2023 Mazda CX-50
Turbo - check. Premium & Plus - check. iActiv AWD - check!
Everyday convenience mixed with a very fun driving experience - Mazda still delivers Zoom-Zoom 20+ years later.
By J-F Wright
Mon, Apr 10, 2023 08:50 AM PST
All images by the author.
Mazda started using “Zoom-Zoom” in their marketing decades ago - in 2002. It’s not as prominent nowadays - doing a search for the word “zoom” on the current Mazda website results in no finds - but in my mind Mazda is still so heavily connected with Zoom-Zoom that I mentally/manually insert that branding into anything Mazda-related. Sometimes I’ll be talking to someone about a Mazda product and I’ll make references to “Zoom Zoom”. Seeing the puzzled expression on their face, I realize that they might not remember the Mazda commercials from twenty years ago (maybe they’re too young?). So, as a public service, here’s a link to one of the Zoom-videos:
What Is Zoom-Zoom?
Zoom-Zoom is Mazda's brand messaging from the early 2000’s, representing “the love of motion experienced as a child”. It started with the wildly successful commercials in 2022, and is Mazda’s way of telling you that a vehicle has to do with more than just transportation - it should excite and delight drivers. The messaging, it’s said, aims to make an emotional connection, reminding of some of the joys of youth.
Is There Zoom In The CX-50?
In one word: Yes. The 2023 Mazda CX-50 most definitely adheres to the excitement and delight that ZoomZoom stands for. The 2.5L turbo engine puts out 227 horsepower and 310lb-ft of torque - not huge numbers, but definitely enough to excite! And the handling is definitely all Zoom.
Performance & Handling (The Zoom)
A good way to judge vehicle stability is by how much passengers in your car get thrown around. If you turn through an intersection in a pickup-truck a bit faster than normal - preferably one of those intersections with large gutters - you’ll see your passengers bounce back and forth multiple times (left-right or right-left, depending on which way you’re turning). I call that “truck-bounce”. If you take the same corner in a vehicle meant for tight corners rather than offroad ruggedness you’ll see that your passengers are only leaning, continuously, in one direction - they’re being pushed outwards by the centrifugal force of the turn. Since your car is not bouncing, or at least the bouncing is minimal, neither are your passengers. Mazdas drive like that. They have very little truck-bounce, if any at all.
The Mazda CX-50 feels very reliable and predictable - point your front tires in the direction you wish to go, and you’ll head that way. The Mazda i-active all-wheel drive does a great job keeping you from flying off you desired track. To get any understeer you’d have to be taking corners at a dangerous pace, probably on a wet road. I’m not sure what you’d have to do to get the rear to come loose - short of turning off the traction and safety systems.
To get the sporty ZoomZoom handling you’ll notice a couple of differences between the CX-50 and other vehicles in its class. The suspension is tighter and the steering is “harder”, for example. What does that mean for us normal folks? Well, with a tighter - or harder - suspension, the car will be stable and lay somewhat flat when cornering, rather than the car leaning through corners. This means that your daily ride might feel a bit tight as well. As for the steering, you’ll notice that the steering wheel is a bit harder to turn, and you’ll “feel” more of the car and road through it compared to others.
Since most of us will only occasionally have the opportunity to safely try out the Mazda’s excellent driving characteristics, let’s put one worry to rest: No, you won’t be sacrificing your daily driving comforts. In the 2023 CX-50 Mazda has managed to balance their “zoom” with the comfortable ride we expect in our daily drive. Hauling kids in the rear seat - to and from their activities - is pretty much just as comfortable in a sporty Mazda as it would be in a comparable vehicle. The added bonus with the CX-50 is that you can feel (more) confident if you have to do a quick evasive maneuver to avoid an accident - you can whip the CX-50 around whatever fell off the truck in front of you.
Our test vehicle sports the very white “Wind Chill Pearl” exterior color. The black trim nicely accentuates the white, bringing out a bit of sportiness - ZoomZoom - in the overall design of the 2023 Mazda CX-50. The exterior might look a little smaller than the interior feels - maybe due to the black 20-inch alloy wheels looking really large - I haven’t quite made up my mind on that. The use of black trim around the bottom of the entire car, connecting with the black trim around the wheel-wells, give it a bit of a more rugged appearance - as does the skid-plate adorning the bottom rear.
Our test vehicle comes with the Turbo Premium Plus package, affording us a plethora of convenience and comfort features. The bucket seats are snug - as would be expected in a sportier car - but they aren’t “too” snug. Comfortable, with an added touch of stability. The black leather with brown stitching further elevates the look and feel.
The rear seat has sufficient space for three (young) kids or two adults - they will also sit comfortably in the leather-wrapped seats. Everyone will enjoy the usual hookups for mobile devices and cupholders. On that note, however, the cupholders up front are placed all the way forward in the console between the two seats. Most of the world’s Mazda drivers will never think about it, but in the land of supersized to-go cups we’ll sometimes find it hard to fit our beverage into the cup-holder - the container might be too tall to fit under the bottom row of buttons above.
The design used when displaying maps, both the colors and the user interface, isn’t really in line with a lot of the other infotainment systems available in competing vehicles. Most seem to mimic - to some degree at least - the look and feel that we’re used to from our mobile devices. Mazda does their own thing, and the menus and maps take a little getting used to. With that said, however, there ain’t nothing wrong with doing things differently - especially if that’s part of how you get to ZoomZoom - and once you’ve gotten a hang of it, the interface will pose no problems.
Other than my maxed-out drink container not fitting in the proper spot, I only have one other beef with the cockpit layout. The bottom row of toggle-buttons, farthest below the infotainment screen, have indicators to tell me if they’re on or not. Unfortunately, the indicating light is placed below, and therefore obscured by, the actual knob. Not a huge problem - I quickly adjusted to leaning over and down to get a view of the indicator - but somewhat irritating nonetheless.
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 with the Premium Plus Package is a $40,000+ car, so we’re expecting quite a list of tech and convenience features… We are not disappointed. Our test vehicle is fitted with a radar cruise control, lane keep assist, power panoramic moonroof, 12-speaker Bose speakers system, heated seats throughout (up front they’re cooled too!), heated steering wheel, and a 360-degree top-down view assistive camera. All are within easy reach, and intuitive to operate. The Bose speaker system impresses the eardrum and the 360-degree top-down view is helpful for parking and maneuvering through tight spaces.
Blind spot prevention
This works really well, with an audible alarm alerting me of traffic in my blind spot whenever I start the blinkers in that direction. However, on several occasions I heard the alarm when I turned on my left blinkers in the right of two left-turn lanes. So, the system is telling me that I shouldn’t change lanes - which is correct - but when I’m turning left at an intersection I’d like to use my blinkers without the warning. Not sure how this would be technically possible, other than making sure that the car’s safety systems all talk to each other and the cameras up front have registered that I’m in a left-turn lane. But, in the meantime I agree with Mazda’s choice to send me an extra warning - I’d rather have it tell me that there’s a car in the blind spot, rather than having it assume I’ll be turning left at the intersection when I was indeed planning on chaining lanes.
Life in the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is good. Size-wise the 2023 Mazda CX-50 fits regular family usage. It’ll hold kids and gear and/or most of what you can buy during a Costco-run. For those without kids, you’ll have a lot of space for toys and/or friends - be they four-legged or two. You’ll enjoy the sporty driving characteristics - hopefully your passengers will too. You’ll get used to Zoom-Zooming, making a switch to anything other than a Mazda a really hard sell. If the size and budget fit your needs, the CX-50 should definitely be a contender.
About The Author
John-Fredrik Wright was born in Sweden, but raised on both sides of the Atlantic. His experience in the automotive industry starts with a summer-job as a host at Volkswagen’s premier showroom in Stockholm. Later, he worked as an instructor at Swedish Active Driving, teaching safe driving (among other things the renowned "elk-avoidance maneuver") and advanced driving techniques.