Mazda’s brand-new take on the perfect-sized compact crossover.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens. There are always more photos at the end of my reviews.
Pricing: 2023 Mazda CX-50
Base price (GT Turbo trim): $42,850
Options: $2,500 turbocharged engine; $250 Polymetal Grey Metallic paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $47,650
I’ve made no bones about it – Mazda is one of my favourite car manufacturers. They consistently build great vehicles that are fun to drive, and the CX-5 has long been one of my most recommended vehicles. This is an all-new model for Mazda here, and it’s aimed at a more active, outdoor lifestyle market – but it’s perfectly happy never leaving the city or the pavement.
I have to say I absolutely love the exterior styling on the CX-50. It’s very handsome, combining a more squared-off silhouette than the CX-5. A long hood, lower roof, wide rear haunches and plenty of lower plastic cladding combine for a more aggressive, rugged appearance – without going overboard. There are (mostly) fake air intakes and vents on the front and rear fascias – although they’re basically for aesthetics, they also don’t feel excessive or silly and add a nice touch. All together, it looks powerful, refined and ready for an active lifestyle.
LED headlights and tail lights are bright and highly visible, as are the driving signature lights.
The whole package is completed with a set of stunning 20-inch rims wearing massive 245/45-sized tires.
The CX-50 got a ton of appreciative stares while parked and on the road, in particular from other Mazda drivers.
The CX-50’s modern lines continue on the inside. The styling is clean and functional and, for the most part, paired with lovely materials. There’s plenty of soft-touch stuff going on, contrasting criss-cross stitching on leather-like trim, etc. The entire centre console is hard plastic, and so is the lower dash, although that’s not unusual in this category.
The heated steering wheel is standard Mazda fare, which is to say excellent. It feels great in hand and sits in front of a hybrid gauge cluster – analog instruments flank a central 7″ digital speedometer which can display its information in numerous ways.
The leather-upholstered seats are heated, ventilated and upholstered in leather. I don’t say this very often, but I didn’t find these seats, in particular the lower cushions, to be the most comfortable thrones for me. They are well bolstered though, and offer excellent support for sportier driving.
The centre-mounted 10.25-inch screen is sharp and beautiful to look at. The interface allows for control from the rotary knob on the console or as a touchscreen – unfortunately it’s a bit too far away to be reached comfortably as a touchscreen. The 12-speaker BOSE sound system is fantastic and the wireless Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto, I assume) worked great! Mazda’s typical volume knob and some quick access buttons can be found on the console.
There’s a massive panoramic sunroof (the first one in a Mazda) with a powered sunshade overhead.
There’s a boatload of driver assistance technology. In this trim, you get a surround-view camera with front and rear parking sensors, a bright, clear heads-up display, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, Smart City braking support to avoid front and rear collisions, traffic sign recognition and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
All of it works very well and none of it is obtrusive.
The two outboard seats in the back are heated and very spacious, offering up plenty of leg and head room. I’m 5’10”, and had about 3-4 inches to spare each way. The middle position isn’t great – it’s narrow, has to straddle a large floor tunnel and any passenger there will need to contend with the centre console that protrudes well into the rear seat area’s knee space.
The back of the console houses adjustable air vents and two USB charging plugs. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with a couple of cupholders. There are two sets of ISOFIX anchors for child seats.
At the front of the console is a rubberized drop-in bin – above it is a 12V plug. Two clamshell-style half-lids swing aside to reveal a carpeted bin under the armrest, where you’ll also find two USB plugs. Hidden under the front of those clamshell lids is an angled wireless charging mat for your phone – I like this because it’s out of the way and also less likely to distract the driver there.
The trunk, which has a power liftgate, is huge at 889L – it’s very deep and has a nice load floor height. Back there you’ll find a 12V charging port as well as remote release handles for the rear seats. They fold in a 60/40 split – when they are down, the cargo space increases to 1,595L. There are sizable storage wells on each side of the trunk, but they are all hard plastic, so anything you put in there will rattle around while you’re driving.
Under the Hood
My review vehicle’s motivation came from the optional 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder. It puts out 256 HP and 320 lb.ft of torque on 93 octane fuel. Interestingly, it can run harm-free on lower octane fuel (a blessing with current fuel prices) – all that happens is the output is reduced to a still-impressive 227 HP and 310 lb.ft of torque.
The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
That plentiful power doesn’t come for free – while Mazda rates the CX-50 in this configuration at 10.4/8.1 L/100 km (city/highway), we averaged 11 L/100 km over a week and a half with it.
What can I say here? Simply put, the CX-50 drives beautifully. In terms of power, there’s no shortage of it – it has plenty of pick-up-and-go in any driving situation. Off the line or highway passing, it does it all with ease. The transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, and is even rewarding to use in manual mode, which you can do using the gear selector or the shift paddles. Even though it has less gears than virtually anything else on the market, it never feels that it’s lacking in some way.
The CX-50 provides the driver with 3 driving mode choices – Normal, Sport and Offroad.
As one expects with Mazda, the suspension is sorted to perfection. The ride is firm but very comfortable and soaks up big and small hits, road imperfections and potholes with no complaints. And the handling is excellent – there is no shortage of grip around corners, and you can throw this thing into speedy corners and it remains completely unflappable. Truly a delightful balance between comfort and sport. Even the steering is nicely weighted, and although there’s not a ton of feedback, it still feels properly sporty.
The brakes are powerful and easy to modulate around town. Visibility out of the CX-50 is excellent. Road, engine and wind noise are all exceptionally well damped, even at highway speeds. You’ll get a healthy snarl from the engine bay when you step on it, but that’s about it.
If you tow things, this configuration is rated to tow 3,500 pounds.
If you’re the outdoorsy/camping type, the CX-50 is designed to accommodate rooftop tents.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. She loved the styling inside and out, and said it drove wonderfully. She said it felt like a very high-end vehicle.
Overall, the CX-50, while not cheap, feels the part of an even-more expensive vehicle. It’s rock-solid and put together very well. It combines superb driving dynamics, a handsome and fresh design inside and out and plenty of technology, performance and utility.
I would say this vehicle probably checks off almost every box for most people shopping for a compact crossover – and, in a move that will surprise absolutely nobody who knows me or reads my reviews regularly, I heartily recommend putting the CX-50 on your shopping list. I want one!
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mazda Canada.
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