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Mazda SUVs continually land toward the top of critics’ lists. The compact SUV segment remains highly competitive, with popular models from several brands slugging it out for consumers’ attention. Recently, two Mazda compact SUVs — the CX-5 and CX-50 — joined small crossovers from four other automakers in Car and Driver’s 2023 Editors’ Choice roundup. 

2023 Car and Driver Editors’ Choice for best compact SUV

Mazda SUVs, Mazda compact SUVs, 2023 Mazda CX-5, 2023 Mazda CX-50
2023 Mazda CX-5 (top) and 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Mazda North American Operations

Car and Driver’s 2023 Editors’ Choice list of the best cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans is an extensive list that requires enough scrolling to aggravate your carpal tunnel syndrome. Because we’ll review the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, and Volkswagen Tiguan elsewhere, let’s dig into Mazda’s CX-5 and CX-50 to see what makes Mazda compact SUVs favorites.

The 2023 Mazda CX-5 impresses with its design and handling

C/D calls the 2023 Mazda CX-5’s interior design “artful” and praises its “refined handling” and upscale interior compared to rivals. Though the CX-5’s cargo space is “merely average,” its rear-seat passenger legroom and towing capacity suffer by comparison. Nevertheless, Car and Driver reviewers say the “blend of nimble road manners and interior refinement” — combined with standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and the optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine — makes the 2023 Mazda CX-5 one of their “favorite small SUVs.”

All 2023 CX-5 powertrains include a six-speed automatic transmission and AWD. A 187-hp naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard in six CX-5 trims, including Base, Select, Preferred, Carbon Edition, Premium, and Premium Plus, with starting MSRPs ranging from $27,975 to $36,775. In addition, the $38,125 Turbo and $40,925 Turbo Signature trims feature an inter-cooled, turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter, harnessing 256 hp. 

Fuel economy ratings vary depending on the powertrain. The 187-hp version gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. As expected, the 256-hp turbo option gets a slightly less economical 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. 

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 delivers an upscale cabin and a pleasant drive

Mazda sells the CX-5 alongside the all-new CX-50, but it’s likely a matter of time before the popular CX-5 fades into oblivion. The two models offer the same powertrain options, upscale cabins, and pleasant driving characteristics. Although the CX-50 is slightly larger than the CX-5, its lower roofline provides less headroom than its predecessor. 

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 offers seven trim levels with the 187-hp 2.5-liter engine (Base, Select, Preferred, Preferred Plus, Premium, Premium Plus, and Meridian Edition) and three with the 256-hp turbo-four (Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus). 

Like the CX-5, all CX-50 trims pack a six-speed automatic transmission and AWD as standard equipment and offer comfort ranging from “basic to downright luxurious,” Car and Driver reports. Prices range from the Base trim’s $28,825 MSRP to the highest non-turbo Meridian Edition, priced at $41,620. Turbocharged versions start at $38,425 and go up to $43,575 for the Turbo Premium Plus. 

Though the 2023 Mazda CX-50 doesn’t provide a hybrid variant, it’s on the horizon and likely similar to the Toyota RAV4’s 219-hp hybrid drivetrain. Until then, the CX-50’s fuel economy looks much like the CX-5’s, with the base drivetrain returning an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. However, the turbocharged CX-50 performed better than the turbocharged CX-5 in gas mileage, with 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway. 


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