Premium Compact Crossover: Mazda CX-50

Mazda has been making a name for itself these past few years. The company, though somewhat of a niche player, has become a premium operator among mainstream brands. That’s especially evident in its most recent new model, the CX-50, a compact crossover utility vehicle. The Mazda CX-50 blends the brand’s cutting-edge design with a high-end interior and standard all-wheel drive to form an appealing, although in some grades, pricey package.

2023 Mazda CX-50 front fascia
The all-new 2023 Mazda CX-50.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Overview

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is available in a whopping 10 grade levels — S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, S Premium Plus, Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus. Prices range from $27,550 to $42,300, plus a $1,275 freight charge.

All grades come with standard all-wheel drive and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine; the latter comes turbocharged in the top three grades. Mazda supplied us with a Turbo Premium Plus model for our review.

Exterior Highlights

Mazda’s design hasn’t changed much over the past few years, but the CX-50 elevates it.

The front fascia is dominated by a gaping maw pressed in by LED lights that rises above a narrow intake. The hood seems long, suggesting that the Mazda MX-5 Miata influenced that part of the crossover. , from the profile, the CX-50 looks like it has an overbite. That doesn’t take away from the look, but it cannot be overlooked.

As for the rest of the profile, it has a more rugged expression than the CX-5. Thick wheel cladding along with rocker panel trim give this model a burly look.

2023 Mazda CX-50 profile

Our test vehicle came with blacked-out rear windows with a chrome finisher on the rear roof pillar. Fashionable, yet sporty wheels complete the presentation.

From the rear, ringed LED lighting elements, reflectors, and two exhaust ports are present. The rear serves as a nice complement to the front; with the center tying everything together.

The CX-50 comes with LED lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, and a manual liftgate. Move up through the grades and the features list expands accordingly. Tinted rear windows, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, a power liftgate, and 18- or 20-inch wheels are available.

Interior Highlights

“Upscale” does not accurately define the Mazda CX-50. Sure, it is all that, but other descriptors are warranted, including swank, elegant, or luxurious. Except for the two base grades that come with cloth or imitation leather seats, all models come with real leather seats. The fit and finish are superb; the choice materials include contrast stitching and two-tone upholstery. Soft-touch materials dominate with limited use of plastic.

Seating five, every position offers generously padded seats. Ideal for four adults, five can sit in a pinch. Legroom is quite reasonable in both rows. Headroom is good in the first row, but a bit challenging for tall passengers in the second row. Unfortunately, the rear seats don’t tilt backward or recline.

Full power accessories, air conditioning, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering column start things off for this model. An eight-way power seat with power lumbar support, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a power sliding panoramic sunroof are also offered.

The cargo area measures 31.4 cubic feet behind the second row or 56.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

2023 Mazda CX-50 front seats
2023 Mazda CX-50 front seats

Safety Features

Tech and safety go hand-in-glove. For this reason, Mazda puts forth a long list of standard driver-assist equipment.

Beyond the requisite rearview camera, the CX-50 comes with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. Automatic high-beam headlights, driver-attention alert, forward emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control complete the standard equipment roster.

Depending on the grade chosen, there are several additional features available. Adaptive headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and reverse automatic emergency braking highlight the upgrades. Other features include a surround-view parking camera system, a head-up display, traffic jam assist, and road sign recognition. We’re pleased whenever a head-up display is offered as important driving details “float” above the roof.

Technology Features

Mazda equips the 2023 CX50 with either an 8.8- or 10.25-inch center console display. Each infotainment display works with a control knob at the base of the stack along with a few buttons nearby. When Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity becomes activated, the display functions are touchscreen controlled. It’s a bit of an odd arrangement; Moreover, there are easier systems offered by nearly every competitor. On the other hand, the screen is pushed far enough into the dash to make it difficult to reach it.

Among the standard tech features are wireless Apple CarPlay and connected Android Auto. Two USB ports, Bluetooth, and a Wi-Fi hotspot are included. An 8-speaker audio system comes standard. That’s two more speakers than what most competitors offer.

Moving up through the grade range brings forth the larger display screen along with navigation. Wireless device charging, HD Radio, satellite radio, two more USB ports, and a 12-speaker audio system are other attainable features.

2023 Mazda CX-50 dashboard

Powertrain Choices

Two engine choices are available. Both are based on a 2.5-liter inline-four. Each engine works with a 6-speed automatic transmission to send power to all four wheels.

The base engine covers the first seven trims and is naturally aspirated. This one develops 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. When turbocharged, the engine packs upwards of 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque when fueled with premium-grade gasoline. Otherwise, 227 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque is on tap with regular fuel.

Mazda claims that the turbo arrangement utilizes a butterfly valve in the engine’s exhaust. As a result, it creates more pressure. Thus, the turbocharger boosts engine performance.

The standard engine makes an EPA-estimated 24/30/27 mpg city/highway/combined. The turbo is rated 23/29/25 mpg. In the towing department, this model pulls 2,000 or 3,500 pounds, respectively.

Driving Highlights

Mazda used to employ the “zoom-zoom” marketing angle to describe their cars. Although it has fallen out of favor, it still seems appropriate. Especially with the turbocharged models.

We found the upgraded engine wholly agreeable, particularly for its quick spooling turbo and low-end grunt. You don’t have to wait for the engine RPMs to climb significantly to enjoy full power. That power kicks in right around 2000 RPMs, moving this compact SUV with authority.

But speed is one matter. The CX-50 supplies solid steering or a level of connectivity much more common to performance vehicles. We enjoyed the precision, the terrific feedback, and how well it managed curves. Body roll is still evident, but that isn’t surprising.

There are no adaptive dampers nor is an air suspension offered. One or the other would elevate this model into performance territory. If Mazda chooses to take that route, we may see a model on the level of the Hyundai Kona N, a subcompact crossover with amazing performance capabilities.

Our Recommendation

the Mazda CX-50 with the standard engine will suit a significant number of shoppers fine. Moving up to the turbo is always an option, but that upgrade bundles in $10,000 more in enhancements along with it. Start your search with the S Preferred grade and this one adds a power liftgate, a power driver’s seat, and heated front seats.

2023 Mazda CX-50 rear

In summation, the Mazda CX-50 is a strong model for a highly competitive segment. It does battle with the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson, and Volkswagen Tiguan, among others. On the top end, it is fitting competition for certain luxury models, such as the Lincoln Corsair, Audi Q3, and the Acura RDX. Few mainstream models can take on luxury marques; the CX-50 does so.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Specifications

Mazda 2023 CX-50
Segment Compact SUV
Price Range $27,550 to $42,300
Destination Charge $1,275
Standard Engine 2.5-liter I4
Horsepower 187 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 186 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Optional Engine 2.5-liter, Turbo I4
Horsepower 227/256 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 310/320 lb.-ft. @ 2,000/2,500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 3,706
Wheelbase (inches) 110.8
Length (inches) 185.8
Width (inches) 75.6
Height (inches) 63.5
Headroom (f,r…inches) 39.1/38.6
Legroom (f,r…inches) 41.7, 39.8
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 55.9, 53.6
Hip room (f,r…inches) NR, NR
Cargo Storage 31/56.3
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) 4,848
Towing (pounds) 2,000/3,500
Payload (pounds) 1,142
Fuel regular or premium
Fuel Tank (gallons) 15.8
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 24/30/27 (S); 23/29/25 (Turbo)
Manufacturing Plant Huntsville, Alabama

Specifications supplied by the manufacturer. Compiled by Tom Keegan.

See AlsoMazda Rolls Out EV, Expands Crossover Lineup, and Adds an I6 Engine

Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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