This summer we had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the CX-50 and then right after, the 2022 CX-5 Sport. Under their shells, the two vehicles may seem identical, but we wanted to see if the CX-50 is more than just a disguised version of the already-very-good CX-5.
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 versus the 2022 CX-5
Let's be clear, the CX-50 is not a bloated or modified CX-5 adapted for off-roading. The newest member of the Japanese brand's family of SUVs uses the company’s latest platform used for the CX-30 and Mazda3, though of course it's wider and longer than those vehicles. Mazda has also improved the suspension so that it's strong and absorbent enough to handle rougher terrain.
Most importantly, its exterior shell is designed to withstand that rougher, more so anyways than the CX-5, built more for the city and the paved highway.
Different on the outside?
From a distance, the CX-50 looks pretty much like the CX-5; to the uninitiated eye, there’s not much difference. But the Mazda connoisseur will notice some extra curves above the wheels and the plastic that surrounds the entire lower body, as well as the headlights that adopt a new design specific to the newest crop of Mazda models.
As for the front grille, it’s positioned slightly higher on the CX-50 and its shape is more rectangular than on the CX-5. We really liked the transition in the 50 between the grille and the headlights, which contributes to the adventurous look of the vehicle.
And yes, we can consider the CX-50 the adventurous child of the Mazda family. Just like the Outback Wilderness from Subaru, the CX-50 was built to go off-road, within reasonable limits of course. Alas, we did not have occasion to really push the SUV to those limits, but on the other hand we can confirm that it does very well when confronted with Montreal's infamous potholes, known to destroy wheels and even axles when the mood strikes!
And from the inside?
Just like with the CX-50 and CX-5’s outer shells, the casual gazer will see little or no difference between the interiors of the two model. Eagled-eyed observers will find some, however. While the interior design remains consistent with the rest of the Mazda lineup, slight modifications give the CX-50 a slightly more modern flair. There are those redesigned vertical air vents consistent with the fake exterior air intakes. Material quality is also high, with soft-touch, padded surfaces and a more user-friendly multimedia control system duly noted.
GT trim levels get soft (and convincing) leatherette on the dash and doors with contrasting stitching in a unique crisscross pattern. It will be hard to find a nicer interior than this in the market in the is general price range. Slow as it’s been to modernize its fleet, Mazda deserves credit for building good-quality vehicles that are pleasant to drive and feature solid interior finishing.
On the multimedia front, all base CX-50s come with a 10.25-inch widescreen display. Most functions, such as selecting a radio station, making a phone call or using the navigation system, are done through the control wheel on the lower portion of the centre console. This generally works well and helps keep your eyes on the road. Even Apple Carplay and Android Auto are now connected via Bluetooth and navigating within these applications is done very easily via this wheel.
It's also worth noting the inclusion by Mazda of a panoramic sunroof for the first time - naturally, to allow occupants to get a little closer to nature!
The visual effect is remarkable, but unfortunately it's a disappointment when actually opened. Fact is, its opening is very small and at speeds as low as 60 km/h, it creates a lot of wind noise inside the cabin, to the point where it was impossible to hold a conversation without having to raise your voice. So we quickly closed the sunroof.