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2023 Mazda CX-50 - Review By Larry Nutson

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Capable and stylish

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

Earlier this year, in late March, I traveled to California’s Central Coast on the invite of Mazda to drive the all-new 2023 Mazda CX-50. The CX-50, an addition to the Mazda product lineup, is a two-row, five-seat compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) designed expressly for the U.S. and Canada.

The CX-50 is not only designed for the U.S. but it’s built in the U.S. at the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Plant in Huntsville, Alabama. Production started in January 2022. Since going on sale in March through the end October Mazda has sold 16,006 CX-50s.

So, yes, the CX-50 is a new model from Mazda. It looks a lot like the CX-5, Mazda’s biggest seller, but isn’t a replacement for the CX-5. The CX-50 is longer (6.7 inches to be exact), lower and wider than the CX-5. Thus, there’s more rear seat legroom and more cargo space.

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In August the 2023 CX-50 2.5 Turbo Meridian Edition was introduced. Designed for the most adventurous, the package features black metallic 18-inch alloy wheels mounted with 225/60-18 Falken all-terrain tires, all-new headlight garnish, unique Meridian Edition-branded matte black hood graphic, black wheel locks and lug nuts, and side rocker panels.

Additionally, a Meridian Choice Package and the Apex Package have been added to the CX-50's already robust accessories offerings.

Recently I again experienced the CX-50---a CX-50 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus package finished in Wind Chill Pearl with a Terracotta interior. This drive was around Chicago where I make my home and included a bit of a road trip from Chicago to southeastern Michigan and back.

The ten-package CX-50 model lineup consist of the 2.5 S in base, Select, Preferred, Preferred Plus, Premium and Premium Plus packages. And, the 2.5 Turbo is available in base, Meridian Edition, Premium and Premium Plus packages.

Under the hood the 2.5 S is equipped a 187-hp 2.5-L four-cylinder engine that develops 186 lb-ft of torque. The 2.5 Turbo uses a 256-hp turbocharged version of this engine that develops 320 lb-ft on 93 octane fuel. You can save some money and drive this engine on 87 octane but output is reduced to 227 hp and 310 lb-ft, but there’s no impact on fuel consumption.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission driving the standard all-wheel drive. Gear selection is with a traditional shift lever. Although many vehicles today have automatic transmissions with more than six speeds, Mazda prefers its six gear ratios for quicker downshift response when you push on the throttle.

EPA fuel economy ratings with the base 2.5-L engine are 27 mpg combined, with 24 city mpg and 30 highway mpg. The turbo engine is EPA-rated at 25 mpg combined, with 23 city mpg and 29 highway mpg.

New is Mazda Intelligent Drive Select, or Mi-Drive. Sport, off-road and towing drive modes can be selected with the Mi-Drive switch and will help the CX-50 drive naturally in a wide variety of conditions, such as snow, off-road terrain or trailer towing. Mazda’s approach with the drive modes is to make the CX-50 drive comfortably in all driving conditions giving the driver a confident feeling especially when overlanding or towing.

All of Mazda’s CX SUVs have standard i-Activ all-wheel drive in the U.S. There are many SUVs on the market that I think might best have the “S” for “Sport” left off of their designation. The Mazda CX models are not among them. Mazda prides itself in delivering an engaging and lively driving experience in its vehicles. All-wheel drive further enhances this.

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With all-wheel drive and over 8 inches of ground clearance the CX-50 delivers overlanding ability not previously found on a Mazda. Not only can you leave the paved roads to get to your recreation spot but you can also tow up to 3,500 lbs. whether it be power sports equipment or a camping trailer.

The CX-50 has one of the largest outside dimensions (length, width, height) in the compact SUV segment. It looks like a Mazda. It has that characteristic Mazda look we’ve come to know with a touch of added ruggedness. The designers were not trying to be unique but rather broaden the Mazda customer range.

The CX-50 is tough looking. Wide cladding over each wheel opening has a concave shape matching the body lines. Air inlets are set in the front and rear fascia. The CX-50 comes with Mazda’s first panoramic moon roof.

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Inside, Mazda provide nicely comfortable and supportive seats. Rear doors open ninety-degrees for easy entry. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth wireless connectivity support smartphone use. There’s a 10.25-inch touchscreen on all models except the base 2.5 S which gets an 8.8-inch version. Heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel are available.

Mazda CX-50 2.5 S has a starting MSRP of $27,550. The Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo starts at $37,150. Destination charge is $1,275. Have a look at for more facts and figures.

The 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus that I drove is priced at $42,300 plus $395 extra for the pearl paint. My previous drive experience in California had me on some lightly traveled, narrow but paved twisting and winding roads that let me push the CX-50 to some extent. Fun!

Mazda uses G-vectoring control (GVC) working through the stability control system to apply brakes as you add steering input. The GVC transfers weight forward, improves turn-in and adds yaw damping. 

This most recent drive proved the viability of the CX-50 in every day, big city living. There’s plenty of comfort as well as versatility for handling those daily household short trips around town. It’s also easy to park.

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The 2.5 Turbo delivers plenty of punch. The drive across lower Michigan gave me lots of time to enjoy and appreciate the refined highway manners of the CX-50. My highway road trip fuel mileage was a bit below the EPA-rating at 27 mpg. This is however quite normal considering the higher highway speeds I was driving. I suggest choosing this engine if you drive a lot in hill country or often carry a loaded cargo area.

I had two nit-picks about the CX-50. One is a bit of wind noise from the panoramic moon roof. Although I mention this, it’s minor and doesn’t detract from audio listening or conversation. The other is the low placement to the left of the steering wheel of some controls and switches that are difficult to a see and identify. I suppose over time I would become more familiar and this issue would be minimized.

All in all, the CX-50 is practical, fun, engaging and delivers an enjoyable driving experience.

Happy Motoring!

© 2022 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy