Following the release of the subcompact CX-30 crossover and its electrified cousin the MX-30, it’s only natural Mazda would follow up with a larger SUV built on the same platform and utilizing similar nomenclature. And now the Hiroshima-based manufacturer has: behold the first-ever CX-50.
"This new Mazda vehicle has been developed for North America, particularly to support the active and outdoor lifestyles of customers in this region," says Jeff Guyton, president and CEO of the company’s North American operations in a press release. "The CX-50 encourages people to immerse themselves in nature without compromising on the premium design and outstanding on-road performance Mazda is known for."
The most immediately noticeable outdoorsy aspect is the use of copious amounts of black body cladding on the bumpers, wheel arches and side sills. The addition of the off-road-ready armour complements the wind-swept lines of Kodo styling language surprisingly well, particularly in the desert-esque Zircon Sand Metallic paint colour of Darpan’s press loaner.
One might assume the rugged exterior means the interior is of the plastic-ky hose-clean variety. Not the case at all — in fact the GT Turbo model we test drove featured perhaps the plushest leather dash covering ever seen in the segment. In signature Mazda fashion, other various little details around the cabin echo the brand-wide move towards a more premium product like the brushed metal door handles and the introduction of a panoramic moonroof.
The vehicle is slightly bigger in size than the CX-5 though with a shorter greenhouse — which comes in handy for loading stuff onto the available rack that can be mounted to the reinforced roof rails, the latter designed to even support rooftop tents. The deep cargo area has 889 litres of space behind the second row, or 1,595 litres when the bench is folded, and also benefits from a low lift-over height so sliding things in and out is an easy task.
Two Skyactiv-G 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine choices are packaged: an entry-level naturally aspirated unit producing 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, and the optional turbocharged variant offered on the top-of-the-line trim making 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque (93 octane). Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The boosted mill gives a good amount of oomph off the line and as a bonus a healthy exhaust note is produced.
Utilizing the same underpinnings as the CX-30/Mazda3, the all-wheel drive CX-50 sits on independent front/torsion beam rear suspension and handles better than expected for a small SUV though definitely on the stiffer side. The electric power steering is sporty and overall the setup will have drivers forget for a second that they’re piloting a utility vehicle. And similar to other products in the lineup, G-Vectoring Control automatically adjusts engine output to stabilize the ride through corners.
Mazda Intelligent Drive Select, or Mi-Drive for short, is standard and allows the selection of various modes tailored to different types of motoring. For example, there’s a setting optimizing operation on slippery terrain, and another geared towards towing (the regular 2.5 can tow up to 2,000 pounds while the 2.5 T a maximum of 3,500 pounds).
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is built at the joint Mazda Toyota Manufacturing facility in Huntsville Alabama and should be starting production by the time this issue is in publication.
MSRP: $45,350 (base)
Motor: 2.5-litre turbocharged four cylinder
Horsepower: 227 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 310 @ 2,000 rpm
Gearbox: six-speed automatic
Layout: front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 13.1 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)
Photos courtesy of Mazda.