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The new 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a rugged, compact SUV with a super-affordable price tag, considering it’s barely more than the Mazda CX-5. So, how does this upcoming new Mazda compare with other off-road-friendly SUVs? Is it going to be able to hold its own market share with so many contenders in the segment?

One of the biggest leaders in this space is the 2022 Subaru Forester, with its off-road prowess and daily driver dynamics (especially with its available Wilderness upgrade). If you’re looking at the Mazda but considering the Forester, keep reading. Here are five pretty impressive advantages you can expect when you choose the 2022 Subaru Forester over the Mazda CX-50.

1. The 2022 Subaru Forester has a better starting price

When comparing these two rugged yet comfortable off-roaders, it’s best to start with the price. As Mazda describes, the CX-50 is an all-new introduction and the first vehicle to come out of the new Huntsville, Alabama plant. However, domestic production won’t make this SUV cheaper than the 2022 Subaru Forester. It has a starting MSRP of $26,800. Meanwhile, the base MSRP range for the Subaru Forester is $25,895, according to Subaru.

2. Better fuel economy ratings for the Forester

A light blue 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness compact SUV model parked on a forest trail bathed in sunlight
2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness | Subaru of America, Inc.

Considering how much of an impact gas prices can make on a household budget, estimated fuel economy matters more than ever. Consumer Reports says the 2023 Mazda CX-50 will achieve an overall 24 mpg rating, but testing ranges have it performing in a range of 16 to 33 mpg. Consumer Reports points to better fuel efficiency with the Subaru Forester, with a combined 28 mpg rating, with 20 city mpg and 38 highway mpg. So, in addition to a smarter purchase price, the Subaru Forester will save more at the pump, too.

3. More maximum cargo capacity

Another deal-breaker for you when choosing a rugged, off-road capable SUV is cargo capacity. You can’t very well have great outdoor adventures if you can’t fit all your gear. Car and Driver testers could fit 11 carry-on suitcases behind the Subaru Forester’s backseat. Even more impressive is the 23 bags the reviewers fit with the seats folded down. Its overall cargo capacity is 74.2 cu. ft. In comparison, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 only measures a maximum of 56.3 cu. ft.

4. The Subaru has more ground clearance

Ground clearance is one of the most significant indicators of any vehicle being off-road capable. Trails can get rough, and undercarriage damage can be avoided with those SUVs mounted a little higher off the ground. Mazda says the 2023 CX-50 presents an alluring capability for rugged outdoor exploring. However, looking at the Edmunds specs, Mazda only measures 8.3 inches off the ground. Edmunds measured the 2022 Subaru Forester’s ground clearance at 8.7 inches, meaning there’s a little more room to drive over trailway obstacles.

5. Shorter braking and stopping distance with the Subaru Forester

When you’re on the go, especially in those off-the-beaten-path environments, you’ll want to have quick stopping power. If you go where there is a chance of unpredictable wildlife or nature debris, you’ll need to be able to hit the brakes and stop on a dime. The average stopping distance for a small SUV is roughly 132 feet when braking from a 60-mph pace. Car and Driver spent some time with the 2023 Mazda CX-50 and shared the test drive stats. It measured a stopping distance of 161 feet in a 70 to 0 mph test. Alternatively, the 2022 Subaru Forester earned high marks from Consumer Reports, with “superb” performance in stopping on both wet and dry pavements. Its stopping distance in a 60 to 0 scenario was 130 feet.

So, while the 2023 Mazda CX-50 is every bit of a rugged, compact SUV ready for adventure, it just can’t outpace the free-spirited 2022 Subaru Forester. So, if any of these five advantages matter to you, you’ll likely be taking the Forester home over the CX-50.