When we last met the 2023 Mazda CX-50 in the sun-kissed state of California, we put the SUV through its paces on mountain roads, trails, and even the coastal freeways that dotted our route. However, we were curious to see how the CX-50 could measure up on the opposite side of the country, especially in Michigan.
CX-50 Does A Color Reversal
In our first outing, we traveled through California in an example that was slathered in Polymetal Grey Paint. This time, we got to see the Zircon Sand Metallic hue in person and when viewed in the sunny weather that dotted our time with the CX-50, it managed to do a much better job standing out in the urban sprawl of Metro Detroit. The CX-50 occupies a blurred boundary between the CX-50 and the bigger CX-9 but it doesn’t;t bloat outward like other segment pushing SUVs. Instead, Mazda designers chose to style it like a tall wagon which follows the formula that we have seen with other offerings like the Subaru Outback. Unlike the Outback, the CX-50’s styling is a more premium-looking piece thanks to the big blacked-out front grille, the athletic-looking headlights, and the sleek taillights at the rear.
The wagon layout also helps make the CX-50 easier to park in tight spots, especially when you’re working in tandem with the rear-mounted backup camera. That said, the contrasting lower cladding was more pronounced than the Polymetal Grey model we drove and from some angles, the Zircon does clash with the stark grey of the cladding. But look for that minor detail to not dissuade the bulk of CX-50 buyers with Mazda claiming that the design will appeal to millennial and Gen Z buyers that want to have a balanced lifestyle of urban commuting and weekend travel.
Interior Is Still As Upscale As We Remembered It
Slip inside the CX-50 and you are greeted with an interior that tries its best to balance functionality and elegance. The black leather seats in our tester still provide butter-smooth comfort and even come with a pinch of bolstering to help keep occupants in place during spirited driving. The CX-50 doesn’t go out of its way to try and overwhelm the senses with gimmicks and instead presents a simple layout that’s easy to master and integrates the driver seamlessly into its world.
The prominent Command knob for the infotainment system is easy to master, and Mazda even included partial touch capability for certain features. The CX-50’s panoramic sunroof does a good job of letting in plenty of light and it also doesn’t intrude into the headroom for front and rear-seat passengers. However, all is not perfect, the thick rear pillars create big blind spots and made passing in busy Michigan traffic a challenge, and the low roof makes loading bulkier items harder than it should be. An unexpected surprise we ran into was a broken lock mechanism for one of the rear seats which made loading a bicycle an adventure. Luckily, some quick work with the tools we brought along allowed the bike to fit and successfully make it back home to the office.
CX-50 Solidifies Its Performance Game
When we drove the CX-50 in California, it immediately made a strong first impression on us with its sporty handling and its impressive towing abilities. While our follow-up drive in Michigan wasn’t quite as event-filled as our time out west, the rigors of the Metro Detroit daily commute helped solidify our feelings about the Mazda. Our Turbo Premium Plus model was powered by the familiar 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which is good for 250 hp when fed with premium fuel. That’s a sizable bump over the naturally aspirated model and the extra boost was a welcome thing to have when going through the motions on I-696 and I-75. When we weren’t logging freeway miles, the engine also proved to be a competent partner on urban commutes with the engine having the amount of power needed when squirting our way through tight city streets.
A six-speed automatic is the lone transmission here and as we noted before it’s two gears short of matching the eight and nine-speed transmissions that we have seen in a few of its rivals. Despite that, the transmission still delivers the right gear when needed, and we noticed very minimal gear hunting when cruising at a variety of speeds. Mazda engineers told us in the past that they wanted to make the driving experience feel natural and eliminate some of the clunkiness that defines other engine and transmission combinations and it would seem that Mazda has succeeded in doing just that. As mentioned before in our first drive, software as well as select mechanical revisions, play a role in this and the CX-50 is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air when it comes to driving involvement in the segment.
Pricing for the 2023 Mazda CX-50 still remains its strongest asset in the segment with a base model starting at $26,800. It comes with a naturally aspirated version of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder but you do get standard Wireless Apple CarPlay support as well as radar cruise control. As you climb up the trim ladder, the list of standard equipment gradually grows which is reflective of the high levels of luxury that the CX-50 brings to the table.
As expected, Turbo models command a slight premium, with a base version in this trim ladder starting at $36,400. Our tester was a range=topping Premium Plus model that started at $41,550. Excluding outside pricing factors like taxes, fees, and, yes, dealer markups, our lightly optioned example rang in at just over $45,000. That’s still a very good price point for most family buyers, but with the current state of affairs in the broader dealer landscape we encourage potential CX-50 owners to shop around to find a price that works best for their family and budget.
In the meantime, look for the 2023 Mazda CX-50 to continue to make waves in the SUV segment. From the warm sun-filled highways of the west coast to the more battered tarmac that defines snowier regions, the CX-50 does a good job of maintaining a good first impression and when you factor in its enviable combination of luxury, performance, and functionality, it all translates into a solid and dependable package.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.