The Right Spec: 2023 Mazda CX-50

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
the right spec 2023 mazda cx 50

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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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.

  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models
  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....
  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.