2023 Mazda CX-50 Yearlong Test Arrival: The Subaru-iest Mazda?

The CX-50 drives a Mazda-sized hole in the theory that weekend-adventure crossover SUVs must look like the chunky Subaru Outback. With the sleek 2023 Mazda CX-50, you can almost hear the automaker whispering, “To each, their own.” The CX-50 represents a more subtle approach to a segment led by the well-rounded Outback—a Subaru I drove for a year. Mazda’s first challenge is educating consumers on the difference between the CX-5, a long-time MotorTrend favorite, and the new CX-50. As we discovered on our First Drive, there’s so much more to the CX-50 than just a “0” on the end of a CX-5 badge. What will a year behind the wheel reveal?

Meeting Our CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus

Starting at $42,775, our 2023 CX-50 is the most expensive five-passenger Mazda you can buy today. Let’s break that down. Every CX-50 includes standard AWD, which is one reason the base model starts at a relatively high $28,025. Most CX-50s will get a 187-hp 2.5-liter inline-four engine, the same powerplant we’ve seen in everything from the Mazda 3 to the CX-30, and CX-5. Like all of those Mazdas, the CX-50 offers an upgrade to a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four powerplant good for 227 hp and 310 lb-ft on 87-octane or 256 hp and 320 lb-ft on 93. That’s the engine we picked.

Within the CX-50’s 2.5 Turbo trims, we went all-out with the Premium Plus model so we could test as many of the CX-50’s features as possible, from its new panoramic moonroof to a 360-degree camera system. Going turbo is also the only way to get an interior color other than black. With the available Terracotta medium-brown leather seats and stitching accents, the CX-50 feels more premium and interesting than your average compact or midsize SUV.

Like almost every CX-50, our top-of-the-line trim includes a 10.3-inch infotainment screen that can function as a touchscreen when you’re stopped. Otherwise, a rotating knob controls things regardless of whether you’re in the standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, or in the native Mazda operating system. Blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency front braking, and adaptive cruise control are also standard on every CX-50. Our CX-50 rolls on 20-inch wheels with polished and shiny black finishes; most CX-50s have black 17-inch wheels with more off-road-friendly tires. Like other compact and midsize SUVs, you’ll have to upgrade a couple trims to get a power liftgate. Otherwise, the CX-50 offers a generous standard equipment package at the base and loaded trim levels.

So It’s Not a CX-5?

In person, the CX-50’s positioning against the CX-5 becomes clear. The longer, lower, and wider CX-50 wears dark cladding over the wheel wells and grille detailing that’s unique to this SUV. The CX-50 won’t strike as many buyers as classically beautiful like the CX-5. But that’s the point; the CX-50, which is actually based on the smaller CX-30, expresses a more outdoors-ready appeal.

What makes the CX-50 so interesting is how it attempts to mix the best of Mazda’s current ambitions with a target buyer that’s new to the brand. Over the course of a year, we’ll see how well the CX-50 can deliver the core Mazda trait of entertaining dynamics while matching the appeal of the Outback, a long-time leader for projecting an outdoorsy appeal. And with our CX-50 2.5 Turbo carrying an MSRP of over $43,000, we’ll determine how premium it truly feels at that price point. We can’t wait.

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