2024 Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus - Review by David Colman
The best buy in a very competitive compact SUV segment
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Mazda is quickly transitioning from a niche builder of sports cars and sporty sedans to a full line purveyor of SUVs. One of their top new products is the CX-50, now entering its second year of production for 2024. This compact SUV, which offers standard all-wheel-drive on all models, is available in basic form with a 187hp 4-cylinder gas engine. The cheapest CX-50 you can buy is the S Select model which carries a base price of $31,675. But you don't want this underpowered model, or any of its more expensive derivatives (S Preferred, S Premium, S Premium Plus) which range in price all the way to $38,875. Rather, the CX-50 you want is a twin scroll turbocharged model, which offers an inline-4 displacing 2.5 liters and producing 227hp and 310lb.-ft. of torque. This fine and economical engine (25 MPG combined city/highway) propels the light weight (3,866lbs.) SUV to 60mph in a very respectable 6.6 seconds. This combo not only clears the standing start quarter mile in 15.1 seconds at 91mph, but also allows you to tow a trailer weighing 3,500 pounds.
The turbo version we tested was the Premium Plus model, which carried an MSRP of $43,300. With only a $595 extra charge for Machine Grey metallic paint, the as-delivered cost totaled $45,270. In today's inflation-bloated automotive world, that figure slides in just below the average new vehicle transaction price. And considering the refined driving characteristics of our test Mazda, as well as its sophisticated and lovely interior furnishings, this little SUV has to be one of the best deals of the new model year. Mazda has always placed a premium on good handling, and the CX-50 continues that tradition with a new suspension system called Mi-Drive which puts a premium on your specific handling needs. Mi-Drive offers three distinct driving modes. Sport Mode provides excellent steering wheel feedback, as well as a tenacious cornering grip when tackling paved back roads. In this application, the generously sized (245/45R20) Goodyear Eagle Touring radials (TW 500) communicate road feel with welcome certainty. For bashing the outback you'll want to select Off-Road Mode. When outfitted with a Mazda-issue hitch, this CX-50 is well configured for pulling a trailer because Mi-Drive offers a Towing Mode.
For 2024, Mazda has introduced a lovely open roof feature called the Power Panoramic Moonroof. This glass roof, which was not previously available on the CX-50, opens your eyes to a world above and beyond the confines of the interior. A sliding screen retracts nearly the entire length of the cabin to bring the outside world into stunning view. In addition to this drama, Mazda has concocted a lively and handsome interior for the CX-50 Premium Plus that uses shades of Terracotta to turn the cabin into a virtual fiesta. The very supportive front bucket and rear bench seats are brought to life with colorful insert swatches that make this Mazda look much more expensive than it actually is. Even the face of the dash and the tops the door panels are energized with contrast color stitching that looks just right in a Southwestern sort of way.
Given its modest price point, you have to applaud Mazda's effort to pack the CX-50 with unexpected bonus features. Among the long list are a 10.25-inch color center display panel which uses a large rotary dial wheel to make your selections. This top-echelon version of the CX-50 model line also provides niceties you wouldn't expect to find like rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic power folding side view mirrors, Bluetooth-connected Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a wireless charging pad for your phone. We particularly appreciated the legibility and simplicity of the fixed (non-digital) instrumentation, which includes classic large round speedometer and tachometer faces with hash marks called out by real needles. We laud Mazda's refusal to replace these classis icons with digital replicas.
All in all, we rate the significantly improved second year version of the CX-50 as a best buy in its very competitive (think Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan) compact SUV market segment. This one has the competition beat hands down in terms of interior design, precision handling, and unexpected tow rating. If we were in this market for a small family SUV, the refined CX-50 would top our last of potential candidates.
2024 MAZDA CX-50 2.5 TURBO PREMIUM PLUS
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline-4, turbocharged and intercooled, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION> 23MPG City/29MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,270
HYPES: Stellar Interior, Strong Motor
GRIPES: On/Off Turbo Power Delivery
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman
DAVID E COLMAN
Dad jumpstarted my automotive career by taking me to the Indy 500 ten years in a row. During that decade he generously bought me a trio of new cars to drive: a C1 Corvette followed by two XKE roadsters. By 1970, I purchased my first new Porsche, a 911S Targa. The Porsche immersion has continued with a succession of newer models: 1970 914-6GT, 1983 944, 1987 944T, 2003 911 Turbo X50 Aerokit, 2011 911 GT3 RS and 2016 Cayman GT4. This "buy your own press fleet" exposure helped launch my literary career when I co-founded Excellence Magazine in 1987. I have written hundreds of reviews and profiles for Excellence over the past three decades.
I also covered motorsports for The Wheel, SCCA's San Francisco Region newspaper, as well as racing events for the Marin Independent Journal. Other outlets over the years have been The San Francisco Chronicle, Autoweek, Bimmer, Forza and Sports Car International. I started a weekly new car review in 1986 at the Marin IJ and subsequently continued it with the San Francisco Examiner. I am currently a Senior Writer for Vintage Motorsports magazine, and have written numerous race reports and feature articles for that publication.
My weekly reviews first hit the internet at CarReview.com and play today only on TheAutoChannel.com. I was a co-founder of the Western Automotive Journalists (WAJ), a press group formed to track-test vehicles at local road racing circuits. Since 1986, I have driven and evaluated a manufacturer-provided new vehicle just about every week of every year.
I have also been a long time competitor in Porsche Club and SCCA track and autocross events. I was sponsored by BF Goodrich tires for a number of years, and later by Yokohama Tires. My record book at the SCCA's annual Solo 2 National Championship event shows ten consecutive years of entries and trophy successes in a variety of classes. I also earned Top Time of Day at the Porsche Club of America's annual Parade Driving Event in my one owner 914-6GT.
I learned to write proper English in Sidney Eaton's English class at the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts. Later, I majored in American Literature at Middlebury College (AB) and subsequently earned two Master of Art Degrees from the University of California: English (UC Santa Barbara); History of Art (UC Berkeley). So I'm a pump jockey and a word jockey.