Adventure appeal

From the June 2022 print edition

Camping, hiking, skiing, biking, canoeing and kayaking – compact SUV buyers are doing more of these things post-pandemic, according to data presented by Mazda when explaining the logic behind its newest SUV.

Images: Stephanie Wallcraft

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is an entirely new SUV that builds on the baseline created by the popular CX-5, while adding an outdoorsy twist to appeal to those of us who are newly venturing out into nature more often. Also important is that it doesn’t replace the CX-5 in the line-up: they’ll be sold alongside one another in dealerships across Canada.

The CX-50 is longer, lower, and wider than the CX-5—by 145mm, 62mm, and 75mm, to be precise – and it also has a 115mm longer wheelbase. This allows for better access to the cargo area and to the roof, where a cargo box or racks for outdoor toys can be put within easier reach. The doors wrap around the sills to prevent dirt from collecting and help to keep pant legs clean. Otherwise, the exterior of the CX-50 looks much any other Mazda: the grille, headlights, taillights, and other exterior accents would look just as much at home on a CX-5 or CX-9, and there are no ladder-style roof rails or simulated skid plates. It’s a good option for people who like these dimensions but don’t necessarily love the rugged look.

Trim levels
At launch, the CX-50 will be sold in two trims. The entry-level GS-L comes with a normally aspirated 2.5L, four-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive.

At a base price of $39,850, including a $1,950 freight and PDI charge, it starts at a higher price point than many vehicles in its class, but at a price that’s in line with entry-level all-wheel drive grades among its competition.

The base engine produces 187hp and 186lbs-ft of torque, and its estimated fuel consumption according to Natural Resources Canada lands at 8.9L per 100km combined. A panoramic sunroof is standard, as are 17-inch wheels, very effective heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

A strong set of standard safety features is included as well: emergency braking support, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and a driver attention alert are all equipped at no extra charge.

The built-in infotainment system is displayed on a 10.25-inch screen, which is set far back on the dashboard and by default is not touch-operated.

The higher GT grade comes with 20-inch wheels, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats,
a 360-degree camera, and a wireless phone charging pad. The base engine is standard, while a 2.5L, four-cylinder engine with turbocharging is optional, as tested here at a fees-in price of $47,550.

This engine has two sets of power figures listed: one is with 93 octane fuel, with which it makes 256hp and 320lbs-ft or torque, and the other is with 87 octane, which produces 227hp and 310lbs-ft.

In either case, the turbo engine uses an average of 9.4L per 100km, according to NRCan. Our real-world figure landed somewhat higher at 10.2L/100km, which is closer to NRCan’s city rating of 10.4L/100km.

Opting for the turbo engine also equips drive modes for Normal, Sport, and Off-Road, as well as a towing mode that works with the turbo’s higher maximum towing capacity of 3,500lbs (versus the 2,000lbs capacity with the base engine).

Cargo figures are higher in the CX-50 versus the CX-5 with the rear seats up at 889L, and less space when the second-row seatbacks are dropped.

Cargo figures are slightly higher in the CX-50 versus the CX-5 with the rear seats up at 889L (versus 871L in the latter), while there’s slightly less space to work with when the second-row seatbacks are dropped at 1,595L (as opposed to 1,680L).

Up front
True to Mazda form, the climate controls are easy to understand and operate with a simple layout of knobs and buttons. The built-in infotainment system is displayed on a 10.25-inch screen, which is set far back on the dashboard and by default is not touch-operated. Instead, the driver or front passenger interacts with it via a controller in the centre console. Interestingly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect wirelessly as standard equipment, and unlike the rest of the system, they can be operated by touch, but only when the vehicle is stopped (unless touch functions are enabled while driving via the vehicle settings, which works for the smartphone apps only).

Overall, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 takes the brand in a new direction: it’s a functional and family-friendly compact SUV, with a hint of adventure appeal.

As tested:
Price (incl. freight and PDI): Starts at $47,500
Engine: 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 256hp, 320lbs-ft
(93 octane); 227hp, 310lbs-ft (87 octane)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Rated Fuel Economy (L/100km):
10.4 city/8.1 hwy/9.4 combined
Observed Combined Fuel Economy (L/100km): 10.2