2023 Mazda CX-50 Quick Look: Is This SUV Still Worth Your Time, Or Should You Avoid It?

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is the best crossover few of you are actually buying, and that sucks.

Last year, Mazda sold just over 21,000 2023 Mazda CX-50 crossovers in the United States. That same year, Toyota sold over 366,000 RAV4s on our shores, and it’s a head scratcher for me. Sure, the CX-50 starts at $27,550, and our top-of-the line Turbo Premium Plus comes in at nearly $43,000, but the RAV4 now starts at $28,275 and the top-dog hybrid starts at $43,900. In a way, they compete head to head in terms of pricing.

I will admit, Toyota and Mazda are worlds apart in terms of their mission statements. Mazda has their feet firmly planted in performance, and entry-level luxury. Toyota is all about choices, and hybrid tech. Ford drivers like me who value fun over economy, and comfort over popularity, I’d side with the CX-50.

Driving the 2023 Mazda CX-50: Impressions

Opt for the 2.5-liter turbo, and you get a 256 horsepower four-banger that makes a beefy 320 lb-ft torque. All CX-50s come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Despite the lack of cogs (most modern auto-boxes are eight, or nine-speed), it returns 23 City / 29 Highway mpg. Opt for the naturally aspirated version and you average an additional one mile per gallon.

The power comes on smooth at first, then the rush kicks in just over 3,000 RPM. It’s never harsh, and the exhaust note sounds surprisingly playful in this class. Ride and handling are easily best-in-class, as there’s little compromise between the two. Like many Mazdas, the CX-50 hunkers down in the corners, and keeps its composure even on the harshest bends. Adhesion is outstanding, and there’s very little jostling over highway imperfections.

Not everything is perfect, though…

I love the look, feel and driving experience of the 2023 Mazda CX-50. After I tested this turbo, I found a base model (CX-50 S) which made 187 hp. It sure felt sluggish, compared with the turbo, but as my wife yelled at me for zooming all over the place, it still has plenty of pep. Better still, it has Mazda’s iACTIV all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard.

As we drove the base model, I noticed something I heard in this top-of-the-line model shown below as well: excessive road noise. I thought I was being too sensitive to the buzzing and rolling sonics, but my wife mentioned it too. In my past experiences with many Mazdas, this was an issue as well.

If you count my ’91 Mercury Tracer LTS – which is basically a Mazda, I’ve owned six of the brand’s cars. In many cases, they perform better than many competitors, are more economical and tend to be well assembled. Best of all, every Mazda I’ve owned is fun to drive. I believe the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is right there with that assessment. Sure, some offer more for the money, and efficient hybrids are everywhere, but nothing is as much fun to drive.