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Is the Mazda CX-50 a Good SUV? 5 Pros and 4 Cons

mazda-cx-50-2022-32-exterior-dynamic-offroad-front 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

With the launch of the CX-50 in late 2021, Mazda joined other manufacturers in offering a compact SUV with limited off-road cred — or at least by making it look the part with blacked-out side cladding, fender flares, wheels and trim. But without much beyond cosmetics to back it up, the top-trim CX-50 Premium Plus we recently tested offers little to differentiate it from its CX-5 sibling other than styling that is both more aggressive and curvaceous at the same time.

Related: 2023 Mazda CX-50 Review: Looks Aren’t Everything

Riding on a different platform but with similar dimensions to the CX-5 inside and out, the CX-50 offers no notable advantage in occupant or cargo room. It does inherit some of the positive qualities we like in other Mazda offerings, including decent road handling, responsive steering with good feel and a well-appointed, upscale interior.

mazda-cx-50-2022-37-exterior-rear-angle 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

While a shapelier profile with cosmetic tweaks make for a good look and standard all-wheel drive with added driving modes include one for off-road travel, our tested CX-50 really wasn’t happy venturing very far from the pavement with its 20-inch street tires. The Meridian trim might change that, however, with its smaller, more aggressive tires and other added equipment. But unless you’re taken with the CX-50’s styling and added feature availability including Mazda’s first panoramic moonroof, you might be just as well off with a less expensive CX-5.

For a closer look, click the link above to read Brian Normile’s expert review; for a quicker look, read on to learn five things we like about the 2023 Mazda CX-50 and four things we do not.

Likes

mazda-cx-50-2022-03-interior-engine-badge 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

1. Powertrain Choices

Two 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines are available for the CX-50: a 187-horsepower base version, and a turbocharged one with 256 hp on premium fuel and 227 hp on regular. Mazda gets credit for offering compact SUV buyers the choice of an engine with more performance, something unusual in the category. Opting for the turbo gets you somewhat quicker acceleration and a 1,500-pound increase in towing capacity, to 3,500 pounds. Better still, the turbo extracts a minimal reduction in fuel economy. Bad news? The turbo engine can sound strained under load.

2. Steering Feel

From behind the wheel, the CX-50 feels a lot like its CX-5 sibling — and that’s not a bad thing. Nicely weighted, responsive steering and a taut suspension play a big part in making the Mazda feel more athletic than some competitors. The downside is a less cushy ride than some alternatives.

3. Decent MPG

With the base engine, the CX-50 is EPA-rated at 24/30/27 mpg city/highway/combined; stepping up to the turbo drops that only slightly to 23/29/25 mpg. Those are competitive numbers for the class and represent a small penalty for the added power of the turbo.

mazda-cx-50-2022-43-interior-front-row 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

4. Improved Infotainment

Mazda added touchscreen capability to its infotainment system, which was a welcome (if frustrating) improvement because that functionality only worked when parked. But the CX-50 also gets wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, which does allow touchscreen capability on the run, along with a look similar to what users see on their phones.

5. Upscale Interior

Mazda continues to outdo most direct competitors when it comes to interior quality, with a more premium look and feel than you might expect in the class. The CX-50 is no exception, with plenty of soft-touch materials, comfortable seats, a solid feel to most controls and an available head-up display adding to the upscale atmosphere.

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Things We Don’t Like

mazda-cx-50-2022-30-exterior-dynamic-offroad-front 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

1. Harsh Ride

Opting for the turbo engine gets you larger 20-inch tires that add to the business-like look at a cost in ride quality and without any noticeable advantage in off-road performance. On pavement, however, the larger wheels and tires make the CX-50 feel jittery, with harsh impacts over bumps.

2. Limited Off-Road Capability

As equipped with 20-inch street tires, our Premium Plus trim managed to successfully negotiate a light off-road course, but it didn’t feel very happy about it. The choice of an off-road mode helped, but the Mazda offers no other options for specific conditions such as mud or rocky trails. The $2,700 Meridian Edition with its smaller wheels and beefier tires might improve things, but serious off-roaders might want to shop elsewhere.

mazda-cx-50-2022-11-interior-center-stack-display 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

3. Infotainment Still Needs Work

While we applaud the addition of touchscreen capability, enabling the use of it only when standing still is a head-scratcher. Worse, the screen is positioned high and far away, where even tall drivers may have trouble reaching it. Overall, the system is not one of the worst, but it does look and feel dated, and it’s not one of the easiest to use.

4. Cost of Admission

With a starting price of just under $29,000, a base CX-50 will set you back about $1,000 more than a comparably equipped and similar if less stylish CX-5. Our top-trim Premium Plus test vehicle came to more than $43,000, which is getting up there for a mainstream compact SUV. If you’re looking for the most off-road-capable Meridian Edition with the turbo engine, the sticker goes to $41,225 (including destination).

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