2023 Mazda CX-50 First Look Review: A More Rugged CX-5

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Mazda's new SUV wants to head off-road.

We regard Mazda's SUVs highly as they offer an appealing blend of style, quality, and sophistication. However, they've never been thought of as rugged, capable off-roaders. This is a perception that Mazda wants to change and it has gotten to work doing just that with this, the new CX-50. It will be sold alongside the CX-5 but caters to customers with more adventurous lifestyles. To that end, the CX-50 boasts more rugged styling, a standard all-wheel-drive system, and high-strength roof rails to carry all your equipment to wherever you need to take it. It may not be a Land Rover but the CX-50 looks like a fine alternative to off-road-focused versions of the Toyota RAV4.

Mazda

Exterior Styling: Mazda’s Toughest SUV Yet

If you're marketing a rugged SUV with any degree of off-road potential, it's got to look the part. Mazda has hit the nail on the head as the CX-50 is a seriously attractive SUV. Compared to the CX-5, it's been beefed up with protruding fenders, thick wheel arch cladding, and a raised stance. A wide track, chunky rubber, and a large grille are other elements that blend together cohesively. A new exterior shade called Zircon Sand was developed to embody the spirit of the outdoors, and it works well with the SUV's black detailing.

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Mazda
Mazda
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Power And Performance: Familiar Four-Pot Twins

The CX-50 will use two familiar Skyactiv-G engines. Both are 2.5-liter four-cylinder units, although one is naturally aspirated and the other is turbocharged. Although Mazda hasn't announced outputs, we're well acquainted with these engines from other products in the brand's portfolio. In the CX-5, the base engine develops 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. The 2.5-liter turbo, meanwhile, produces up to 250 hp and 320 lb-ft. The latter should provide strong performance, although Mazda has stuck with a rather dated six-speed automatic transmission. More intriguingly, Mazda says that electrified powertrains are coming too, including a traditional hybrid.

To live up to its potential off-road, the CX-50 gets the brand's i-Activ all-wheel-drive system with Mazda Intelligent Drive Select, or Mi-Drive. This system makes it easy to switch between drive modes. There's only one off-road mode, though, as Mazda thinks more of them simply confuses the driver. While we don't have official approach/departure angles or other technical information, the CX-50 should be easily more capable than the CX-5 off-road.

Mazda
Mazda
Mazda

Interior: A Class Act

Although Mazda has pointed out a practically designed cargo area and an available terracotta interior color that evoke the CX-50's tougher personality, this is evidently another classy effort from the Japanese marque. Like other current Mazdas, the CX-50's cabin is a study in minimalist design, clear instruments, and plush materials. Mazda is offering a panoramic moonroof for the first time. Although we don't have official interior dimensions just yet, the CX-5's cabin can comfortably accommodate five adults - we expect much the same in the new CX-50.

Mazda
Mazda
Mazda

Pricing And Competition

Mazda hasn't yet revealed pricing for its new CX-50, although we expect that it'll cost a bit more than the CX-5, so you can expect a base MSRP of about $28,000. Other compact crossovers that the Mazda will have to fend off include the Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Escape. The Mazda is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of this group, and may just be the most refined based on other Mazda SUVs. However, it'll need to prove itself off-road before we can say for sure that it surpasses these tough rivals. Production of the CX-50 will begin in January 2022 and will go on sale as a 2023 model soon after.

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Mazda
Mazda
Mazda

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