December 5, 2021

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2023 Mazda CX-50 preview

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What kind of vehicle is the 2023 Mazda CX-50? What does it compare to?

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a compact crossover SUV that seats five passengers. Longer, wider, yet lower than the CX-5, the CX-50 hitches its off-road wagon to the adventure lifestyle craze proliferating through the segment with vehicles such as the Ford Bronco Sport, Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, Toyota RAV4 Adventure and many more.  

Is the 2023 Mazda CX-50 a good SUV?

Review continues below

Sharing a platform with the Mazda CX-30 but built alongside the Toyota Corolla Cross, the larger CX-50 adds a puzzling piece to Mazda’s small but strong lineup. We’re curious how it fits, but won’t pass judgment until we drive it next spring. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2023 Mazda CX-50?

The new model brings a lot of familiar parts to the table, and seems to follow a similar strategy as when Mazda launched the CX-30 that eventually replaced the smaller CX-3 last year. Mazda says otherwise about its bestseller; the smaller, upscale CX-5 will not be replaced by the CX-50. Yet, we’d add.  

The CX-50 deviates from Mazda’s traditional style of round wheel arches and a long nose with short overhangs into a design inspired as much by the outdoors, in Mazda’s eyes, as the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Crosstrek, by our eyes. Squared-off black cladding over the wheels and bulging fenders draw parallels to those vehicles, but the front and rear retain a more Mazda look. The wing grille extends its tips under the headlights, and below them, vertical air intakes add a broad element. The bumpers appear to ride higher with fake skid plates slapped on the ends. 

The interior looks like many other Mazda crossovers, except the black-on-black ethos can be trimmed out with tan accent stitching. A display screen crowns the low-set dash, and can be navigated with a console-based dial and buttons. Mazda did not disclose any dimensional specs, but it appears to be the same far-off 8.8-inch display as in the CX-30. New to the inside is a panoramic sunroof, which Mazda claims to be a first. 

The 2.5-liter engines under the hood are definitely not a first. The base engine will be a 2.5-liter inline-4 that’s tuned to 186 hp on the CX-30, or a 2.5-liter turbo-4 that makes up to 250 hp and 320 lb-ft (with 93 octane) on that lighter vehicle. Either engine gets a 6-speed automatic that holds gears longer than in other new cars; it can stay in the power band more often but cabin noise comes with it. 

All-wheel drive comes standard as with all other Mazda crossovers, and the CX-50 uses the same front struts and rear torsion beam suspension found on most Mazda SUVs. The CX-50 differs with its more advanced traction control system to better handle off-road challenges. 

A drive-mode toggle in the console offers four modes, including Sport, Towing, and Off-Road, that uses torque vectoring to shift torque from the rear axle at a stop to the front wheels as speed picks up. The connection between the two axles helps prevent oversteer or sliding around on a gravel or dirt road for a balance more consistent with what the driver would experience on pavement, Mazda says. When one wheel starts to slip, the braking system will seize that wheel and the one diagonally opposite, so torque gets directed to the wheels with the most grip. There’s no hill descent control, but when climbing a hill the braking system grabs the wheels to prevent rollback, and engine idle speed increases so there’s more available torque to climb once the driver hits the gas.  

The CX-50 sits wider and has a higher ground clearance than the CX-5 or CX-30. All-season tires come standard, but all-terrains and many other off-road accessories will be offered from the factory. A lower roof height and rear doors that open wider as in the Toyota Corolla Cross simplify strapping gear to the available roof rack, Mazda says. Rear leg room should be about the same as the 39.6 inches of the CX-5, but it will be slightly wider for more hip and shoulder room. Mazda says the cargo space is optimized to support outdoor activities, but it remains to be seen how it compares to the 30.9 cubic feet in the CX-5. 

Mazda was mum on the standard features, but expect it to come with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors and other standard driver-assist features that make the brand’s vehicles perennial Top Safety Picks from the IIHS and helps them garner five-star ratings from the NHTSA. 

How much does the 2023 Mazda CX-50 cost?

Pricing and feature availability will be disclosed in the spring. 

Where is the 2023 Mazda CX-50 made?

In Mazda’s shared plant with Toyota in Huntsville, Alabama, alongside the Toyota Corolla Cross.

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