Tested: 2023 Mazda CX-50

Is the Mazda CX-50 ten times better than a CX-5?

There is no simple explanation why Mazda chose to have two similar vehicles side-by-side in the lineup wearing similar names.

Maybe the hope is that some of the CX-5’s popularity will rub off on the newcomer. Introduced in 2012, the CX-5 quickly became the company’s best-selling vehicle globally. It received a mild makeover in 2016. A second generation came along for the 2019 model year, and that got a new look for 2022.

So far this year, the CX-5 continues to be the hottest vehicle in the Mazda store.

 

The 2023 CX-50 is the first Mazda to roll off a new assembly plant in Huntsville, Alabama, shared with Toyota.

The CX-50 is an all-new entry for the 2023 model year.

 

2023 Mazda CX-50
PHOTO: MAZDA CANADA

 

It and the CX-5 share the same drivetrain – a normally-aspirated or turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel-drive. Fuel consumption figures are similar, with a slight nod going to the smaller CX-5.

Safety features, infotainment systems and a five-seat layout are all similar.

Based on a newer platform used for the CX-30, and Mazda3, the CX-50 is slightly longer and wider than the CX-5, and has more ground clearance, yet a lower roofline.

 

2023 Mazda CX-50
PHOTO: MAZDA CANADA

 

You’ll notice the difference on the outside, as the CX-50 has a slightly more rugged look with prominent fenders and a slimmer grille. There is a definite off-road image thanks to the 22-cm of ground clearance. It also offers greater towing capacity than the CX-5, and most competitors, up to 3,500 lbs.

There is room for five to fit comfortably. The front buckets offer plenty of support. Rear occupants are treated to a generous amount of space. The lower roofline means less headroom though, than the CX-5.

 

In typical Mazda fashion, the overall image is more upscale than the price would indicate.

The tester boasted a 26-centimetre infotainment screen and the latest generation of the Mazda Connect interface, controlled by a console-mounted wheel. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are connected wirelessly.

 

2023 Mazda CX-50
PHOTO: MAZDA CANADA

 

A full suite of driver-assistance features is standard, including lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

The turbocharged 2.5-litre four, standard at this trim level, produces 256-horsepower and 310 lb.ft. of torque on premium fuel. Save some money at the pumps on regular fuel and output drops to 227-horsepower and 310 lb. ft. of torque. The savings are well worth it. The minimal loss of horsepower will not be noticed. It is torque you feel in everyday driving.

Horsepower is great for marketing, but only a number derived through a calculation based on torque. Simply put, horsepower determines top speed, torque is what gets you there.

 

Mazda has a well-deserved reputation for sweating the engineering details.

The CX-5 set the benchmark for handling prowess among compact crossovers. The CX-50 raises that bar a notch. The steering, brakes, suspension, engine and transmission work in harmony. The reward is a much more involved feeling for the driver. Inputs result in a linear and instant response.

 

2023 Mazda CX-50
PHOTO: MAZDA CANADA

 

The steering is heavier and the ride a little firmer than the competition. But that is a small sacrifice to anyone who enjoys driving – as opposed to being driven. That stiffness on the bumps is more than offset when the road develops the bends.

It is also partly attributable to the very low-profile tires standard at this trim level. The 20-inch wheels are wrapped in 45-series tires. Lesser trim levels come with 17-inch wheels and 65-series tires. The shorter, stiffer sidewalls of the 20-inchers contribute to the exceptional handling, but with a slight loss of ride quality. This will be especially noticeable to owners who swap for 17-inch winter tires who will suddenly wonder why the ride is so soft and comfy.

For me, and true driving enthusiasts, it would be a ‘sacrifice’ taken willingly.

 

2023 Mazda CX-50
PHOTO: MAZDA CANADA

 

Mazda’s tradition of fun-to-drive vehicles remains intact with the CX-50.

Sure, it has a touch of off-road about it. But that comes without the usual sacrifice in on-road pleasure. Crisp handling combined with a touch of off-road ability and Mazda’s upscale interiors make the CX-50 a welcome addition to the compact crossover segment, worthy of its place alongside the CX-5.

 

FACTS & FIGURES – 2023 Mazda CX-50 GT Turbo

 

PRICE

Base: $42,850

As tested: $47,750 including freight

 

SAFETY

Smart City brake support, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise control with stop and go, automatic high beams, lane keep assist and departure warning, 360-degree and rear-view cameras, pedestrian detection, forward obstruction warning, automatic high beams

 

INFOTAINMENT

26-cm colour display with Mazda Connect, HMI Commander, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, two front seat USB ports, rear seat center armrest with 2 USB ports, 12-spealer Bose® premium audio system with SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link® services, Traffic Jam Assist, Homelink® wireless control system

 

STANDARD EQUIPMENT

20-in alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights with auto levelling, automatic power folding exterior mirrors, 26-cm color infotainment screen with Mazda Connect, HMI Commander, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging pad, two USB ports front, two USB ports rear, leather-trimmed upholstery, 10-way power driver’s seat with memory linked with exterior mirrors, six-way power passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats (outboard), heated steering wheel, front wiper de-icer, power rear liftgate, power-sliding panoramic glass moonroof, automatic dual-zone climate control, advanced keyless entry (proximity and ignition), windshield-projected Active Driving Display, 360° View Monitor, frameless rear view mirror with Homelink® wireless control system

 

SIGNIFICANT OPTIONS

Turbo engine, $2,500; Polymetal Grey Metallic paint, $250

 

MECHANICAL

Turbocharged 2.5 litre four-cylinder, 256-horsepower, 320 lb.-ft. of torque, premium fuel, 227-horsepower, 310 lb. ft. of torque, regular fuel, six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 10.4/8.1

 

DIMENSIONS

Length, 4,720 mm; wheelbase, width, 2,815-mm; weight, 1,777 kg

 

COMPETITION

Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Outback, Toyota Rav4

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