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The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is designed to be edgier than its siblings. The Japanese automaker has masterfully found a middle ground between the plush interiors that Mazda SUV models typically offer and the off-road capable exterior that is specific to the CX-50. How does the CX-50 bridge the gap between comfort and capability?

Is the Mazda CX-50 bigger than the CX-5?

A blue 2023 Mazda CX-50 small SUV is parked outdoors.
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 | Mazda

The Mazda CX-50 is larger than the CX-5. Though many have speculated that the CX-50 would take the CX-5’s place, there are enough differences between the two models for both to coexist. The CX-5 is a small SUV model that is best known for its comfortable, well-equipped cabin.

Car and Driver gave the 2022 Mazda CX-5 a 10/10 overall rating. It also received an Editor’s Choice award from the automotive publication. The Mazda CX-5 has made a huge impression on the small SUV vehicle segment, so it’s natural that consumers compare the CX-5 to the CX-50.

The small SUVs may mildly resemble each other, but the CX-50 has a completely different design language. The CX-5 focuses on providing great value and luxurious features for an affordable price, while the CX-50 is more geared toward capability.

Is the Mazda CX-50 an off-road SUV?

Mazda describes the CX-50 as “rugged yet refined”. The automaker credits a low roofline and wide stance to its off-roading aesthetic. Truthfully, the CX-50 isn’t exceptionally trail-ready, and there are plenty of more capable small SUVs like the Subaru Forester Wilderness.

The CX-50’s cabin is predictably refined, similar to the CX-5. The base model has 8.3-inches of ground clearance. That’s decent ground clearance for an off-road SUV, but it isn’t nearly high enough to compete with the Forester Wilderness’ 9.2 inches of ground clearance.

The base model CX-50 may appear as if it is designed to take the road less traveled, but hardcore off-roaders may beg to differ. That being said, the small SUV does offer standard all-wheel drive, as well as Sport and Off-Road modes. The 2.5 S Premium trim is the first configuration to get 8.6 inches of ground clearance. It starts at $34,400. Slap the right tires on the S Premium model, and the CX-50 can hold its own against other small off-road SUVs.

Should you buy a Mazda CX-50?


The 2023 Mazda CX-50 Is a Bigger, Better CX-5, but It Won’t Kill It

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 starts at $26,800. It uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine to make 187 horsepower. The small SUV achieves 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Mazda CX-50 has the potential to be great, but it doesn’t truly shine until consumers opt for the 2.5 S Premium trim. The base model can tackle some trails, but it’s hard to pass up the extra ground clearance that upper trim levels offer, knowing that this SUV is supposed to be trail-ready.

The CX-5 remains the better buy for the average consumer. As for the average off-road enthusiast, there are better options on the market. All in all, the CX-50 is, in fact, both rugged and luxurious.