller. There are far too many steps to navigate through the menu structure and too many levels and screen layers to toggle through. Changing radio stations is a multistep process and options always default and reset to the top of the list.

Climate control buttons mounted mid-dash work just fine except for icons that are too small to read and do not illuminate to indicate if they are on or off. And while the console’s glossy piano black trim and chrome bits look impressive it’s impossible to keep clean accumulating fingerprints, dust and watermarks from drinks whose cupholders are placed far to forward on the console and part way under the dash.

Taller bottles and drink mugs won’t fit and will need to be placed in door pocket cupholders. Lastly, most annoying is the hard plastic center console that’s too wide robbing side to side legroom that cuts into the driver’s right leg. That alone could render the CX-50 a deal breaker especially for drivers with long legs.

Our Premium Plus tester is equipped with a 10.3-inch touchscreen mounted atop the dash and runs the latest version of the Mazda Connect interface that’s operated via a click wheel mounted on the center console. A 12-speaker Bose stereo with SiriusXM satellite radio and a wireless phone charger are standard on our Premium Plus. All trim levels come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both with wireless connectivity.

On the road we found the larger 256-horsepower engine delivered ample power with good acceleration pulling away from stops and with sufficient power when passing other vehicles. We found the transmission shifted smoothly and quickly.

The cabin is quiet at all speeds, but the ride might be too firm for some. We suspect the 20-inch wheels and 45-aspect-ratio tires were the culprit. Most road imperfections such as pavement expansion joints, potholes and large road imperfections noticeably strike through to the cabin. The overall ride felt bumpy, not jarring just bumpy. We did not get an opportunity to test the CX-50 for its off-road capabilities therefore unable to comment in that regard.

The vehicle’s safety and driver assistance systems come standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, lane departure warning, lake keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control. Rear automatic braking is optional, and lane centering assistance isn’t available.

Overall, the all-new 2023 Mazda CX-50 offers a compact crossover utility vehicle with an interior that rivals those found in some luxury SUVs. It’s elegantly premium and upscale with excellent fit and finish not found in rivals in the compact crossover in its class. Its seats are among the best in the business regardless of class. There’s plenty of standard tech and driver safety assist features. We thoroughly enjoyed the way it drove but some may find it isn’t the smoothest-riding crossover in the class and front legroom limited and restricted. We also found the CX-50 to be superior in most every way from its excellent sibling the CX-5. Mazda says a hybrid variant will be offered later this year.

If you’re looking for a vehicle with an abundance of class, safety features and performance we  strongly recommend you test drive the all-new for 2023 Mazda CX-50 when shopping. We place it at or very near the top of the compact SUV class.

Vital Stats
2023 Mazda CX-50 2.5-Turbo Premium Plus
Base Price: $41,550
Price as Tested: 43,170
Engine/Transmission: 2.5-liter turbocharged 256-horsepower four cylinder paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 23/29/25 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Rating: The Mazda CX-50 has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Where Built: Huntsville, Alabama

Competes With:
Ford Escape
GMC Terrain
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Cherokee
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Rogue
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Near luxury interior
Sporty performance and ride
Lots of standard tech and safety features

Cramped driver’s seat
Fussy-complicated infotainment controls
Ride may be too firm for some