New mid-sized, Mazda CX-50 is an ease to drive

Luxurious and stylish, but best of all, a highly intuitive nav screen and sound system

Dale JohnsonThe Mazda CX-50 is an all-new compact, luxurious crossover that has a nav screen that’s easy to navigate.

Rivals in this crowded segment include the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rouge and Toyota RAV4. Mazda already offers the CX-5 in this segment, and given the high consumer demand for these types of vehicles, it makes perfect sense for Mazda to now offer a second choice, the CX-50.

The CX-50 sits on a 2,815 mm (110.8 in) wheelbase and is 4,720 mm (185.8 in) long. It’s slightly longer and wider than the CX-5 and has more ground clearance and a lower roofline, meaning slightly less rear headroom. Mazda is pitching the CX-50 to those interested in the outdoors.

The suggested retail price is $42,850, and with $2,950 in options plus freight and PDE, the as-tested price came in at $47,750.

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The standard engine for the CX-50 is a 187 hp 2.5 litre 4-cylinder.

My test vehicle had more power, thanks to the optional $2,500 SKYACTIV-G 2.5 T with a twin-scroll turbocharger package. It also includes increased towing capacity of up to 3,500 pounds, paddle shifters, sport/off-road/towing modes, larger exhaust outlets, and front and rear lower bumpers in black with silver accents.

The tester runs on either regular or premium gas. Regular fuel produces 227 hp; it churns out an extra 29 horsepower with premium. Fuel economy is rated at 10.4 litres/100 km in the city and 8.1 litres/100 km on the highway.

The interior is very tasteful, clean, uncluttered and well-appointed. It’s relaxing to drive and quieter and smoother than many of its competitors.

The best part of piloting the CX-50 is the ease of use of the nav screen and entertainment system.

While most automakers offer an often-confusing assortment of switches, buttons and choices on the steering wheel and nav screen, Mazda simplifies things by having some of the controls on the console, right behind the gear shift lever.

There are large buttons to press to select such things as the map and sound system. In the centre of these on the console, there’s a large round knob. If you press the map button, the map appears on the centre-mounted screen on the dashboard, and then you can zoom in or out by simply turning the knob one way or the other. Your right arm can be on the armrest while you dial in the map.

This is far superior – and less distracting – than the more popular method of many other automakers of having you reach over to the nav screen and try to press a small “+” or “-” icon to zoom in or out. Another approach is to use your thumb and forefinger to “pinch” the screen to move in or out. These functions alone are not difficult – but it’s a different story when you’re also cruising along at 110 km/h on an expressway or watching for pedestrians in city traffic.

Selecting your favourite sound source is equally easy with Mazda’s system. Press the sound button on the console, then twist the knob to select AM, FM, satellite radio or CD. The next step is to turn the knob again to find your favourite station. Again, this is far less distracting than having to press the small icons on the touch screen to switch between bands or stations.

The simple but effective approach is carried over to the steering wheel, which is far less cluttered than most competitors.

Overall, the Mazda CX-50 is luxurious and stylish with a lot of features. The best part of driving the Mazda CX-50 is the highly intuitive nav screen and sound system. These are essential features if you like exploring new areas while having a variety of tunes and information while driving.

Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. While the manufacturer provided Dale with a vehicle to test drive, the content of this review was not reviewed or accepted by the manufacturer.

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