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Mazda revealed a new interior design language with the redesigned Mazda3 a few years ago, and it was received so well that each subsequent vehicle to be re-done (or made all-new) gets a variation of that interior. The trend continues for the new 2023 Mazda CX-50.
The luxurious look, a generous serving of feel-good buttons/knobs and an enticing combination of colors and styling makes the CX-50’s cabin one of the best — if not the best — in its segment. My tester is a Turbo Premium Plus, which is the highest-possible trim level of the CX-50. It starts at $42,775, which is mighty pricey on the surface, but step inside, and the interior sure does feel its price.
Spec the Terracotta leather option, and you end up with a tan interior that is verging on orange in bright light. The seats get an eye-catching center line in black with contrast stitching. Mazda does up the doors in a two-tone look, and you get faux (but convincing) leather pads on both the dash and doors. These are additionally accented with contrast stitching that just feels lovely to run your hand over. There’s no wood or aluminum trim to be found here, but the way in which Mazda has styled the interior makes such flashy bits feel unnecessary.
The controls are all logically and ergonomically laid out. You get a traditional gear lever that also serves as a nice hand rest for long-distance cruising. The infotainment system is pushed fairly deep into the dash to keep your head from swiveling away from the road to use it. It’s close enough for you to touch it (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are controllable via touchscreen), but not encouraging you to do so. You’re much better off making use of the tactile rotary knob that twirls, tilts and presses to control the infotainment. Quick shortcut buttons by the knob for navigation and music make it easy to swap between the two (they even work to swap between navigation and music apps in CarPlay and Android Auto), and a dedicated “home” and “back” button are also greatly appreciated.
The marrying of digital and analog continues in the instrument cluster. Analog gauges flank a digital screen that could be mistaken for an all-analog setup until you notice the display information can change. You can choose to make the screen look like a traditional speedometer, swap to a driver assistance monitor and others. It’s easily one of the most legible and easy-to-use gauge setups out there.
Knobs for volume control and temperature control all get a knurled design that makes them easy to grip and satisfying to the touch. The damping on Mazda’s buttons also stands out, in that they press with a sense of luxury and though there was a serious effort made to make them really great buttons. Everything you touch and feel in this interior gives the sensation of a car priced much higher, and it’s those little things that make day-to-day ownership that much nicer.
As for the bad, Mazda is seemingly insistent on using piano black plastic in terrible places. For example, it’s what’s used as the gear shift surround. Within a few days to a week, it was already covered in dust and smudges, and simply looked gross — to illustrate this, we refrained from wiping it over the course of a week under normal use, and the photos directly below are the result. If you like your car’s interior looking neat and tidy, you’ll need to bring a cloth to frequently wipe the piano black surfaces. And even if you do this, the shiny surface is prone to getting and proudly displaying scratches over time.
The rear seat is about as useful as the CX-5’s rear seat, which is a tad disappointing given that the CX-50 is both longer and wider than the CX-5. It may appear to be a generously-sized SUV on the outside, but others like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson still beat it for rear seat space. Lastly, we found that the wireless phone charger was also too small, and would throw charging error codes when we test-fit some larger phones.
You’re not going to find a compact crossover in this size and price bracket with as premium an interior as the CX-50 offers in its top-level trims. If that’s what you value most, it’s going to treat you well. Competitors might offer hybrid powertrains, flashier tech and more space, but Mazda is the only one undercutting and stepping on the heels of entry-level luxury SUV alternatives when it comes to quality and design.