The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is priced from $37,900 in Canada and $26,800 in the US.
With the 2.5T, the CX-50 is an Audi, BMW, and Benz fighter.
Designers from other automakers, take note: This is styling.
Needs an Allsport version, now.
Embracing SUVs has made auto designer’s jobs easy, and very difficult the same token. They no longer have to bother coming up with new body styles, but they are however prisoners of the SUV genre. Straying too far away from it can be catastrophic but getting it right is extremely rewarding. Mazda designers got the CX-50 right.
I’ve written this out before and here goes again: Mazda is aiming to nip at the heels of premium automakers and short of replacing their logo with a three-pointed star or four rings, it’ll be up to styling to make a difference.
It’s the urban-off-road-muscle-truck
The Mazda CX-50 is quite possibly the best-looking SUV released in many years. The SUV’s design is an amalgam of rugged off-road cues blended with elegant proportions which are topped off by a powerful stance – it’s like the urban-off-road-muscle-truck.
Searching back through the SUV’s launch pictures, you’ll note that many of them feature a roof rack and platform which reminds us all of the off-the-grid comping and thus off-roading. From the rear, I can’t help but see a Renault 5 Turbo because of the size and position of the faux vents. There are plenty of other examples that demonstrate Mazda is serious about design.
The tested GT Turbo’s only visual flaw was its Polymetal grey hue. With options like Soul Red, Ingot Blue, and Zircon Sand, it could have stunned even more. Onboard, there are no flaws per se to be found. There is however one annoyance: the standard 10.25-inch infotainment display is not touch-sensitive. Mazda does this to limit distractions, but the reality is that it complicates menu navigation.
Beyond this, fit and finish are superb, and the materials are top-notch. The dashboard’s layout is austere and clean. The HVAC cluster of controls is as good-looking as it is easy (or nearly) to use. Signs of imminent future upgrades include a digital instrument panel as the current one is mostly analog. Also, some kind of infotainment display revision won’t hurt.
There is plenty of room onboard thanks to the long wheelbase though scarcely more than what is available with the CX-5. Seats are comfortable in both rows and the trunk, with 889 litres of accessible volume, is beyond decent for most typical Canadian families. If insufficient, you can always purchase roof rails and drop a box on them.
Out of the box, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is delivered with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto., a power liftgate, heated front seats and steering wheel, and a panoramic sunroof – it’s basically all there. The GT bolts on 20-inch wheels, leather, cooled front seats, Bose audio, and for a few extra grand, a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine.
Boost is good
With 227 horsepower (250 with premium) and 310 lb.-ft. (320 on premium) of torque, the CX-50 is entertaining, to say the least. Even though it weighs in at just shy of 4,000 lbs, the SUV moves with what could be described as serious gusto. It also lines up perfectly with Mazda’s premium aspirations.
I do flip-flop between wanting to say that the standard 6-speed automatic transmission is short on gears and that the gearing and the 2.5T are in perfect harmony with each other. I would specify that fuel efficiency might improve with an extra gear or two. Mazda rates the SUV at 9.4L/100km in combined driving and I averaged about 1L/100km more. The bottom line here is that the 6A is good either way.
To be perfectly honest, everything else about the CX-50 is spot on from here on it. The included latest i-Activ AWD system is extremely competent where if you get stuck, the likelihood is that you went too far. The brake pedal response is quick and comforting, which leaves steering. It’s unexpectedly heavy and will be difficult to “forget” especially if you have another vehicle – you will be surprised every time you leave the house.
Finally, the ride. The 2023 CX-50 is a Mazda which means that driving involvement and pleasure are priorities. The SUV handles superbly thanks to its dynamically-tuned chassis, AWD, and standard G-Vectoring Control Plus. Unfortunately, the dampers are short on travel or a comfort-cushion zone. They can be too reactive to road surface changes upsetting what is otherwise a refined driving experience.
A Jack of more trades
I referred to the 2021 Mazda CX-30 GT Turbo as being a Jack of all Trades but after having driven the CX-50, the latter is even more gifted. To fully exploit the CX-50’s gifts, I strongly invite Mazda to introduce an Allsport with all the rugged goodies. Just do it.
In the segment, the CX-50 tackles the Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Venza, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Cherokee, and many others. Without a doubt, the CX-50 is the looker of the lot, one of the most powerful but not the most fuel efficient. The Korean automaker and Toyota, for example, have hybrid alternatives but they are far less thrilling and only a few notches lower on the premium scale.
No matter what, on many levels, the CX-50 hits the mark in all important SUV metrics. It is an absolute winner.