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If you’re looking to buy a small SUV, it’s hard to beat the 2023 Mazda CX-50 or the 2023 Honda CR-V. They’re both comfy, roomy, five-seat SUVs that are reliable. But the CX-50 is an all-new model this year for Mazda, and it brings CX-5 level performance with a modicum of off-road abilities. The CR-V is all new for 2023, too, and focuses on efficiency and technology. While both are good choices, there are several reasons a CX-50 may be a better option.

The Mazda CX-50 raises the off-road bar

A black Mazda CX-50 on a dirt road
2023 Mazda CX-50

The Mazda CX-50 is an all-new SUV for 2023. Sort of. It’s heavily based on the Mazda CX-5, but to make the transition, the CX-50 was beefed up. The ground clearance of the CX-5 is just 7.5 inches. That’s enough to get over speed bumps at the mall, but not for the trails. The CX 50 has 9.1 inches, enough to give the same clearance as several pickup trucks. It looks more like a tall SUV wagon, dare we say a Subaru than the CX-5.  And, its body sits lower on that taller suspension to give the wheels a bit more of an off-road look than the fender-filling CX-5.

The CR-V got a major facelift for 2023, too, but leans into the sporty world with Sport and Sport Touring version that add a sport mode to the transmission. But, the CR-V does add some off-road niceties, such as hill descent control, and a snow mode.

The Mazda has more trim options than the CR-V

A view of the 2023 Mazda CX-50 cabin interior front seating and dashboard
2023 Mazda CX-50 interior | Mazda

The CX-50 comes in 10 trim levels. The base is the S Select, and it comes well-appointed with a 10.25-inch screen. Step up to the Preferred Package and you get a rear center armrest, a power liftgate, an eight-way driver’s seat and more. The Preferred Plus gets a power panoramic moonroof. All packages come with the i-Activ all-wheel drive with special off-road modes. The CX-50 starts at $26,800 but with options, it can cost $41,550. The Mazda starts at $27,550.

The CRV comes in base EX and EX-L versions. The Sport and Sport Touring models are the hybrid versions.

The CX-50 comes with all-wheel drive standard

A 2023 Mazda CX-50 compact SUV driving on a dirt desert trail near a near barren tree
2023 Mazda CX-50 | Mazda

All CX-50s come standard with all-wheel drive. It has an off-road mode, as well as a towing mode. Honda’s all-wheel-drive system is available on all models, and standard on the Sport Touring trim.

The Mazda CX-50 has an optional 256-horsepower engine

A blue 2023 Honda CR-V small SUV is driving on the road.
The 2023 Honda CR-V | Honda

The Mazda comes standard with 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 187 horsepower. But you can order a 2.5-liter Dynamic Pressure Turbo that makes up to 256 horsepower. The more powerful version is available on the 2.5 T, 2.5 Premium, and Premium Plus versions of the CX-50. You get a six-speed auto with either motor.

The all-new 20234 CR-V, however, will a CVT, which is a love-it-or-hate-it type of transmission, tied to a 190-horsepower turbocharged engine. The hybrid versions make 204 horsepower with an interesting two-stage transmission tied to the hybrid motors.


Should You Buy a 2022 Honda CR-V, or Wait for the New 2023 CR-V?