Just a little over a year ago, we test drove the CX-50 in and around the California seaside wonder, i.e. Santa Barbara. The Mazda tackled the rigors of a planned off-road track made up of steep slopes and sharp downhills with ease. The off-road mode (apart from sport and tow), part of Mi-Drive, provided plenty of punch and control to hold the compact SUV in check and on course!
Recently, we drove the CX-50 at home in the Tampa Bay area. Built at the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant in Alabama, its standard and enhanced all-wheel drive is purpose-built for the active and outdoor lifestyle. Under the hood sits a 2.5-liter twin-scroll turbocharger that puts out 227 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and 310 pounds-feet of torque @ 2000 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed auto gearbox. The ride is equipped with the direct-injection Skyactiv, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio to raise fuel economy.
It may convey a square and rugged silhouette but also boasts a sporty image with eagle-eyed adaptive LED headlights surrounding a matte-finish grille with the Mazda insignia. Lower, wider and longer than the CX-5, the small SUV delivers a confident, fun-to-drive feel, especially if you are going off the beaten track. Pleasing to the eye is a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster of analog speedometer, tachometer, fuel/temp and driver information center. The 10.25-inch infotainment display screen for navigation, phone and audio is simple to use via a commander control knob. Our top-level Premium Plus arrived with standard dual auto a/c, leather seats, shifter and steering column, push-button start, panoramic moon roof, cooled/heated front seats, paddle shifters, metallic-finish trim, eight-way power driver and six-way front-passenger seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities and a 12-speaker Bose sound system. Head and legroom are adequate for adults and, best of all, is the 60/40 split rear seat, which folds flat via a lever release in the trunk. A rooftop tent, bike/luggage/kayak carriers, cargo box, outdoor backpack, crossbars and surfboard attachment are some options.
Included are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, dynamic stability and traction controls, four-wheel antilock brakes, hill launch assist, blind spot monitor, lane-keep assist and departure warning, rear-cross traffic alert, front/rear parking sensors/crumple zones and stabilizer bars, rearview camera, three-point safety belts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. The G-Vectoring Control Plus (enables driver to handle emergency situations or untoward road conditions with more accurate steering inputs) comes at no extra cost. And the i-ACTIV AWD works along with G-Vectoring to control torque distribution between front/rear wheels.
With hybrid and electrified trims to follow, the CX-50 shows promise amid the compact crossover field of three million annual sales. Its energetic performance, muscular stance, top-notch interior and exceptional off-road talent will leave a lasting impression with potential buyers.
CX-50 (PREM PLUS, AWD)
Wheelbase: 110.8 inches
Length: 185.8 inches
Width: 75.6 inches
Height: 63.9 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Steering: power rack and pinion
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons
City: 23 mpg
Highway: 29 mpg
Weight: 3,970 pounds
Base price: $42,300
Price as tested: $43,970
Web site: www.mazdausa.com