2023 Mazda CX-50 Premium Plus AWD

July 21st, 2022 at 2:14pm

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When I first set eyes on the Mazda CX-50, I was a little bit puzzled. Instead of the graceful, fluidic styling lines I’m used to from Mazda, the CX-50 is more squared off. Beefier looking.

And when I started driving, I was surprised that it felt heavier than other Mazda’s, especially in the steering effort. I’ve grown fond of Mazda’s Skyactiv design philosophy where every gram counts, and which results in light, responsive cars and crossovers. So I wondered why Mazda would drift away from that approach.

Since the CX-50 is co-built at a new Toyota plant in Alabama, Mazda says this is the first vehicle it’s ever designed exclusively for the North American market. And that could be why it looks and feels like it does. Maybe Japanese designers and engineers equate beefy and heavy with American consumers.

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The CX-50 comes with a peppy 2.4 liter turbo, which the EPA rates at 25 mpg. There’s also a non-turbo version which is rated at 27 mpg. Both versions come standard with all wheel drive.

But to my seat-of-the-pants, the CX-50 doesn’t feel like it’s been imbued with Skyactiv philosophy. It’s missing that sprightly lightness.

Even so, the CX-50 feels rock solid. The passenger cabin is roomy and quiet and well put together. All the familiar Mazda switch gear, controls and features are there, and all in the same familiar locations. This crossover is well packaged for passengers and cargo.

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The build quality is superb, especially the paint job. The one I tested came in what Mazda calls Zircon Sand Metallic, which kind of looks like an olive green to my eye. And all I can say is that you need to see it to believe it. It looks fantastic.

The version I drove, the Turbo Premium Plus AWD, costs $43,170 which is priced in the middle of the market in today’s climate.

Even though it’s only been on sale for a few months, the CX-50 seems to be on target. As of the end of last month it was the third best selling model in the lineup, only behind the CX-5 and CX-30, and they retail at a much lower price.

As something of a niche player, Mazda needs to move its model line more upscale. And maybe the CX-50 is a signal that the move is already underway.

By: John McElroy

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