Adding a much needed optional turbo to the 2023 CX-50 Turbo fills in a major gap that used to exist in the automakers lineup. All new for 2023, the CX-50 is similar in size to the CX-5. While the two are nearly identical in cargo capacity, the CX-50 is lower and wider. This gives is a sportier stance and might even improve the driving dynamics.
Up front the grill is very large, but not overly so. Slanted LED headlights give the CX-50 Turbo a menacing face. Amber LED strips low in the bumper function as turn signals and marker lights, but blend very well with the design. A pair of somewhat functional brake vents sit on the outer edges of the lower bumper.
On the side, we find a more modern design. An overhang is created from the upper grill and hood that covers the headlights. This actually turned out to be functional as there was no snow build up on the headlights when the rest of the crossover had a light dusting. How functional this would be in a heavier snowfall we don’t know.
The Premium Plus trim comes equipped with 10 spoke 20-inch black wheels with machined touches. The wheels are wrapped in 245/45R20 Goodyear Eagle Touring rubber.
Around back are a set of faux vents at the far outer and lower corners. LED tail Lights resemble four eyes with the turn signals and reverse lights centered in red semi-circles. The wide haunches are still very pronounced from the rear adding to the athletic stance. At the bottom is a gray plastic bumper trim with cutouts to house the dual exhaust tips. All of it ties together for a nice complete design.
Matching the modern exterior is a simplistic but quality interior. Mazda always does an excellent job of focusing on the driver. Top tier vehicles from other companies focus too much on the technology aspect and not enough on the drive. Despite having great driving dynamics many modern vehicles have technology suites that greatly detract from the driver’s focus and connection with the vehicle. No so with Mazda.
Open the door and the black leather with brown stitching immediately stands out. Compared to many crossovers in this class the CX-50 Turbo sits a little lower requiring a step down to get in. Ingress and egress is still easy and once in the seats they are quite comfortable. Everything the driver needs is angled properly to be easily seen and reached. Controls are adequate to get the job done without being too simple or too excessive. Other brands simplify by adding as many features as possible to the screen. Mazda simplifies by providing physical buttons, switches, and dials for the important stuff and eliminating things that are just fluff. Our only complaint is that the bolt on style infotainment screen could be better integrated with the dash.
Front seats are heated and ventilated for comfort. A wireless phone charging pad sits just in front of the center armrest and a single 12-volt outlet is placed at the very bottom of the dash in the center.
Near the shift lever are controls for the various drive modes, infotainment screen, and audio system. All are different enough that the driver can adjust them without taking their eyes off the road.
In the back row of the CX-50 Turbo, the outboard seats are heated. There are also 2 USB-A ports for charging devices. Car seat anchors are clearly marked and easy to reach, but are only placed on the outboard seats.
There is quite a lot of cargo room out back. The floor is flat with one cubby on each side behind the rear wheel wells. While there are tie down points, they don’t really feel all that substantial and should be loaded lightly. There are also plenty of grocery hooks. If more space is needed, levers at the back can be pulled to drop the rear seats.
Make no mistake, Mazda is top tier when it comes to connecting the driver with the vehicle.
“Mazda is obsessed with creating a feeling of connection between car and driver; a connection that helps ensure the car responds precisely and intuitively, giving drivers the exhilaration of control with the confidence that helps keep them fully relaxed.
To create a seamless connection with the vehicle, Mazda engineers closely study human traits and maintain trust in the innate abilities of the human body. Instead of forcing humans to adapt to a vehicle, Mazda builds its vehicles around humans. Mazda calls this human-centric engineering…“
On pavement the CX-50 Turbo is very well balanced. Steering is direct with excellent feedback. The crossover remains planted when cornering and braking. Mazda continues to impress with excellent driving dynamics.
Having high torque at low RPM makes the CX-50 more responsive anywhere except from a stop. Highway passing is a breeze and requires little effort. All around Mazda has done a wonderful job with the CX-50!
Mazda is advertising the CX-50 Turbo as an outdoorsy type vehicle. However, it should really be limited to very well maintained dirt and gravel roads. It has fairly low clearance with poor approach, breakover, and departure angles for an off-pavement vehicle. We weren’t able to fully test the AWD system in the rough, but the little bit we did proved it to be quite capable. Certainly the mechanical aptitude is there, but the low chassis severely limits capability.
Our tester had a base price of $41,550. The only option was $395 for the Polymetal Gray Metallic paint. Adding in the destination charge brings the total to $43,170. This is about on par with the Nissan Rogue, Toyota Rav4, and Honda CRV.
Mazda has always developed vehicles with great driving dynamics. The CX-50 Turbo continues that trend. Adding in a torquey turbocharged engine greatly increases the driving dynamics. Interior quality is excellent with only a few cheap plastic bits. Mazda’s AWD system with a slightly overdriven rear is excellent for sporty driving and bad weather.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.