Mazda’s 2023 CX-50 might seem a bit like the CX-5 but there are some notable differences. Namely, the CX-50 looks more rugged is lower, wider, and longer, and has a higher towing capacity. The front grill is a bit slimmer than the CX-5, and the black plastic trim above the wheels helps give this vehicle a more sturdy appearance. Its standard 18-inch wheels, however, 22-inch wheels are an option. Moving to the back, you’ll find LED taillights, a rear wiper, and dual exhaust tips to help enshrine a sporty look.
Under the hood, there’s a SkyActiv 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 227 horsepower with a generous 310 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel that feeds the power to all four wheels. Look for 0-60 times around 7.2 seconds. The EPA rates this car at 25 miles per gallon combined city/highway. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.
Sitting inside the CX-50, you’ll be rewarded with good visibility, thanks to the around-view and rear-view cameras. Additionally, when put into reverse, the side mirrors tilt downwards. Even though the seats sit a bit low, they do sit upright well and offer a good deal of comfort. Those in the rear seats have ample legroom for adults and a fold-down armrest with integrated cup holders. Rear passengers also have their own charging ports, front seat rear pockets, two USB-C charging ports, and optional 3-stage heated seats. Plenty of shoulder space for two adults back there.
Mazda’s Infotainment system uses a 10.3-inch screen. Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto are standard and do provide some touch-screen functions in those modes. If you’re not in those modes, there are no touch-screen features. To control the system, Mazda forces you to use its center-console-mounted dial. Even though it’s a bit cumbersome to use, it’s not too bad, once you get more acclimated to it.
It’s Bose audio system does a decently good job of audio reproduction, however, there are better-sounding systems in some of Mazda’s competitors.
Three drive modes are available and those are, Normal, Sport, and Off-Road. There’s actually quite a noticeable difference in Sport mode as it changes the shift points and engine performance.
As far as driver aids go, there is adaptive cruise control, auto-stop, blind spot monitoring, a heads-up display on the windshield, reverse auto braking as well as parking assist.
On the road, the CX-50 has more than enough power for passing and getting out of its own way. Its steering is a bit firm, even if a bit too weighted for many. However, we appreciate that as it helps give it a more in-command tactical feel to the driver. The braking is solid if not a bit heavy.
Overall ride is good going down the highway, however, you will definitely feel the bumps in the road because of its more rugged suspension than the CX-5.
The CX-50 is really aimed at folks who want to do a bit more off-road living, and a bit more adventurous, whereas the CX-5, is more of a pavement princess. When it comes to cargo space, you have 31.4 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats up. Put them down and that expands to 56.3 cubic feet. More than plenty for those larger Costco shopping trips or camping gear.
Even though pricing for the CX-50 starts at $26,800, you’ll find it climbs quickly to that of our test vehicle to $43,170. Mazda backs the CX-50 with a standard 3-year / 36,000-mile warranty that covers the whole car and a 5-year / 60,000-mile warranty on the powertrain.
Overall, we liked the CX-50 for its cargo space, its more rugged abilities, and its standard all-wheel drive. There are also some potential negatives as well. Such as the heavy steering and extra firmness that translates into a more bumpy ride on certain roads. We’re also not a fan of the outdated infotainment system.