Mazda is trumpeting its new CX-50 compact crossover as an alternative to its popular CX-5, but some observers predict the automaker will do what it has done in the past — eventually kill the older product in favor of the newer one.
“CX-5 should be around for a couple years, and then it’s gone,” said Ed Kim, president of AutoPacific.
“Mazda is spinning it as having two models in the same segment for different buyers. But in reality, it’s just like what happened when they introduced the CX-30,” Kim said. “CX-3 stuck around a couple of years and then was gone.”
The CX-30 launched for the 2020 model year and offered buyers a slightly larger footprint than the CX-3 subcompact crossover. One year later, Mazda announced that 2021 would be the CX-3’s final model year.
Another analyst predicts the same scenario.
“The CX-5 will only stick around for another one to three years after CX-50 sales pick up,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds. The CX-50 is currently shipping to dealerships from the Mazda-Toyota factory in Huntsville, Ala.
But cutting the CX-5 altogether would create a volume challenge for the brand, since Mazda faces a production cap of 150,000 CX-50s a year.
That’s less than the 168,500 CX-5 sales Mazda chalked up in the U.S. in 2021. The automaker has said CX-5 volume would be even higher if it had more inventory and that the CX-50 will remove some of that burden from the CX-5.
Regardless of higher CX-5 volume, Mazda may have to offer heavy incentives to motivate buyers, Drury said. “If you were a customer, it would make no sense to pick the CX-5 over the CX-50 — unless you got a discount,” he said.
For now, the addition of the CX-50 represents a plus for the Japanese automaker. Mazda says the CX-50 and CX-5 vehicles may be similar, but they target different buyers. And it maintains that there is enough activity in the mass-market compact crossover segment for two complementary offerings.
Last year, the segment yielded 2.2 million sales industrywide.
Mazda has designed the CX-50 to appeal to outdoorsy shoppers. It is longer and wider than the CX-5 and has more utilitarian styling. It also has a wider stance, more cargo space, a host of accessory options and an off-road drive mode.
When equipped with the turbo engine, its 3,500-pound tow rating has a 1,500-pound improvement over the CX-5’s.
Mazda maintains that, between the two models, the CX-5 will be the premium choice for urbanites, especially since a freshening for the 2022 model year gave it a front and rear face-lift, suspension changes and updated seats.
Both vehicles offer standard all-wheel drive and have the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with 187 hp and 186 pound-feet of torque. They also both offer an optional turbocharged upgrade that boosts output to 256 hp and 320 pound-feet of torque.
Mazda says the CX-50 will offer the same, if not more, on-road enjoyment as the CX-5. It’s tuned for stability on highways and confidence on twisty roads, as well as for off-road agility.
Fuel economy is comparable. Mazda says city and highway combined for the turbo CX-50 will be 25 mpg vs. the CX-5’s 24 mpg. A fuel-sipping hybrid powertrain will join the CX-50 lineup, though Mazda has not confirmed timing. The engine will be jointly developed by Mazda and Toyota.
Pricing is also very close. The starting price of the 2022 CX-5 is $27,475. The CX-50 costs $28,025. Both prices include shipping. That means for $550, customers can get a newer, slightly larger five-passenger vehicle with more cargo space.
Just like the CX-3, the CX-9 is on the chopping block. Mazda confirmed it will be replaced by the forthcoming CX-90, another three-row crossover that offers larger sizing. Also on tap is a tweener crossover, the CX-70.
Dumping both the CX-5 and CX-9 would allow Mazda to streamline its naming convention — CX-30, CX-50, CX-70 and CX-90 — and focus on larger, more adventurous offerings tailored to the U.S.