2023 Mazda CX-50

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$27,550

starting MSRP

2023 Mazda CX-50
2023 Mazda CX-50

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Roomy cargo area
  • Steering feel
  • Touchscreen functionality for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Available turbocharged engine can use regular gas
  • Aggressive styling

The bad:

  • Harsh ride with 20-inch wheels
  • Poor user interface
  • Touchscreen hard to reach
  • Harsh engine sound (turbo engine)
  • Off-road ability without Meridian package
  • Premium gas required for max performance (turbo engine)

9 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2023 Mazda CX-50 trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • New model in Mazda lineup
  • Compact SUV
  • Choice of naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Standard Off-Road drive mode, available Towing mode
  • Meridian package adds 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires

2023 Mazda CX-50 review: Our expert's take

By Brian Normile

The verdict: The all-new Mazda CX-50 is a competent — if uninspiring — compact SUV that does most things well, but it doesn’t do much to push Mazda’s lineup in a new direction.

Versus the competition: Given how closely matched the compact SUVs in our latest comparison test were, it would be nice if the CX-50 did more to differentiate itself from its competition — or even its CX-5 stablemate.

When Mazda unveiled the 2023 CX-50 in November 2021, it was clearly jumping aboard the off-road-vehicle bandwagon that became increasingly prevalent in the market as the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on and people sought any excuse to get out of the house. Off-road vehicles and trims are apparently the new blacked-out appearance packages.

Related: 2023 Mazda CX-50 Vs. 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness: Who Off-Roads Better?

The CX-50 has standard all-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of two 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines: a naturally aspirated version with 187 horsepower and 186 pounds-feet of torque or a turbocharged version making either 256 or 227 hp and 320 or 310 pounds-feet of torque depending on whether or not it’s running on premium gas.

We drove a range-topping Premium Plus CX-50 with the 2.5-liter turbo both off- and on-road to see if it could stand out in its extremely crowded and competitive segment. Unfortunately, the CX-50 doesn’t really stand out even in Mazda’s own lineup, where it’s in direct competition with the CX-5 (for now, anyway).

Driving the CX-50

Despite using a different platform, the CX-50 drives a lot like its CX-5 sibling. One thing usually present in Mazda vehicles is communicative steering, and that’s still the case in the CX-50. Unfortunately, it lacks other on-road capabilities that could take full advantage of that: The ride is brittle, and impacts were harsh with the 20-inch wheels that come standard with the 2.5 turbo engine. Aggressive cornering produces body roll and some understeer, though not any more than you’ll find in pretty much any SUV in this segment. Most competitors, however, also have steering that feels much more numb.

For more detailed off-road impressions, you can read my extended thoughts here. Without driving a CX-50 equipped with the Meridian treatment, which includes more serious all-terrain tires, it’s hard to gauge just how capable the CX-50 could be. We can speak to its performance with street tires and 20-inch wheels, though, and with that setup, the CX-50 successfully navigated a light off-road course, but it never felt happy doing so. The CX-50 is meant to be the vehicle that gets you and your gear to the trailhead, not one that goes down the trail, but in most of those instances, you’d be just as successful getting there in a Camry. The CX-50 is not meant for serious or frequent off-roading, so if you’re looking for something like that, look elsewhere.

It’s possible the Meridian Edition, with its smaller wheels and beefier off-road tires, might feel both more capable off-road and cushier on pavement, but it’s probably not going to supplant some of the more capable soft-roaders in its segment, like the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands, the Subaru Forester Wilderness or any of the multiple Toyota RAV4 TRD models.

The CX-50’s fuel economy is decent, at least, and there’s not much of a penalty for getting the more powerful turbo engine. The naturally aspirated 2.5 is rated 24/30/27 mpg city/highway/combined, and switching to the turbocharged powerplant drops those ratings only slightly to 23/29/25 mpg. Of course, to get the most horsepower and torque out of the turbo 2.5-liter — 256 hp and 320 pounds-feet — Mazda recommends using premium gas. That’s of course more expensive than regular, and the 2.5 turbo doesn’t provide overwhelming power on it; it’s unlikely that owners will miss the extra 29 hp or 10 pounds-feet of torque if they opt for regular. The turbo engine provides adequate power when called upon, but it can sound strained and unrefined under heavier loads.

The CX-50 also adds two new drive modes: Off-Road and a turbo-exclusive Towing. Off-Road helps a bit when the going gets tough, but there’s no additional configurability beyond “Off-Road” to help with specific types of terrain. Towing mode is exclusive to turbo-powered CX-50s, which can tow 3,500 pounds versus the 2,000 pounds the non-turbo CX-50 can pull. The other driving mode worth mentioning is Sport, but that’s just to note that it doesn’t do much to change the character of the CX-50.

Comfortable, Frustrating Interior

The front and rear seats of the CX-50 don’t feel much roomier — or really much different at all — from a CX-5. The CX-50’s more aggressive roofline and Mazda’s first power-sliding panoramic moonroof cut into headroom a bit, but there’s not an uncomfortable seat in the car. The CX-50’s cargo area is also impressively roomy, if basic, with two small cubbies for smaller items. (They were, for instance, a great place to put some precious six-packs of Wisconsin-exclusive New Glarus beer when driving home to Illinois.) We measured the CX-50’s cargo volume at 18.13 cubic feet — nearly identical to the 2021 CX-5 we measured at 17.91.

What’s problematic is Mazda’s infotainment system. The larger 10.25-inch display in our test vehicle (an 8.8-inch screen is standard) is technically a touchscreen, but it doesn’t function as such in most situations. Touch control only works when the vehicle is not in motion; when the car is driving, a knob controller is the only way to navigate the display and make selections. At least, that was the case before Mazda gave touchscreen functionality back when using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s a smart decision given how much easier it is to use a smartphone-mirroring interface like you use a smartphone. Both those interfaces work wirelessly, though I noticed some slight lagginess in wireless CarPlay when quickly cycling through songs.

While bringing back touchscreen capability is nice, the screen itself is positioned so high and deep on the dashboard that even longer-armed drivers and front passengers may have trouble reaching it. I alternated between using the touchscreen and the frustrating knob depending on the situation and how comfortable I felt leaning forward.

If you’re not using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the rest of the user interface looks dated and can be confusing. It feels like Mazda is mimicking early iterations of BMW’s iDrive before the Bavarians worked out all the kinks.

Some of the CX-50’s competitors have their own quirks and foibles when it comes to this stuff, but for an all-new vehicle like the CX-50 to have the same old tech that’s frustrated us in other Mazdas is disappointing.

Mazda aims to be seen as a more premium automaker than, say, Toyota or Honda, and the CX-50 is trying to live up to that goal. Its interior materials are a step above competitors’, and build quality is top-notch. Physical controls have a solid feel, and an available head-up display is a premium touch. Compared with an Acura RDX, the CX-50 may not come out ahead, but compared with a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, it is likely to impress.

Safety

The CX-50 has a number of standard active safety features, including Mazda’s low-speed City Brake Support automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, as well as lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. I didn’t find these features overly intrusive or unhelpful during my time in the CX-50, which isn’t always the case. The optional head-up display was nice, if very basic in its functionality.

As of this writing, the CX-50 has not yet been evaluated by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In our own Car Seat Check, the CX-50 earned mostly Bs and one A grade.

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Related Video:

Should You Buy a CX-50?

Looks are subjective, but to me the CX-50 distinguishes itself with its exterior styling. Compared with the CX-5 and the segment as a whole, the CX-50 is much more aggressive-looking, with boxy flared fenders and a large grille that give it a somewhat undeserved air of sportiness. But if appearance matters to you, the CX-50 is perhaps the handsomest of the bunch, and that alone may make it worth a purchase.

Pricing for the CX-50 starts at just under $29,000, but our loaded test vehicle rang in at over $43,000 — not a small chunk of change, and certainly in the more premium realm of compact SUVs. The Meridian Edition, the most off-road capable CX-50, is a $2,800 premium over a base turbo-equipped model, at $41,225 (including destination).

Many compact SUVs ask buyers to make do with no bigger engine to opt for or to turn to hybrid powertrains for increased performance. In that regard, the CX-50 and its optional turbo engine are a pleasant alternative. With its upmarket features and interior appointments, the CX-50 is a strong choice in a crowded field. So, however, is the CX-5.

The CX-50 doesn’t do a lot of things wrong, but other than its looks, it also doesn’t stand out from its CX-5 sibling — and if you’re looking for an off-road-friendly vehicle, there are better choices.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Brian Normile
Road Test Editor Brian Normile is a reviewer, dog owner and Liverpool FC fan. His first car was a 1997 Toyota 4Runner. Email Brian Normile

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 3.6
  • Interior design 3.9
  • Performance 4.0
  • Value for the money 3.9
  • Exterior styling 4.6
  • Reliability 4.2

Most recent consumer reviews

2.1

Bad Purchase one to avoid

My family owned a cx-50 for exactly four months before trading it in. Why? Many reasons. Extremely uncomforatable small seats that have a stripe down the middle that constantly jabs into your butt like a butter knife. The main infotainment screen is a complete joke. Alblum art from siriusxm or apple car play is 1inch by 1inch. The information lines read like 1980's dos computer. You can not split the infotainment screen into two or three sections of information (like widgets) The rear windows only role halfway down. Keyless access only works on the drivers door. Its a six speed automatic vs 8 speed or 10 speed like most others make these day. Torrsion beam rear axel instead of indepedent wish bone so you feel every bump and its loud. Tiny Tiny windows. Buyer beware Mazda cx-50 was a bad purchase.

4.3

Great SUV for some people...

I purchased the Preferred Plus trim and overall I am happy with it. I also test drove mid-trim of the CX-30, Toyota Rav4 (Gasoline Motor), Toyota Cross, and Honda CR-V (2022 gasoline model.) The interior of Honda and Toyota were fairly disappointing and Honda/Toyota dealers are asking for similar or higher prices as CX-50. I ended up with the CX-50. Things I like about the CX-50. The exterior styling is the most stunting among all the competitions. The feel of driving is better than what I test drove. There were much less body roll when I was twisting and turning in city streets. The panoramic sun roof is a very nice touch during clear evening sky or sunny drive with my family. The base engine is more than enough in city and highway driving. I have not had any issues passing in highway or zipping around the city. The car goes when I press on the gas with no lag. The interior layout and feel are elegant, functional and simple. A note on the steering wheel, it feels fantastic. Things I dislike about the CX-50. The panoramic sun roof is a plus and a minus, the minus is it only opens up to 9 inches. The MPG is an issue. I only get 19 in the city and 25 on highway. I do have a heavy foot, and when I ease up on the gas, I can get it up to 35 in the highway. The seats are less comfortable than CX-5 Preferred trim, as I also own one. Overall, the CX-50 is a stylish in/out, fun to drive SUV with most things I look for. If you are someone looking for a stylish, fun to drive family SUV, then you should give a test drive. If you are hauling large cargo, or looking for a high MPG SUV like a hybrid, you may have to look elsewhere.

4.9

Luxury for less

Best punch for the buck. This is as close as you can get to bmw without the cost. I love the handling and power of the turbo engine. The interior is beautiful and the outside styling is much cooler than the cx5.

See all 9 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
60 months/unlimited distance
Powertrain
60 months/60,000 miles
Roadside assistance
36 months/36,000 miles
See all 2023 Mazda CX-50 articles