It looks like the media embargo has lifted and the CX-50 first drive reviews are out!


Great For Curves
It should come as no surprise the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is at its best on a sharp, twisty road, where its admirably precise steering and well-damped suspension give the kind of precision we expect from a German sports car. Mazda's G-Vectoring system makes smart use of the center and rear differentials to control weight transfer; among its tricks, it keeps weight on the front end to sharpen corner turn-in. Few cars (let alone SUVs) respond so intuitively to steering inputs as the CX-50—like the Miata, you can practically think it through the curves.

But as talented as the CX-50 is, we can't say it's always enjoyable. The steering, though exceptionally accurate, is also heavy. The ride is rather firm, and in the chassis' heroic efforts to keep all four tire contact patches glued to the Earth, the CX-50 bobs and weaves on uneven pavement. It seems even Mazda's suspension wizardry can't overcome the behavioral issues of a torsion-beam rear axle. We also felt the vague tug of torque steer at certain engine RPMs, particularly on corner exit. And remember we mentioned the CX-50's width? On some narrow roads, the CX-50 felt as big as a full-size pickup. We were able to make rapid progress on the most challenging sections, but our speed was hard-won—the CX-50 felt like it was working against us rather than with us.


Importantly, they concocted G-Vectoring Control, a unique system that’s frankly a little hard to get your head around, whereby the car effectively shifts weight onto the front tires, therefore increasing steering precision and response. This is actually the key to the whole shebang, because all those drive settings and their ability to maintain the CX-50’s consistent driving feel depend on GVC. On a winding mountain road, putting the CX-50 in Sport did indeed make it turn in more crisply and eagerly than just keeping it in Normal. The result is yet another Mazda that just feels right behind the wheel, like it’s an extension of your body. It can be a lot of fun.

Hold on a second, isn’t this supposed to be a more rugged SUV? Well, it is … to an extent. According to project manager Mimi Battistella, the CX-50 came about because Mazda recognized an overall increase in Americans venturing outdoors, and as the CX-5 is a global product, it saw room to lean into the trend with a new product specifically for the North American market. That trend increased with the pandemic. They didn’t exactly have the sort of outdoorsy customer data that Subaru shared, but the same use case was envisaged. The CX-50, like the Forester Wilderness, is meant to be more rugged for the purposes of getting you just far enough off the beaten path that you can park it and do something other than driving. You know, like camping, hiking and general outdoorsiness.

Car and Driver

Quiet, comfortable, and confident, the CX-50 drives more like a Volvo XC60 than a Toyota RAV4. And while we only sampled the top trim's interior, which has upscale brown or black leather with contrasting stitching, we found the cabin to be considerably nicer to look at and to touch than anything in the mainstream segment. The infotainment system is similar to what you'll find in other Mazdas, with a control knob on the center console, but with newly enabled touchscreen functionality for when you're using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.


Mazda is aiming to go upmarket, and the interior of the CX-50 is where their intentions really show. Everything is laid out cleanly. The over-10-inch infotainment system is controlled primarily by a knob and buttons in the center console. Mazda doesn’t believe in touch screens, and frankly, I don’t agree with them. However, if you use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you can use a touch screen. Mazda says that’s because those apps were designed with touchscreens in mind.

Material choices for the most part were very nice. There are plenty of soft touch surfaces where you’d expect them. I loved the seats – primarily because after five hours of driving, my back didn’t hurt. At this point you’re thinking, “Andy why does your back hurt at 25 years old?” Well, to that I say, I know I am aging rapidly.

The CX-50 also comes equipped with Mazda’s first ever panoramic sunroof – which is really nice when you’re in California.

Road Show

Yes, the CX-50 is perhaps a bit too close to the CX-5 in Mazda's lineup and I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years this model ends up ultimately replacing its smaller sibling, but for now, this is still a very different-feeling vehicle when you look beyond the numbers. More importantly, the CX-50's blending of Mazda's hallmark excellent on-road driving dynamics -- where you'll do 95% of driving -- with trail capability that is better matched with off-road-focused competition like the Outback and Audi's A4 Allroad makes this 2023 Mazda CX-50 a very compelling addition to Mazda's lineup.


The CX-50’s interior quality is truly a step above its rivals with a fun mix of colors and materials throughout. Just like in other Mazdas, the seats are soft and cozy with great support, as well as heating and ventilation, at least on this trim. The caramel brown contrast stitching across the dash looks super cool, as do the vertical HVAC vents. Even in less obvious places, Mazda opted for high-quality trim and textures which make the entire experience feel more elevated than basically any other crossover south of $50,000.

While quality is up, overall space is not. Despite its bigger size, the CX-50 offers no more legroom than the CX-5 and loses on headroom slightly because of its lower roofline. And somehow, its also down on cargo space to the CX-5, offering 56.3 cubic feet of space compared to 59.6 when the second row is folded down.

The CX-50 is flawlessly quiet on the highway. There is an especially commendable lack of tire noise while at speed considering the test car wore winter tires. Mazda’s horse and rider mentality is on show here as well. Mazda went so far as to benchmark the throttle response against the Porsche 997-generation 911. I bet the people who design the RAV4 didn’t bother to do that. This work has paid off and the CX-50 is one of the best-driving CUVs in its class. Body control is excellent and ride comfort hasn’t been sacrificed. It’s a real accomplishment. There is also a sport mode which changes the transmission logic for better response, increases the gain on the G-vectoring control control so it tightens steering response, and optimizes the traction control for acceleration. In plain speak, the CX-50 will slightly uncouple the centre torque coupling so it can individually drag the inside wheel to help the car rotate. After a few miles of brisk driving in sport mode the brakes smelled a bit hot. Toggling it on and and off I noticed that the steering definitely felt heavier in sport mode and I can feel the techno-wizardry making the rear end tuck nicely into turns.