Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A banner is shown saying 'new car alert'.

More Human in Nature? The 2023 Mazda CX-50

Mazda is one of the smaller brands in the industry but is well-known for its attention to providing an affordable near-luxury experience paired with remarkable driving dynamics. Like most manufacturers, Mazda is in the process of updating and expanding its SUV lineup, recently announcing three new models to complement its current lineup of the subcompact CX-30, compact CX-5, and midsize CX-9. The first of those three new SUVs was just announced at the 2021 LA Auto Show, and the 2023 Mazda CX-50 appears to be a worthy addition to the Mazda family.

To date, Mazda has largely eschewed the advertising trope of SUVs tearing along dirt trails on off-road adventures. Instead, its models have emphasized refined road manners and upscale styling. However, the CX-50 appears to be aimed at the growing off-road SUV market, taking a place alongside recent models like the Subaru Outback Wilderness, Honda Pilot Trailsport, and GMC Terrain AT4. While it will certainly offer the premium experience expected from the Mazda name, the CX-50 boasts a standard all-wheel drive system that has been tuned for enhanced off-road performance alongside other adventurous features like a large roof basket.

A tan 2023 Mazda CX-50 SUV is shown from the front parked in a desert.

Moving Further Up-Market

What isn’t yet clear is how the CX-50 will fit into the Mazda lineup. As a compact SUV, it will occupy the same segment as the CX-5, Mazda’s most popular model. While the off-road features and slightly larger body of the CX-50 do help differentiate itself from the established model, it remains to be seen whether these two compact SUVs will be able to coexist. The fact that the CX-50 is launching with identical powertrain options as the CX-5 (a base 2.5L and an optional 2.5L Turbo) further muddies the waters – although Mazda tells us that a hybrid version of the CX-50 is in the cards. Incidentally, this would make it Mazda’s first hybrid SUV available in America.

The most likely answer is that Mazda intends for the CX-50 to replace the CX-5 as part of the brand’s continued move up-market into true luxury territory, following the pattern of the CX-30 and CX-3. In that case, the CX-30 was first offered as a larger and more luxurious alternative to the CX-3, but after it was established in the market, the CX-3 was discontinued. Although the CX-3 was never as popular as the CX-5, the larger SUV will be seven years into its second generation when the CX-50 hits dealers and is in need of a redesign or replacement. Since the new CX-50 is undoubtedly more luxurious than the CX-5, offering new features such as Mazda’s first panoramic sunroof and an attractive digital gauge cluster, it would make for a perfect replacement for the CX-5 and further Mazda’s luxury ambitions.

A grey 2023 Mazda CX-50 SUV is shown from the side parked by a hiking trail.

More to Come

While the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is an exciting addition to the Mazda brand and should help it expand its presence in several market segments, it is only one of three new SUV models planned for the near future. The upcoming CX-70 and CX-90 are expected to offer Mazda’s all-new inline-6 engine in a rear-wheel drive platform, providing a compelling alternative to the BMW X5 and other true luxury models. While it may not be quite as large or luxurious as those planned models, the new 2023 CX-50 will be a solid option for buyers seeking a more premium experience than the CX-5 can offer, as well as offering an intriguing option for the more adventure-minded to wander off-road.