Lifestyle

2022 Mazda CX-5 Vs. 2023 Mazda CX-50

Back-to-back came these well-made, well-appointed, sensible new Mazda brothers, for a week each. Both vehicles were pushed and pounded, loaded with gear, driven through snowstorms, through small towns and neighborhoods and cities, and up and down mountains. Approximately 400 miles were put on their odometers.

The verdicts are in.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo

I did not find the CX-50 especially gorgeous upon delivery but its bubble-like subcompact SUV flavor grew on me. I especially came to admire its “Wind Chill Pearl” color and finish, and thus the ride itself, over its week’s pounding. It may not have the exclusivity of its European rivals, but it’s slick and sharp enough, all right.

Six trim levels are offered: S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium and S Premium Plus, our tester. You’ll get a turbocharged 2.5-liter making 227 horsepower in the Turbo, T Meridian, T Premium and T Premium Plus trims. Both engines use a six-speed automatic transmission. No complaints there – it’s nice and smooth.

You have all-wheel drive but you motivate primarily through the front wheels, with rear wheels activated when traction is needed. There isn’t any locking differential for off-road adventures but ground clearance is decent at around 8.3 inches. You’ll make it to the tent or the stream ok.

Interior

The cabin is unremarkable style-wise but materials are high-quality. You get a 10.25 inch screen in your upper trims, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on deck as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot and connected services you pay for after the initial free try. All your electronics are controlled by a console-mounted wheel you’ll get the hang of soon enough just by pushing and spinning it.

How does it drive?

Steering is reasonably accurate, you’ve got a nice tight turning circle and it’s about as exciting to drive as any subcompact SUV. You’ll get there, in other words. The company says that if you want extra beef, use premium and you’ll see 256 horsepower. Towing capacity is 2,000 pounds with the regular engine and up to 3,500 pounds with the turbocharged one. Mileage is a just-ok 27 MPG city/highway combined. It is spirited when need be, but not especially exciting drive-wise.

Are you comfortable?

The comfort level is satisfactory, supporting your tuchus well but not overly so. It’s not particularly roomy in the back seat leg-wise, and its cargo space lags behind others in this class, but the moonroof is extra-large, a huge plus for long drives.

You can add packages delivering goodies like splash guards, rocker panel protection and all-terrain tires. There is also a roof platform for the accessory tents the company offers.

Safety features

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2023 CX-50 as almost-perfect in crash tests, and its many safety features make it an attractive buy on that basis. Buyers get lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear side impact airbags, emergency front braking, driver attention alert, knee airbags, and the mandatory rearview camera. The top Turbo Premium Plus further adds a 360-degree camera, blind-spot collision prevention and emergency rear braking.

Conclusion: The all-new CX-50 is a solid performer, but I’m not sure I would grab it over the CX-5 as it’s so much more money. But it’s definitely worth a test-drive for fans of the brand.

2022 Mazda CX-5 Signature

(Note: the 2023 is out already, but we had a chance to grab the ‘22, so we took it. We’ll bring you the ‘23 down the road.)

I had the CX-5’s flagship trim, the Signature, which will set you back $40,595, not chump change but maybe you love the CX-5 and you want the best, and the Signature is their best. You can see all the available trims here. They start in the high 20s.

The second thing useful to know is that the vehicle is as safe as they come in this class, given a “Top Safety Pick” for 2022 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That makes it a great choice for a new, or young driver, or a lousy one, sorry.

The Carbon Edition Turbo and CX-5 Grand Touring Edition Reserve have been replaced with the CX-5 2.5 Turbo and CX-5 2.5 Turbo Signature, our tester.

The Signature comes with a turbocharger added to the base 187-hp 2.5 litre naturally aspirated I-4 engine. Thus equipped, you get 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque if you feed it 87-octane fuel. Bump that octane up to 93 and you’ll manage 256 hp and 320 lb-ft.

Here are some things you won’t do with that otherwise capable, smooth, well-designed engine and its turbocharger:

*Patch out

*Challenge people to races

*Worry that you’ll wake people up when you start it

*Screech away in anger

The Signature’s Turbo trim delivers a goodlooking gloss-black exterior trim with paint-matched body cladding, bright silver finished wheels, woodgrain interior trim, and Nappa leather upholstery. The inside is more exciting than the outside.

Performance

“Athletic” is a word automakers (over) use, but it applies here. Despite what I said above about its lack of beastliness, I found the CX-5 responsive, accurate and reasonably quick whether at highway speed or in neighborhoods or parking lots, emphasis on “reasonably.”

My 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine was a carryover from last year, delivering 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque when running on premium, they say. I fed it no premium. This was no McLaren. What you do have is Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system that’ll help guide you in bad weather but it’s also tuned to heighten performance. The 2022 CX-5 also marks the debut of Mazda intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive), a drive-mode system permitting the driver to select the vehicle’s performance via an in-cabin switch. I left it on “Normal.” All CX-5s come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Mazda’s i-Activ All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system is now standard across the CX-5 lineup, too. That’s good news – they used to charge $1,400 for it.

Comfort

It is as comfortable as you would like, but not plush. They’ve upgraded the suspension dampening control structure in aid of lessening road noise and vibrations. Your rear doors open especially wide, so it’s good for parents or people who load and unload a lot of stuff. Controls in the cargo area make putting down the seats a snap. It’s got less cargo room than a lot of rivals.

Tech

With Mazda Connect, you can access maps, playlists, contacts and more, and view them on the large 10.25-inch center display. Both Apple Car Play and Android Auto are installed. The sound system was reasonably rich and crispy.

Conclusion

The CX-5 is enormously popular, and deservedly so. Other than its lack of cojones, this was a wonderful test of a get-you-where-you’re-going machine.

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