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A majority of new cars on the market are SUVs, meaning that there’s plenty of competition for automakers. Even if one SUV is a decent vehicle, it can still be passed over by consumers and critics. Which is the lowest-rated 2023 SUV, according to Motor1 in its 2023 SUV rankings?

Was the Mazda CX-50 released too early?

A dark color 2023 Mazda CX-50 parked in a desert area.
2023 Mazda CX-50 | Mazda North American Operations

The Mazda CX-50 is new for the 2023 model year, but Motor1 believes that it could use a little more refinement. To get the most fun out of your driving experience, experts recommend getting a Turbo trim with the available 256-hp turbo-four engine. However, this powertrain is only estimated to earn 25 mpg combined, making it one of the thirstiest SUVs in the compact class.

The Mazda CX-50 has two infotainment screen options, but neither accepts touch inputs. The only way to get around that is by using smartphone integration, but this system’s menus are reportedly too frustrating to configure. Additionally, you have to go through several redundant screens to adjust certain presets. Test drivers also reported some hiccups with the Mazda CX-50’s blind-spot monitors and lane-keeping assistance functions.

The Mazda CX-50 still has some good qualities

Like many Mazda models, the CX-50 offers razor-sharp handling regardless of the engine under its hood. A firm suspension contributes to its athletic nature, yet it’s still comfortable enough to allow for pleasant cruising. The six-speed automatic transmission can be slow from a dead stop, but you can expect seamless shifts afterward. 

Even if you’re of above-average height, the Mazda CX-50 also has ample room in both of its rows for up to five riders. Tester drivers only reported minimal cabin noise while the car is in motion, and the seats themselves offer great support.

While there are some sensitivity issues on certain features, most of the Mazda CX-50’s safety equipment works just as intended. However, a few of the most useful ones can only be found on the Turbo Premium Plus trim.

The Kia Sportage is too boring and overpriced

The redesigned 2023 Kia Sportage has a new face, two off-roading models, and plenty of upgraded technology features. Motor1 tested the Sportage X-Pro, which features multi-terrain drive mode selection and standard all-wheel drive. While it’s no heavy-duty rock crawler, it has approximately 8.7 in of ground clearance to accommodate some casual trailblazing. 

However, the Kia Sportage is only available with one 187-hp four-cylinder engine that’s matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. While test drivers appreciated the gearbox’s performance, highway acceleration proved to be a chore. The Kia Sportage also isn’t as fun to drive as the Mazda CX-50. 

Despite having far less horsepower than the CX-50’s turbo offering, the Sportage’s four-cylinder shares the same combined fuel economy rating. The Kia Sportage is also a disappointment from a value perspective, even on the base trim.

Is there anything good about the Kia Sportage?

Motor1 actually recommends getting the Kia Sportage Hybrid instead of the regular Sportage, which comes standard with a 227-hp turbo-four engine. It provides much more pep during daily driving, plus earns up to 43 mpg combined. It’s also barely more expensive than a regular Sportage LX, currently starting at $27,490.

If you can’t find a Hybrid in your area, the regular Kia Sportage will still please families with its roomy interior. The redesign also left the Sportage with just over 74 cu-ft of the maximum cargo area.

While some parts of the Uvo infotainment system have a slight learning curve, Motor1 found the interface easy to use overall. Test drivers also had no complaints about any of the safety features of the well-equipped X-Pro model. With overall scores of 7.4 out of 10, both the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-50 might still be worth your consideration.


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