When it was announced that Mazda would add a new crossover to the lineup with the CX-50 badge, many questioned if there would be parody in the lineup after the brand was very adamant in saying that the CX-5 will remain in the product line. By focusing on a new direction where Mazda plans to go upscale, the CX-50 could very well be an indicator of where this Japanese manufacturer is going, but more importantly has the potential of redefining the rugged SUV segment. Up to this point, Mazda has offered vehicles that feel more premium than competitors, yet they’ve lacked personalities that set them apart from everyone else, and it’s the CX-50’s uniqueness that has everyone excited. So here are 5 reasons why you should buy a 2023 Mazda CX-50
The Luxury Off-Roader
The 2020’s have ushered in an era in the automotive world where ruggedness and durability have become appealing characteristics for buyers, as Americans are beginning to embrace the outdoor lifestyle. To give consumers variety in this segment, we’ve see the Ford Bronco Sport, Subaru Outback, and Forester Wilderness counter the Jeep Compass and Cherokee when it comes to affordable family friendly adventure vehicles. What we haven’t seen yet is a crossover that’s both upscale and off-road worthy in this price range, until now with the 2023 Mazda CX-50. Mazda’s ambitions to become a luxury brand are quickly coming to fruition, but along the way, their first attempt at designing and crafting a rugged SUV seems to be a success. Not only does the exterior keep the cheaper plastics to a minimum, relatively speaking when compared to the Outback Wilderness, but the interior is also going to feel welcoming, even if it’s not as plush as the CX-5.
When cross-shopping with the the Ford Bronco Sport, the CX-50 may cost you a few extra grand, but that price differential goes a long way as the driving environment is more upscale. While Subaru can match what the CX-50 is offering, you’ll find that the suspension, handling, and overall performance will be more engaging by choosing Mazda, as the powertrain is very capable, and how this vehicle was engineered seems to be one step ahead of its rivals. The CX-50 we had featured was a Turbo Premium Plus, sitting at the top of the trim levels, and costing just over $43k, but we believe it’s worth it when you factor in the value this crossover is providing.
Confident Driving Dynamics
Going rugged will cost you, in one way or another, and you fully expect that ride quality and comfort will not be on par with the more traditional compact crossovers in the segment. The stiffer suspensions, lethargic accelerations, and for some vehicles, the all-terrain tires will effect the driving experience. What caught us by surprise is that the Mazda CX-50 is nothing like it’s closest rivals, and in fact shares a similar personality to all the other Mazda crossovers in the lineup, however there will be a few key differences where current CX-5 owners, may not find the CX-50 to be a worthy upgrade.
First starting off with the powertrain, our model was equipped with the 2.5L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 256 hp and 320 lb ft of torque on premium fuel, and is paired with a 6 speed automatic transmission. Accelerations were pretty linear, giving us enough confidence to get around slower drivers on the highway, and the gear shifts were quite smooth to reinforce the notion that this crossover is upscale. Where the CX-50 stands out is with it’s heavy and weighted steering, taking away some of the agility that you’ll experience with the CX-5, yet on backroads the feedback in the corners and uncanny ability to feel planted on the road even with 8.3 inches of ground clearance, really impressed us as competitors will have the body roll that were anticipating during our time with the CX-50. This is compounded by the stiffer suspension that is necessary for off-road driving, but on the pavement it felt very much at home, and dare we say that it was comfortable and forgiving to a point where we had to question whether the CX-50 really is a rugged SUV.
The Driving dynamics will ultimately go hand-in-hand with the interior, specially the seats, which were firm and stiff, yet supportive. While the CX-50 does balance an entry level luxury demeanor with off-road vehicle tendencies, it’s not a carbon copy of the CX-5 which takes it’s role as being upscale for the price far more seriously than the fun and outdoor oriented CX-50. It will boil down to your driving style and priorities when searching for a new crossover, but we found this vehicle to be engaging, adding a new twist to what Mazda has been offering for the last few years.
Eye Catching Road Presence
Mazda’s design philosophy of minimalism and sleekness has helped the brand stand out in the segments they compete in, where the aerodynamic front fascias and streamlined body lines are anything but bland. The CX-50 is the first of a handful of vehicles that Mazda will be introducing in the coming years that will help shift the direction of this manufacturer, and being under pressure to distinguish this crossover from the CX-5, the design team had to deviate a bit where the cosmetic styling cues are a leap forward. The reshaping of the front end, where the grille has been enhanced and widened, the lack of chrome accents, the integration of active side air vents and even the plastic molding come together seamlessly to give the CX-50 a subtle hint of luxury, while still making it known that this crossover is off-road worthy. Unlike it’s competitors, the esthetics aren’t over the top, nor do they scream and shout at you in any way. All the attention it does receive is positive, and that’s mostly due to Mazda sticking to it’s reserved nature. The Meridien Edition however will give you the typical rugged look that we see from the Ford Bronco Sport and Subaru Outback Wilderness, but the slight alterations won’t compromise this vehicle’s road presence.
The cladding around the wheel arches lets you know that it’s a capable crossover, so if you frequently have outdoor adventures, you’ll be more inclined to choose the CX-50 over the CX-5, and while the 20 inch wheels may effect ride quality, there will be no mistaking this vehicle for its sibling. Then as you make your way to the back, the rounder rear fascia, non active air vents, LED taillight design, and dual exhaust outlets gives the CX-50 a sporty and athletic vibe, which is a nice departure from the boxier alternatives in this segment. The sleeker roofline will take away headroom for taller passengers, but all-in-all the CX-50 is more than just your average everyday compact crossover, and for buyers in the market for a family friendly off-roader, Mazda has succeeded when it comes to the cool factor for this vehicle.
Despite being all new to the Mazda lineup, you’re greeted by an interior that’s quickly recognizable, with a similar dashboard design, button layout, center console, and technology that you’ll be interacting with on a daily basis. With this CX-50 being a turbo premium plus, we had power adjustable, heated and ventilated leather seats, for both the driver and passenger, which as mentioned earlier do provide a decent amount support and bolstering. Where the CX-50 diverges from the CX-5 is with the harder touch materials on the upper portion of the dashboard and the outskirts of the center console, but there will be contrast sticking with soft touch padding to remind us that this vehicle is still supposed to be upscale.
Technology wise, there will be a digital display between the analogue gauges that you can customize what information is being shown to you, and it’s here where each drive mode changes the color of this display which adds some interactiveness. No surprises here for the user interface as you’ll receive a 10.2 inch screen on higher trims, once again being paired with a rotary dial and quick access buttons to get you to different menus, however new for the CX-50 is that apple CarPlay can now function as a touchscreen, allowing you to select your favorite music or destinations on waze rather than frustratingly using that rotary dial.
Lastly and not receiving enough credit or notoriety is the new panoramic moonroof which helps bring in a lot of natural light but also makes the interior seem a bit larger than the CX-50.
Better Than The CX-5?
Many have questioned the mere existence of the CX-50 as on paper it appears to be a copy and paste, with the exception of the aggressive looks, yet it’s quite different than the CX-5, having it’s own personality that seems to be just enough where you can distinguish the two. Not being underpinned by the same platform as the CX-5 has a major impact on the CX-50 when it pertains to the driving experience, and to a lesser extent the interior. Sure, the soft touch materials are kept to a minimum and the dashboard layout does resemble the CX-30 it’s closely related to, however the CX-50 is a more capable crossover that can take on the elements, while at the same time still being family friendly and welcoming. The CX-5 on the other hand is the reserved and slightly more posh sibling that we feel is a great fit for buyers looking for a practical and comfortable daily driver, whereas you’ll be more inclined to get the CX-50 dirty and into trouble on a weekend adventure. As stated during the full review, this isn’t an either or equation where you can come to a conclusion and say that one vehicle is better than the other, and instead the CX-5 and CX-50 compliment each other very well, having characteristics and personalities that appeal to two completely different consumers.