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HomeWest Palm Beach, FLZoom Zoom: Mazda's Fun CX-50 Turbo

Zoom Zoom: Mazda’s Fun CX-50 Turbo

The Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus
The Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus.

Speaking in general terms, of course, the average compact crossover offers about as much driving excitement as a Rubbermaid Roughneck wheeled trash can.

The genre tends to be filled with soft-roaders endowed with dull steering, wobbly handling, and droning engines delivering the performance of a Toro ride-on mower.

Then there’s the little Mazda CX-50.

The Mazda CX-50 is a compact bundle of all-wheel drive joy is brimming with “zoom zoom.”
The Mazda CX-50 is a compact bundle of all-wheel drive joy is brimming with “zoom zoom.”

This compact bundle of all-wheel drive joy is brimming with “zoom zoom.” It’s the automotive equivalent of a two-month-old goldendoodle, gushing with boundless energy, yanking at the leash, and barking “let’s go, let’s go.”

Pricewise, it’s a deal. The eight-model CX-50 range kicks off from around $32,000 and goes up to $45,000 for a turbocharged 256-horse, leather-lined funster guaranteed to put a mile-wide grin on your face.

Built at the joint Mazda-Toyota plant in Alabama, it sits alongside Mazda’s super-successful, similar-sized, and similar-priced CX-5.

The CX-50 won Car and Driver's Editors' Choice Award for compact SUVs
The CX-50 won Car and Driver’s Editors’ Choice Award for compact SUVs.

Whereas the “5” is a little taller and a little more restrained style-wise, this CX-50 looks like it drove out of a Dick’s Sporting Goods store.

OK, the beefy, black plastic body cladding and faux air intakes are a little bit overdone. But I love the bulldog stance, the low roofline, and adventure-seeking vibe.

And Mazda still does one of the most distinctive, clean-cut front-end designs, with that trademark grille, cat-eye LED headlights, and bold lower style. See it filling your rear-view, and you’re going to move over.

Mazda's trademark grille, cat-eye LED headlights, and bold lower style
Mazda’s trademark grille, cat-eye LED headlights, and bold lower style.

A 2.5-liter 187-horsepower four-cylinder powers the entry models, but it’s that optional 256-horsepower turbo motor coupled to a six-speed automatic you’ll want.

It’s what powers the fancy-pants c range-topper—priced at $44,720 exceptionally well-loaded—I’ve just spent a fun-filled week piloting.

How loaded? Open the door and gaze at the lovely toffee-brown leather seats with contrast stitching, the power panoramic glass moonroof, Bose 12-speaker stereo, and rear power liftgate. The list of features is longer than the items on your phone bill.

The CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus' power panoramic glass moonroof
The CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus’ power panoramic glass moonroof.

Inside, there’s space for four adults, five at a pinch, though that swoopy roofline means headroom in the back can feel a little tight. Luggage space behind the rear seats is excellent, and even more excellent with the seat backs folded.

You sit nice and low in the driver’s seat gazing at an almost retro, button-rich dash. Non-techies who squirm at the current trend for big screens and touchscreen controls will love the CX.

Here there are knobs for climate control, buttons for audio, a lovely-to-hold gear shifter, and crystal-clear analog gauges that could have come out of a BMW 3-Series, circa 1995. Like the proper, sporty cute-ute that it is, it comes with a heads-up display.

Knobs for climate control, buttons for audio, a lovely-to-hold gear shifter, and crystal-clear analog gauges that could have come out of a BMW 3-Series
Knobs for climate control, buttons for audio, a lovely-to-hold gear shifter, and crystal-clear analog gauges.

And to drive it is to love it. The combo of that turbo-4 and Mazda’s intuitive, quick-shifting six-speed automatic is a match made in heaven. Punch the throttle from a green light and the CX-50 slingshots off the line, tach needle spinning to the red line before a rapid-fire shift takes you from 0-to-60 in just 6.6 seconds.

Yes, there’s a “Sport” mode for the transmission. But unlike so many rival offerings, this one actually makes a difference. Toggle the switch into sport, and the steering firms-up, and the engine feels like it’s taken a gulp of Red Bull, perking-up significantly.

Show it a twisty back road, or at least a tight freeway on-ramp, and this little Mazda remembers it’s related to every Miata two-seat roadster on the road.

Open the door and gaze at the lovely toffee-brown leather seats with contrast stitching
Open the door and gaze at the lovely toffee-brown leather seats with contrast stitching.

The steering is sharper than McDreamy’s scalpel and beautifully weighted, the suspension responds to every blacktop undulation, while standard all-wheel drive and 20-inch rubber at each corner provide balance and grip.

While it adds sparkle to even the most mundane of office commutes or runs to Home Depot, here’s a sport-ute that will make you long for a snaking Carolina mountain road. No wonder it won Car and Driver’s Editors’ Choice Award for compact SUVs.

Yes, there’s no shortage of choices in this booming compact crossover sector of the market. But this fun-driving CX-50 gets my vote as the most fun, most-zoomy of them all.

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