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Subaru and Toyota have capitalized on the new off-road trend with versions of the Outback and Highlander that look like they can tackle the trails. Why not Mazda, too? Park a 2023 Mazda CX-50 next to 2023 CX-5 and the differences will be a lot more apparent than the names suggest. Mazda took the successful CX-5 compact SUV and then basically added a safari package to it, with a taller suspension, a longer wheelbase, and a bit more room and attitude.

Of course, the CX-5 is still a good-selling SUV, so Mazda is keeping it for 2023. Though the two are similar, there are several critical changes in the CX-5 vs. CX-50 world that could make one fit your lifestyle more than the other.

The differences between the CX-50 and CX-5 are subtle

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. The CX-50 has sporty handing with the new trim.

The CX-50 adds off-road looks

2023 Mazda CX-50 off-roading with tons of accesories
2023 Mazda CX-50 | Mazda

It’s no Jeep Wrangler, but the extra size and height help the CX-50 blast over trails the CX-5 could only dream of. The 50 is longer and wider by several inches all around. 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 differences are minimal under the skin

2022 Mazda CX-5 Turbo Signature side view on an open road
2022 Mazda CX-5 Turbo Signature side view on an open road. | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

What’s so Great About the All-New 2023 Mazda CX-50 Interior?

Both SUVs come standard with all-wheel drive, sporty handling, and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 187 horsepower. Both can be ordered with 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. On the CX-5, too, it’s available on the top trims of the 2.5 Turbo and 2.5 Turbo Signatures. You get a six-speed auto with either motor.

The CX-50 and CX-5 come in similar trims

Both come well equipped and have subtle changes in the trim levels that add everything from rear heated seats to traffic jam assist. In the CX-5, the i-Activ is standard on all eight trim levels. The pricing starts at $26,700 and can top $39,650 in top level Turbo Signature trim. For 2023, there are several new premium color options.

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.