Another year, another addition to the perennially crowded SUV segment. This year’s new entrants include the 2023 Mazda CX-50, expected to be on dealer lots this November. It’s one of three new crossover SUVs Mazda plans to release to replace the retired CX-3 and aging CX-9. Though the CX-50 is similar to the CX-5, the automaker’s bestseller will stick around. With the CX-50, Mazda hopes to appeal to consumers looking for a more rugged SUV. So far, the all-new small crossover looks to be an exciting addition, with only a couple of problems that Consumer Reports reviewers found in the early stages of testing.
Introducing Mazda’s newest crossover SUV
With a starting MSRP of $26,800, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is slightly larger than the compact CX-5 but smaller than the three-row midsize CX-9. The base model comes with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. But if you’re looking for a bit more power, you you can upgrade to the 256-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter. Both pair with a six-speed automatic transmission, and all trims have all-wheel drive. Although the CX-50 is built on the same platform as the CX-30, it’s better positioned to handle off-road journeys or long stretches on paved roads than its siblings.
That enhanced performance is thanks to several attributes. The CX-50 has more ground clearance than the CX-5. Its lower roof height allows for easy installation of roof racks. And it boasts superior handling, allowing it to brake adeptly and corner precisely, even on bumpy terrain, Consumer Reports notes.
Excellent visibility and seating comfort make the CX-50 an even better ride. The seats, particularly, are a highlight, providing firm cushioning and lumbar support for all occupants.
In addition, the CX-50 offers a large 10.25-inch touchscreen on all trims except the base model, and higher trims get a panoramic moonroof. Because the CX-50 is considered an upgraded version of the CX-5, buyers can load it with optional features, some of which come standard on higher trims.
2 areas where the 2023 Mazda CX-50 disappoints
1. Harsh ride quality
CR reviewers didn’t find the CX-50 flawless. Among other issues, they noted the CX-50’s ride quality isn’t especially smooth. The upshifts could be evened out a bit. And the powertrain options don’t allow drivers to change lanes effortlessly at higher speeds. Further, while the CX-50 maneuvers over bumpy terrain well enough, passengers will feel every bump thanks to a stiff suspension and odd wheel and tire pairings.
2. Complicated and oddly placed controls
Despite the wide infotainment screen, Mazda makes users jump through too many hoops when it comes to controls. CR’s testers note that simple commands require too many steps. With minimal steering wheel controls, the automaker forces drivers to use the center console knob, which can present a driving distraction. The visibility of the controls on the steering wheel and to the left of the dash isn’t ideal either.
But these criticisms are few and far between. Consumer Reports found quite a bit more enjoyable about the Mazda CX-50 than it found lacking.
Where the 2023 Mazda CX-50 excels
Beyond the superior handling, visibility, and seating, Consumer Reports reviewers praised the upscale interior, especially noticeable given the affordable pricing. The cabin sports numerous soft-touch areas and a combination of glossy trim, stitching, leather (in higher trims), and chrome that seem like they belong to a much more expensive vehicle. And though reviewers disliked most of the controls, they found that the climate controls are easy to use.
Moreover, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is quite roomy, from its legroom and headroom to its spacious cargo hold. The CX-50’s longer length provides greater legroom, especially for rear seat passengers, relative to the CX-5. And its increased seating comfort, coupled with its expanded storage area, makes it a great vehicle for family road trips or long rides with multiple passengers.
Given that the CX-50 is a new model, many areas — such as reliability, ownership costs, and real-world fuel economy — remain unknown. It also remains to be seen how well the CX-50 will compete in a niche with the Ford Bronco Sport and Subaru Forester. But upon a first review, Consumer Reports found a great deal to recommend the CX-50 as a potential purchase for those looking for a new small SUV.