The Right Spec: 2023 Mazda CX-50

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Incomprehensible naming schemes aside (CX-50 versus CX-5 will be spoken of in marketing case studies for years to come), Mazda has made a habit of cranking out attractive-looking vehicles with an eye towards driving enjoyment. Helping the latter immensely is the smart decision to have serious gearheads at the helm of most Mazda projects. 

Playing the (slightly) off-road foil to the urban CX-5, the new-last-year CX-50 adds a bit of black wheel trim and a few squared-off styling cues when compared to its city-dwelling cousin. The CX-50 is also longer and wider, though it’s tough to tell if they’re not parked side-by-each. Paradoxically, the more rugged CX-50 has more ground clearance but is not as tall as the CX-5.

Two engine choices are on tap, ones that will be familiar to anyone who has hit up the brand’s build-and-price tool in the last few years. Kicking things off is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-banger making 187 horsepower and a like amount of torque. Appending a turbocharger to the mill jacks the horse count to 256 when fed premium oats, while torque jumps to 320 lb-ft. It’s the latter which really wakes up the car, especially when driven back-to-back. Every CX-50 is all-wheel drive.

Mazda applies a dizzying array of trims to the non-turbo CX-50, ranging from $27,550 base model S through $29k Select and $30k Preferred before landing at Premium and Premium Plus which rings in at $37,150. That last trim sounds like a soup cracker. Stepping into the Turbo is similar, save for the two Preferred trims which are substituted with a Meridian Edition.

There’s a lot to like in the base S, including comforts like push-button start and a tilt/telescope steering wheel. Seats are cloth and manually adjusted at this price, while the 8.8-inch infotainment screen is hardly bigger than some smartphones. It does have wireless Apple CarPlay, however.

Despite its starting price of nearly 10 grand over the natural-aspirated base CX-50, we do heartily recommend the Turbo if within budget. Current supply chain woes could very well push buyers towards the Premium Plus trim of the N/A car anyway thanks to availability issues of the other trims, and the PP price tag is identical to that of the most affordable Turbo. Cargo volume et al are all equal to the lesser-engined car but fuel economy does take a 1 mpg hit; we feel that’s a price worth paying for the extra grunt.

But if frugality on the monthly payment ranks high, pop for the naturally aspirated Select trim. At just $1,400 more than the base S, it adds a better infotainment package, USB ports in the rear, leather-wrapped touchpoints and fake-leather seat trim, dual-zone climate, and a center console armrest. Don’t sleep on the value of that last feature, by the way.

Still – get the Turbo if you can.

[Image: Mazda]

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Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

More by Matthew Guy

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2 of 6 comments
  • Wunsch Wunsch on Jan 04, 2023

    Lower and wider makes this look much more appealing to me than a CX-5, even though I have no interest in the outdoorsy marketing.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jan 05, 2023

    The right spec would have more sidewall than the vehicle in that picture.

  • Lou_BC Was he at GM for 47 years or an engineer for 47 years?
  • Ajla The VW vote that was held today heavily favored unionization (75/25). That's a very large victory for the UAW considering such a vote has failed two other times this decade at that plant.
  • The Oracle Just advertise ICE vehicles by range instead of MPG and let the market decide.
  • Lou_BC Collective bargaining provides workers with the ability to counter a rather one-sided relationship. Let them exercise their democratic right to vote. I found it interesting that Conservative leaders were against unionization. The fear there stems from unions preferring left leaning political parties. Wouldn't a "populist" party favour unionization?
  • Jrhurren I enjoyed this