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2023 Mazda CX-50 Aims To Blend Sporty Handling With Ruggedness

The all-new Mazda CX-50 is the brand's first wave of next-generation crossover SUVs and it's their take on what a rugged vehicle should be.

As promised just a few months ago, Mazda is going to be releasing their wave of next-generation vehicles that will also include the CX-60 and CX-80 for Europe and Japan, while the slightly larger CX-70 and CX-90 are for North America and the rest of the world. The all-new Mazda CX-50 is the first wave of these next-generation SUVs.

Exclusive to the North American market, the Mazda CX-50 rides on the new front-wheel drive (FWD) Skyactiv Vehicle Architecture for the brand’s Small Product group. It’s a platform that’s shared with the current Mazda 3 and CX-30. As a reminder, the upcoming rear-wheel drive (RWD) premium Mazda SUVs will be categorized by the brand under their Large Product group.

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

The all-new CX-50’s design takes on a new interpretation of the brand’s evolved Kodo design language, which is known for minimalism and the elimination of fussy lines. This is the first time that the design language has been applied with a high degree of ruggedness. The CX-50 aims to compete with the Subaru Forester Wilderness, Toyota RAV4 TRD, and Kia Sportage X Line, all of which are exclusive to the North American market.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Interior

2023 Mazda CX-50 Interior

Just as with any other Mazda, the CX-50’s interior is decidedly premium and exquisitely crafted. There’s a large amount of leather, soft-touch plastics, and satin silver finishes that give the interior a truly luxurious atmosphere. For the first time ever in a Mazda, the CX-50 also comes with a panoramic sunroof.

While the interior provides a luxurious ambiance to all passengers, the cargo space is thoughtfully designed to help support and enable outdoor activities. The vehicle’s height and length are ideal for easily loading and securing common outdoor equipment. Additionally, the high-strength roof rails and reinforced B-pillars and door jambs add to the usability of securing equipment on the roof of CX-50.

Two engine choices are available for the Mazda CX-50, both of which are Skyactiv-G engines with 2.5-liters in displacement and will be familiar to any Mazda fan. The base engine is a non-turbo 2.5-liter unit that produces 187 hp and 252 Nm of torque, while the more powerful turbo 2.5-liter engine produces 250 hp and 434 Nm of torque.

Both engines come standard with a 6-speed automatic and the new Mi-Drive (pronounced as My Drive) drive mode selector that debuted in the facelifted 2022 CX-5. Of course, being Mazda’s take on a rugged crossover SUV, all-wheel drive (AWD) comes as standard.

If you’re worried that the CX-50’s rugged looks mean that it won’t handle as sporty as the current crop of Mazdas, there’s no need to worry. Dave Coleman, Manager of Vehicle Dynamics of Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) says that based on his research, most outdoor trips with crossover owners only involve 10 to 20 miles of off-road driving right at the end of their trip. Because of this, he thinks it’s not worth engineering the CX-50 too much to feel rugged that it will compromise on its on-road handling.

“So compromising all of that on-road driving, just for a little bit of improvement off-road doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he says. “Especially if you’re Mazda, with our expertise on-road. So we resolved to get the best off-road performance that we could without making any compromises in the on-road driving.”

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 will be produced at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) plant in Huntsville, Alabama beginning in early 2022 alongside the North American Corolla Cross. As mentioned, the CX-50 will only be sold in the North American continent.

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