We will forgive Mazda’s unoriginality because it chases the identical outdoorsy, rugged picture that is executed so nicely for Jeep, Subaru, and plenty of others. However we’re inclined to look previous the advertising and marketing photos displaying the brand new 2023 CX-50 crossover festooned with tenting equipment and as an alternative rejoice this new mannequin for its nice on-road driving demeanor, interesting design, and class-above refinement—all for about the identical value as different mainstream compact crossovers.
If that feels like a well-known chorus, it is as a result of we have heaped comparable reward upon Mazda’s different compact SUV, the CX-5, which has received a number of 10Best awards and is the bestselling Mazda by an extended shot. The corporate asserts that there is sufficient room on this common section for 2 equally sized automobiles, and Mazda will not be the primary to double down on any such crossover: Jeep sells the Cherokee and the Compass, and Ford has each the Escape and the Bronco Sport.
Whereas the CX-50 and CX-5 share powertrains and are equally sized, there are some notable variations within the packaging. The CX-50 has a physique that is longer, decrease, and wider than the CX-5’s, and its proportions look station wagon–esque—extra Subaru Outback than Forester. This carries by means of to the inside, as you sit a lot decrease within the CX-50’s driver’s seat and expertise a extra carlike view over the lengthy hood. We predict the CX-50 seems to be nice, and way more fashionable than the CX-5, which obtained a facelift for 2022 however nonetheless has a design courting again to 2017.
Mazda says it has beefed up the CX-50’s engine cooling to extend towing capability: Outfitted with the optionally available turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four, the CX-50 is rated to tow 3500 kilos, whereas the CX-5 Turbo is restricted to 2000 kilos. Towing and Off-Street drive modes be part of the Regular and Sport choices from different Mazda fashions and convey totally different calibrations for the steering, transmission, all-wheel-drive system, and throttle response. An upcoming off-road-themed CX-50 Meridian Version mannequin will supply all-terrain tires together with a hood graphic, a basket rack, and some different equipment.
Whereas our drive route included a brief off-road portion, most of our time spent within the CX-50 was on pavement. We drove the totally loaded 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus, which begins at $42,775. On condition that its turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four—which makes 256 horsepower on 93-octane gas and 227 horsepower on 87-octane—and six-speed automated transmission are shared with higher trims of the CX-5, a lot of the driving expertise is acquainted. (We would assume the identical will apply to the CX-50’s base powertrain, a naturally aspirated 187-hp 2.5-liter inline-four additionally shared with the CX-5.) The turbo engine offers a powerful swell of torque early on, and the transmission shifts crisply and—particularly in Sport mode—does an awesome job of predicting what gear you wish to be in. We loved hustling the CX-50 by means of corners, as its physique motions are predictable and its steering correct. The CX-50’s suspension tuning feels a bit softer than the CX-5’s, which ends up in extra physique roll, however the additional width and decrease seating place assist offset the extra side-to-side motion, and the profit to trip high quality is noticeable.
Quiet, comfy, and assured, the CX-50 drives extra like a Volvo XC60 than a Toyota RAV4. And whereas we solely sampled the highest trim’s inside, which has upscale brown or black leather-based with contrasting stitching, we discovered the cabin to be significantly nicer to take a look at and to the touch than something within the mainstream section. The infotainment system is just like what you will discover in different Mazdas, with a management knob on the middle console, however with newly enabled touchscreen performance for once you’re utilizing Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Whereas headroom is barely diminished in contrast with the CX-5, the CX-50 is a lot spacious for 4 adults, if not fairly as cavernous because the Honda CR-V. The cargo flooring is over three inches decrease than the CX-5’s, and there is barely extra cargo room behind its rear seats.
Though the CX-50 carries a little bit of a value premium—it begins at $28,025, or $900 larger than the 2022 CX-5’s beginning value—we are able to see a number of causes for selecting this newer mannequin given its extra fashionable exterior, plusher inside, and equally nice driving expertise. Quickly, the CX-50 will add one other calling card within the type of a hybrid with a Toyota-sourced powertrain that ought to supply significantly higher gas economic system. Plus, Mazda instructed that as a result of the CX-50 comes out of its new plant in Huntsville, Alabama (a three way partnership with Toyota), it might be simpler for U.S. patrons to get their palms on a CX-50 than a Japan-made CX-5—an necessary consider in the present day’s supply-chain-constrained instances.
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