Auto123 is putting the 2023 Mazda CX-50 to the long-term test. Today, part 5 of 6, as we venture into the interior of this SUV.
After chapters devoted to its Mazda family tree, its current place in the lineup, its powertrain and its on-road behaviour, it's time to venture into the interior of the Mazda CX-50 2023.
Is the CX-50 comfortable?
The driving position is easily found thanks to the tilt and telescopic steering column. The steering wheel and front seats are heated in all versions, while the ventilation on the upholstery and the heating of the rear side seats are features found only in the GT models.
As much as I appreciated the curvature and support of my throne, my friend and fellow car journalist Gilles had the opposite experience. He couldn't stop squirming as he tried to find a comfortable position. And yet, we’re both more or less the same build. Mystery.
The 60/40 bench seat is firm, but welcoming, thanks in large part to the legroom, USB ports and heating nozzles.
You'll love the feeling of space on board. The width of the vehicle (78 mm wider than the CX-5) and the higher position of the dashboard favour horizontal lines that contribute to a feeling of roominess. Mazda's first-ever panoramic roof doesn't hurt either.
How much storage space is there in the CX-50?
The lower console is an important element in any self-respecting SUV. The CX-50's console is simple. Near the dashboard is a storage tray and two cup holders that are wide enough to fit water bottles. Though if you overdo it by piling in eyeglass cases, Kleenex and other items, things get in each oter’s way and stuff ends up sliding around the transmission lever or on the wireless smartphone charging mat.
Much more practical is the double-covered centre armrest, which hides a deep storage bin and USB ports. It quickly becomes a right mess of course, but at least passengers don't know about it.
The CX-50 may be the largest vehicle in its class, but its cargo capacity doesn't surpass that of its competitors: 1,595 litres with the seatbacks down versus 1,786 for a RAV4 and 2,166 litres for the segment champ CR-V.
In fact, the depth and width of the CX-50's cargo area exceed those of the Toyota and Honda, but the rivals benefit from a higher ceiling. This was a deliberate choice by Mazda to make it easier to use the roof rails when tying up toys (like kayaks) or pitching a tent. At least the CX-50's trunk offers a smooth space. It's easy to store, push in and pull out gear.
How can I describe the interior finish of the CX-50?
For many years, Mazda's design has been called Kodo, or “soul of motion”. This theme incorporates refinement elements proper to the Japanese automaker. To all that, the CX-50 adds an element of ruggedness. The challenge for the designers was thus to create a cabin that is elegant but not afraid to get dirty when out in the woods, thanks to materials that are easy to clean.
The design also constantly reminds us of nature calling, right down to the pattern on the seats that evokes the laces of hiking boots! The GT Turbo's steering wheel rim is covered in soft leather that is a joy to touch.
If it's not leather, it's either black or "ashy ochre" (GS-L) leatherette. If it is leather, it’s black with tan stitching or a beautiful terracotta colour with orange stitching. My CX-50 tester has this trim, and frankly, I couldn't wait to get behind the wheel just for the pleasure spending time with it again. It matches perfectly with the “zircon sand metallic” exterior paint. A colour, it turns out, that is popular among men but less so among women.
This display of good taste really takes the model into the high-end sphere. I was driving a Mazda but felt like I was in a Lexus.
Is the Mazda CX-50 safe?
The vehicle is equipped with several alerts, such as the one that watches for driver drowsiness between 85 km/h and 140 km/h (if you need an alert at 140 km/h, you shouldn't be driving at 140 km/h...). As soon as the software perceives erratic driving, it projects a cup of coffee on the screen. The message is clear.
Other warnings monitor blind spots (my favourite), rear cross traffic or when the vehicles starts to stray from between the white lines. These safety features make up the i-Activsense system.
I like that the CX-50 decides for itself when you need your high beams, then dims the headlights as soon as it detects oncoming traffic. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the CX-50 a Top Safety Pick+ rating. Its only false note concerns the headlights, which are adaptive only on turbocharged models.
The Mazda CX-50's controls: friends of foes?
Some switches are self-evident, others are annoying. For example, the volume of the sound system is easily adjusted from the turnwheels on the steering wheel or via the button on the lower console. But to change the station, you have to push the big wheel to the left, click, find the manual tuning, click again, and then travel between stations. During all this time, your eyes are probably not on the road. Too complicated, too distracting.
Also, a button on the climate control system prevents you from seeing the indicator light that confirms the steering wheel heater is on (still, a great invention, no?).
Also, the touch experience with the central screen is partial, i.e., it works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but stops when you use the Mazda system. A strange cohabitation. On the other hand, the screen is positioned so far away from the driver that it's probably better to leave it alone.
In short, if there's one element that Mazda needs to address, it's the infotainment system. What's more, at 10.25 inches, the central screen is Ok in size, but it's bland. It lacks punch when it comes to rendering content.
Fortunately, the sound system on the GT models is upgraded from 8 to 12 speakers and proudly displays the Bose logo. This audio system is excellent, as the three-month free trial of SiriusXM will prove to you.
The 360-degree view, standard on the GT Turbo, provides a bird's-eye view of the vehicle that helps flush out obstacles before they cause damage. Finally, a word to the wise about the traffic sign recognition system: it comes in handy to help you moderate your speed.
Our 6th and final installment will conclude the Mazda CX-50 test drive.