2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium Plus AWD

The CX-50 is all-new for 2023. It’s a compact SUV that fits in the middle of the line-up of Mazda crossovers. It boasts nimble handling, an upscale cabin, lots of tech, and decent fuel efficiency, and enters the class as a top entry. One drawback, however, is it doesn’t have as much cargo space as some rivals.

Base Price: $42,300
As Tested: $44,170
Horsepower: 256
Mileage: 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway/25 mpg combined

The Mazda CX-50 has room for five passengers in two rows of seating. It is smaller than the Mazda CX-9, about the same size as the CX-5, and larger than the CX-30 and MX-30. The CX-50 has more rugged styling, has more ground clearance, and can tow about 1,500 more pounds than the CX-5, but has less cargo space.

The 2023 CX-50 comes in a whopping 10 trims: S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, S Premium Plus, Turbo, Turbo Premium, Turbo Premium Plus and the off-road Meridian Edition. Starting prices range from $27,550 to $42,300. These prices are a little above average for the class; however, all-wheel drive is standard on all trims, which can cost more on rivals.

Two engines are available. Lower trims get a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Upper trims get a turbocharged 2.5-liter that produces 227 horses and 310 pound-feet. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Performance is superb for the class. My Turbo Premium Plus tester has the zippy handling you expect in a Mazda. Press the accelerator and the CX-50 is ready to go. Acceleration is brisk from a stop and when increasing speeds for merging and passing on the freeway, even when going uphill. Steering is responsive and accurate. Twisty roads are a breeze as the CX-50 carves corners with little body roll. The CX-50 is also pleasant to drive in busy city traffic. The six-speed shifts quickly and smoothly and finds the right gear. The ride is firmer than some rivals and you’ll feel rough roads and bumps but it’s not jarring. All in all, this is one fun ride!

Fuel economy is decent for the class but some rivals do better. EPA ratings for my tester are 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with a combined rating of 25. I got 24 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving. Models with the non-turbo engine get slightly better mileage at 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway/27 combined.

The CX-50 can handle light off-roading with its standard AWD and as much as 8.6 inches of ground clearance. Some packages have off-road driving mode settings. The CX-50 is capable enough for camping, hiking and ski trips but not meant for venturing into more rugged terrain.

When properly equipped, the Turbo CX-50 can tow up to 3,500 pounds which is excellent for the class. The base engine can handle up to 2,000 pounds.

Mazda is known for its upscale interiors, and the cabin of the CX-50 is downright luxurious. The design is clean and modern with quality materials, including many soft-touch surfaces. My tester has sharp-looking leather seating with contrasting trim and stitching. Front seats are comfortable, supportive and roomy enough for taller folks. Two average-size adults or three kids will fit well in the second row; however taller passengers may wish for more headroom.

Standard features include remote keyless entry, push-button start, rearview camera, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, infotainment system with 8.8-inch display, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Wi-Fi hot spot, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Available features include proximity keyless entry, surround-view camera system, head-up display, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, infotainment system with 10.25-inch display, navigation, 12-speaker audio system, HD Radio, satellite radio, two additional USB ports, wireless device charging, adaptive headlights, and a panoramic moonroof.

Standard driver assistance technologies include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, forward automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and driver attention monitoring.

Available driver assistance technologies include front and rear parking sensors, reverse automatic emergency braking, road sign recognition, and traffic jam assist.

Depending on the trim, an 8.8-inch or 10.25 infotainment display sits atop the dash, angled toward the driver, but it can be challenging for the driver to reach. The touchscreen works with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; otherwise, functions are controlled with a knob and buttons on the center console between the two front seats. This system is more intuitive than earlier Mazda infotainment systems but still has a greater learning curve than systems from other automakers.

The CX-50 has less cargo space than some competitors. There are 31.4 cubic feet with both rows of seating in place and 56.3 cubes with the second row folded. A manual liftgate is standard and a power liftgate is available.

The good:

Zoom zoom performance

Nimble handling

High-end cabin

Lots of standard and available features and tech

Standard wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

The not-so-good:

Firmer ride than rivals

Infotainment system

Less cargo space than some competitors

Pricing info:

My tester starts at $42,300. Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint is $595. Delivery fee is $1,275 bringing the grand total to $44,170.

Bottom line:

The compact SUV class has several excellent entries, and the all-new 2023 Mazda CX-50 swoops in as a top offering. Peppy handling, an elegant interior, lots of standard and available features and tech, and decent fuel economy sure make it worth consideration, as does the Meridian Edition trim which makes it appealing for camping and other lighter off-road adventures. The only potential drawbacks are below-average cargo space, a stiffer ride, and an infotainment system that’s less intuitive. Otherwise, the Mazda CX-50 should check all the boxes for shoppers wanting a compact crossover.

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