The 2023 Mazda CX-50's Pricing and Positioning Has Us Confused
Mazda is going to try to sell two very similarly sized crossovers simultaneously, a strategy that may perplex buyers.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Mazda's excellent CX-5 crossover SUV was just refreshed for 2022, and it's about to get an attractive new sibling whose size, appearance and now pricing strike us as a bit too close for comfort. This is the 2023 Mazda CX-50, and although it's a smidge larger, its look, features and powertrains all feel very similar to today's CX-5.
MSRPs for this Huntsville, AL-built CX-50 have just been announced and the ask start at a reasonable $28,025 including a $1,225 destination fee (Alaskans pay $1,270). That makes this new, slightly tougher-looking CX-50 only a smidge costlier than the more streamlined Hiroshima, Japan-built 2022 CX-5, which starts at $27,125 delivered.
For that starting MSRP, buyers can slip into a base 2023 CX-50 2.5 S, which comes standard with all-wheel drive, just like the CX-5. On the high end, the more-powerful CX-50 2.5 Turbo model starts at $37,625 delivered. The latter not only packs a burlier forced-induction Skyactiv-G engine delivering 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque (on premium gas), it also receives a Turbo-only towing package that enables the CX-50 to drag up to 3,500 pounds -- 1,500 more than other models. Additional standard Turbo features include paddle shifters, LED exterior lighting (including adaptive front lamps) and larger exhaust pipes.
Base CX-50 2.5 S models make do with a naturally aspirated four of the same displacement, generating the same 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque as the CX-5. Even the entry-level trim includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with an 8.8-inch infotainment screen and a 7-inch digital gauge cluster readout.
Regardless of which CX-50 powertrain and trim you choose, all models receive a standard six-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid model is rumored to be in the CX-50's product plans, too.
As part of the CX-50's pricing announcement, Mazda confirmed it will also offer the CX-50 Turbo Meridian Edition, a late-availability trim that has yet to be priced. The new model is designed to more overly appeal to those with off-road aspirations, sales that might otherwise be lost to Subaru or Jeep crossovers. From the sounds of things, the changes will be pretty modest, with an emphasis on looking tougher as opposed to actual capability upgrades. These changes include trim-specific 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-terrain rubber, along with a unique hood graphic and revised trim around the rocker panels and headlamps. Additionally, Mazda is promising a range of outdoorsy optional accessories.
By nearly all accounts, the CX-50 seems to be a replacement for the CX-5 with squarer fenders and an extra digit tacked onto the end of its badge to reflect Mazda's new alphanumeric naming scheme. So why are we treating these two as different vehicles? Because at least for the moment, that's the way the automaker is treating them. A Mazda spokesperson confirmed to Roadshow that the two models will be produced and sold at the same time for the foreseeable future.
It's not clear how long these two Mazda models will be available simultaneously -- it could be in perpetuity. However, our bet is that the CX-50 will eventually supplant the CX-5, but it might take a year or so as production of the new model ramps up stateside. For our money, this isn't analogous to Ford offering both the Escape and Bronco Sport at the same time, because despite the two sharing platforms and powertrains, they have a completely different look, driving character and target customer. That doesn't appear to be the case with these Mazdas.
That said, today's chip shortage and various other pandemic-related supply-chain issues could well ensure that Mazda will be able to sell every example of both models that it can build. Today's CX-5 is already Mazda's most popular model, so it could be worth gambling on having two such similar models in the showroom at the same time, at least for a while.