For the last decade or so, the CX-5 has been the Mazda medium-sized crossover. Now the company has updated that design and made it bigger, naming it the CX-50. For the 2023 model year, Mazda will sell both vehicles side by side at the dealership. So the question will be, do you want the new model, or to save some money with the eventually phased-out CX-5?
Size Matters? Or Design Matters?
And the options will increase in the future. Jeff Guyton, President of Mazda North America, says, “This new Mazda vehicle has been developed for North America, particularly to support the active and outdoor lifestyles of customers in this region. The CX-50 encourages people to immerse themselves in nature without compromising on the premium design and outstanding on-road performance Mazda is known for. The production of the CX-50 here signifies the importance of the North American market to Mazda and our commitment to investing in the U.S.”
The CX-50 will ultimately be available with a plethora of powertrains, including a plug-in hybrid model. For now, the upgraded powerplant is the familiar and powerful Mazda 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that does well in fuel economy tests. I netted about 27 mpg in city and highway driving. For those more concerned with fuel economy over acceleration, the base model does without the turbocharger.
The most interesting thing about my Mazda CX-50 tester was the unusual color called Zircon Sand Metallic. There is very little metallic, but just enough to set it off. But the oatmeal-color attracted more attention than Ferrari Rossa Corsa because it is so unusual on the road. I don’t know if I would want to live with it for years, but it is certainly trendy now. The interior is called Terracotta and is a nice dark-brown leather that was a perfect contrast to the unusual exterior color palette.
Although a panoramic roof is common on other vehicles, this is the first time Mazda has offered it – probably to keep weight down. But my Turbo Premium Plus was certainly good when it comes to handling in the usual Mazda fashion. There is a button next to the shifter labeled Mi-Drive that allows you to engage Sport mode. Other drive modes can be selected with the Mi-Drive control and will help the crossover SUV perform naturally and confidently in driving conditions such as off-road terrain, snow or while towing up to 3,500 pounds on select packages.
The CX-50 interior center stack features a 10.25-inch display that is controlled by the familiar Mazda puck. The volume knob is on the center console. You get used to it, or you can use the steering wheel controls. The only thing I did not like was the readout for the climate control system. In my seating position the numbers were obscured because they are recessed into the dashboard. But, to keep your eyes on the road the excellent heads-up display gives you speed information and posted speed limit information from road signs. It will also give you navigation arrows when you use the native nav system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also on board. The 12-speaker Bose audio system is good, but nothing the aftermarket couldn’t outdo with a speaker and subwoofer upgrade.
Loading up the Exterior
The CX-50 was made for the North American market. Mazda wanted the cargo area to be easy to use. The hands-free liftgate is available on most models, and we appreciated the easy-to-operate handles to lower the rear seat. According to Mazda, while the interior provides comfort to all passengers, the cargo space is thoughtfully designed to help support and enable outdoor activities. The vehicle’s height and length are ideal for easily loading and securing common outdoor equipment. Additionally, the high-strength roof rails and reinforced b-pillars and door jambs establish a stable platform for securing equipment on the roof of CX-50.
The Mazda CX-50 is another great choice for those looking for a midsize SUV. It wins in the design department over the CX-5, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Although there is no third row available, the styling and handling are better than the rest of the SUV pack. It does a great impersonation of luxury SUVs, while saving money at both the dealership and the gas pump. With a starting price of $26K and the all-out Turbo Premium Plus package coming in at $42K, it’s worth a serious look.