Mazda unveiled an all-new compact SUV in a virtual presentation this week, just in advance of the 2021 edition of the Los Angeles Auto Show. The 2023 Mazda CX-50 represents a noteworthy expansion in focus for the brand—whereas other Mazdas are primarily tuned for on-road driving dynamics, the CX-50 is more overtly aimed at off-road driving and active-lifestyle adventures than any Mazda in recent memory. Mazda says it’s “purpose-built for outdoor enthusiasts.”
2023 Mazda CX-50
Mazda hasn’t released any official stats, measurements, or pricing, but the CX-50 appears to be a bit wider, longer, and lower than Mazda’s current-generation CX-5 compact SUV (which the CX-50 will be complimenting, not replacing). We presume the CX-50 will be pricier than a comparable CX-5 as well.
At launch, the CX-50 will be powered by Mazda’s familiar 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine in either naturally aspirated or turbocharged form, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and standard “i-Activ” all-wheel drive. In other Mazdas, the 2.5-liter fours are rated at 187 horsepower in naturally aspirated form and 227 hp with the turbo (250 hp when running premium gasoline), and we expect those ratings to carry over to the CX-50. Mazda says electrified versions of the CX-50, including a traditional hybrid model, will be added in the coming years.
Unlike other AWD Mazdas, the CX-50’s Mazda Intelligent Drive Select (or Mi-Drive) driver-selectable drive-mode system will offer an off-road mode and a towing mode. A Mazda-first panoramic sunroof is available to help occupants “feel more connected to nature.” Mazda also says the CX-50’s wide opening doors and relatively low roofline are intended to make it easier for outdoor adventurers to access to the roof area for gear storage—and a roof rack and many other outdoor/active-lifestyle accessories will be available.
The CX-50’s exterior styling blends Mazda’s signature design cues with the expected rugged-outdoors touches: blackout trim with wheel-arch and lower-body cladding, a slightly raised ride height with all-terrain tires, and a matte-black hood graphic with cutout “CX-50” lettering. Even the CX-50’s new color offerings—an interesting taupe-tone exterior paint called Zircon Sand, and a terracotta interior color—are a bit of a departure from Mazda’s usual cool, metallic hues. However, despite the heighted focus on all-terrain capability, Mazda engineers said they didn’t compromise the CX-50’s on-road driving character, since even owners who frequently go into the wild usually spend the bulk of their driving time on paved roads. Likewise, the CX-50’s cabin maintains an upscale ambiance that is in keeping with Mazda’s premium-brand aspirations.
The CX-50 is slated to go on sale in Spring 2022, and it will be the first Mazda vehicle to be built at the joint-venture Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) plant in Huntsville, Alabama.
Blame it on the pandemic? Automakers have apparently decided that the COVID-19 fueled uptick in back-to-nature pursuits such as camping, hiking, and kayaking isn’t a passing fad, because several manufacturers have recently introduced off-road-focused models, and even well-established outdoorsy brands are getting more outdoorsy. This type of vehicle feels a bit more like foreign territory for Mazda than for some other brands, but it looks to us like the CX-50 might hit the right balance… it appears poised to deliver enhanced all-terrain capabilities without sacrificing the things that make a Mazda a Mazda. Though Mazda’s 2.5-liter fours are respectable powertrains, they’ve been around for a while (particularly that 6-speed automatic transmission), so we’re especially looking forward to details on the CX-50’s promised electrified powertrains.
2023 Mazda CX-50 Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)