Mazda reimagines its lineup of SUVs

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 gets a more luxurious interior. Contributed by Mazda

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The 2023 Mazda CX-50 gets a more luxurious interior. Contributed by Mazda

Making heads and tails of brand’s new look.

It may have gone unnoticed by those who don’t cover the industry, but Mazda has made a pivot in its SUV product line. The best-selling vehicle is the CX-5, but to either capitalize on that or muddy the waters, they added the Mazda CX-50 and also two versions of the Mazda CX-30. It can be quite confusing for the average consumer.

Thankfully, I was able to recently get set time in three of these 2022 vehicles from Mazda. Let’s look at the ‘22 version of the CX-5, CX-50 and the turbo version of the CX-30. In order of size from small to bigger, the product line goes like this: CX-30, CX-50, CX-50 (and the soon to be discontinued CX-9).

In covering the launch of the CX-50 and CX-30, I inquired on several occasions with Mazda if the new naming convention would mean that the CX-5 would be on its way too, the way the CX-9 is. I was told emphatically no, the CX-5 would remain part of the lineup. So then, just where do these vehicles fit and are they competing against each other?

Here’s the breakdown of Mazda’s three SUVs.

2022 Mazda CX-30: Earlier this year, I reviewed the naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter (non-turbo) CX-30 and found it to be wholly uninspiring and forgettable. So I was eager to get behind the wheel of the turbocharged version to see if the extra oomph would sway my thoughts on this small crossover.

It’s important to note that Mazda is one of a few automakers to mention that the CX-30′s performance is improved with the use of high-octane gas. With 93 octane, Mazda says the turbocharged CX-30 gets 250 horsepower (decreases to 227 hp with 87 octane). My tester came loaded with the premium gas, and I did notice a significant improvement for this crossover. It was actually fun to drive and had that Mazda driving personality that you get from other vehicles, whereas the non-turbo version lacked personality altogether. All-wheel drive is standard for all trims as is a six-speed automatic transmission.

This crossover could use more gears; and the outdated transmission is one of the few down sides to the turbo version of this powerplant.

There are subtle visual differences between the turbo version with the most stunning being the black gloss wheels. It also has bigger rear exhaust pipes. It looks much sharper and more youthful than the non-turbo. However, inside, the differences end and the interior of the CX-30 is mostly forgettable.

Additionally, Mazda’s infotainment system continues to be frustrating and confounding. Of all the automakers, Mazda is in most desperate need of a new overall infotainment system (this comment will be true for the CX-5 and CX-50).

2022 Mazda CX-5: The CX-5 remains Mazda’s best-selling vehicle for a reason. And for the 2022 model year, it sees several improvements including a new turbo engine with extra horsepower and standard all-wheel drive across all trims.

Mazda also changed the nomenclature of the CX-5′s trim to match with the other SUVs in the lineup.

As for performance, the CX-5 remains peppy and holds true to Mazda’s previous persona of “Zoom Zoom.” With six more horsepower, it’s even more enjoyable. The turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has 256 horsepower and is a much better choice than the non-turbo, which only gets 187 horsepower.

Inside, the CX-5 still feels cramped in the back seat lacking legroom and overall rear-passenger comfort. Touchpoints are average and then there’s aforementioned infotainment system.

2023 Mazda CX-50: This SUV should not be confused with the CX-5. This is more of a rugged competitor against the likes of the Subaru brand. Where the CX-5 might be limited, the CX-50 is more capable of going.

This is a 2023 model year vehicle and a brand new nameplate for Mazda. It gets a more luxurious interior (where I was critical of the interior of the CX-5). It’s the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine found in the CX-5, yet it feels more athletic. All-wheel drive is standard, and the same six-speed automatic transmission shows no turbo lag on the CX-50.

There is a drop in fuel economy for the turbo version, but it’s still totally worth for the stronger output and capable performance. As a vehicle with a playfully rugged personality, you will feel the driving difference in the suspension, which is stiffer than that of the CX-5.

The turbo version of all three vehicles is about $8,000 more, so Mazda tantalizes the performance-oriented consumer this way.

For the CX-30, the turbo is the only way to go, while the CX-5 can get by without the turbo, but is so much more fun with it. If the new CX-50 is any indication of where the Mazda brand is going, it has its perks but also the choices to make. To turbo or not to turbo, premium gas or non-premium gas? The latter is probably an easier choice considering the high cost of fuel.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium Plus

Price/As tested price................................................ $41,500/$41,500

Mileage.......................................... 23 mpg/city; 29 mpg/hwy

Engine............................................. 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Horsepower................................. 256 hp/320 lbs./ft.

Transmission................................. Six-speed automatic

Drive Wheels................ All-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point................ Huntsville, Alabama

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at jimmydinsmore73@gmail.com.

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The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is more of a rugged competitor against the likes of the Subaru brand. Contributed by Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is more of a rugged competitor against the likes of the Subaru brand. Contributed by Mazda

Combined ShapeCaption
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is more of a rugged competitor against the likes of the Subaru brand. Contributed by Mazda

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