All-New CX-50 Is a CX-5 With a (Slightly) More Rugged Edge
- Trim Tested: CX-50 2.5 Turbo w/ Premium Plus Package
- Price as Tested: $43,170 (including destination charge)
- What We Like: Premium cabin; light on its feet
- What We Don’t: Turbo Premium Plus is $15K extra; prefers premium gas
The CX-50 is Mazda’s newest SUV, and it joins the lineup as a more rugged-looking alternative to the CX-5, which Mazda will continue to sell alongside it.
Despite their similar sizes and prices, there are key differences between the CX-50 and CX-5. For one, the CX-50 is more rugged: It has a higher ground clearance and blockier styling inside and out, exemplified by the black plastic panels on the exterior.
The CX-50 is also built in the U.S. – it’s one of the first Mazdas from the new Huntsville, Ala. plant, part of a joint venture with Toyota. The CX-5 is built in Japan.
How It Drives
We were worried that the more-rugged design might hurt the CX-50’s handling on pavement (the CX-5 is one of the most agile mainstream SUVs available), but the CX-50 felt as light on its feet as we hoped.
We tested the CX-50 in the range-topping Premium Plus trim with the upgraded turbocharged engine. The 2.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder makes 40 more horsepower than the naturally aspirated (non-turbo) base engine – it makes 69 more horsepower running on premium gas.
The turbo engine doesn’t feel particularly lively. Power builds gradually on the highway or charging up an entrance ramp. However, it is faster and smoother than the base engine. The 6-speed automatic transmission helps the CX-50 feel more responsive than rivals, most of whom use continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs).
Interior Comfort & Quality
The CX-50’s off-road orientation made us worry that Mazda had taken a utilitarian approach with the cabin design. After all, Mazda’s cabins are usually among the nicest in the non-luxury market, and that could clash with a tough, outdoorsy image. We needn’t have worried. The CX-50’s interior is premium – a cut above its competitors. Sure, it’s more squared-off and blocky than the svelte CX-5, but it still feels upscale.
Space was adequate in front and in back. It can’t beat the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 for sheer roominess, but four adults should be comfortable. The front seat in our Premium Plus model was 8-way power-adjustable with lumbar adjustment, 2-position memory, heating, and cooling. The steering wheel is also heated, as are the rear seats. Add in the standard all-wheel drive (AWD), and the CX-50 makes an excellent winter driving companion.
Technology & Usability
The tech in the CX-50’s cabin is built around the widescreen perched atop the dashboard (it’s a 10.3-inch screen in all models except for the base, where it’s 8.8 inches). The Mazda Connect operating system that drives the screen is easy to use, though it does bury some functions underneath menus. You can operate Mazda Connect with a large wheel on the center console. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, standard in all trims, make the infotainment system more intuitive.
Advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS), such as automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control, are also standard in every trim, a welcome win for safety.
Read our full 2023 Mazda CX-50 review for more specs and information about the entire CX-50 lineup. Carfax vehicle reviews let shoppers compare a vehicle’s specs against its competitors. However, some aspects of a vehicle – performance, comfort, usability – can only be evaluated through actual driving. That’s why we evaluate as many vehicles as we can, so you’ll know what to expect.
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