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We’ve been spending a week with the Mazda CX-50, both on and off the pavement, to see what this new rugged SUV can do. While it’s pretty impressive as the first American-focused Mazda SUV, it’s not perfect. A few improvements could help the 2023 Mazda CX-50 become a better off-roader. 

Can the 2023 Mazda CX-50 go off-roading? 

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 off-roading on a dirt trail
2023 Mazda CX-50 | Allison Barfield, MotorBiscuit

Yes, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a rugged and capable SUV for tackling lighter trails. It won’t be keeping up with Jeep Wrangler models but has a fair chance against the Subaru Outback or Crosstrek. 

Overall, the CX-50 has a good start for off-roading but still feels more suited for an athletic performance on the pavement. It only needs a few minor updates to take things to the next level and did perform better than the CX-30 and CX-5 in the woods. 

1. The Mazda CX-50 needs beefier tires 

The Mazda CX-50 off-roading in dirts and rocks
2023 Mazda CX-50 | Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium Plus model features 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in P25/45 R20 all-season tires. This is a nice start, but they don’t have enough thread to provide that chunky, off-roading look. 

They provide plenty of grip to give you an idea of the surface conditions but seem to slip a little more than we would like in gravel, mud, and ruts. Extra thread would make obstacles easier to climb as well. 

The Cx-50 has a ground clearance of 8.6 inches, which is a great for clearing rocks and other obstacles in the path. But larger tires would help it gain a little extra capability to tackle more than just beginner trails. 

Upgrade with the Meridian package for all-terrain tires and unique decals. But it doesn’t include any suspension upgrades. 

2. The CX-50 could use more off-roading modes 

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 has driving modes for Sport, Normal, and Off-Road. The Off-Road mode stiffens the suspension and provides more control on slippery surfaces. It actually feels smooth and impressive over gravel, muddy, and dirt trails. 

However, rivals offer more off-roading modes for Snow, Gravel, Mud, Rud, and Sand. In comparison, the CX-50 seems a bit limited. There’s no hill descent control, so you may find yourself hitting the brakes heavily. 

The electronic stability control system is helpful by reducing engine torque as needed, but it doesn’t provide the same amount of control. Also, rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe offer an AWD lock for extra traction as needed. 

3. The CX-50 interior could be a little more rugged 

2023 Mazda CX-50 inrerior
2023 Mazda CX-50 inrerior | Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 has an attractive, luxurious interior with plush carpeting, premium leather-wrapped surfaces, two-tone upholstery, metal accent trim pieces, and vibrant accent stitching. 

It has a high-qaulity premium feel but lacks a rugged personality. The mats are easy to clean, but all-weather rubberized materials would be better for tracking in mud and dirt. Rubberized flooring in the cargo hold is also ideal for storing wet, muddy gear. 

But the CX-50 has supportive seats with excellent side bolstering to hold you in place. The heated and ventilated seats and climate control system that keep drivers and passengers comfortable. It’s really great for a comfortable drive to and from the trails. 

The Mazda CX-50 has above-average off-roading capabilities for its segment but could do a bit more to catch up with rivals. Stay tuned for more information as we learn more about this spunky option.