2024 Mazda CX-50 Review: The fun and fashionable choice

2024 Mazda CX-50 Review: The fun and fashionable choice

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Pros: Engaging and refined driving experience; luxurious interior; strong turbo engine; good looks

Cons: No hybrid available; infotainment system won't be for everyone

Mazda has carved out a niche in the automotive landscape by delivering more performance and driver engagement than you'd get from competing cars. While it's difficult to imbue an SUV with the lively and playful nature of the MX-5 Miata roadster, Mazda's family-oriented vehicles are sportier and yes, even fun to drive. That all plays out well with the 2024 Mazda CX-50, a slightly larger and more refined compact SUV than the CX-5.


It's unusual for one brand to offer two vehicles in the same class, so we expected the CX-50 to eventually replace the CX-5, much as the CX-90 has replaced the CX-9. To our surprise, the CX-5 is indeed returning in 2024 even though it makes a less compelling case for itself than the CX-50. In short, that extra zero equals a small SUV that’s just a little better in a lot of different areas.

The two are still quite similar, however. Despite measuring 6.7 inches longer than the CX-5 on the outside, interior space doesn't appreciably increase. Rear passenger room and cargo capacity are comparable between the two. Ground clearance is taller though, with as much as 8.6 inches, which plays well into the CX-50's push into outdoor adventure space. So does its special off-road drive mode, and the CX-50 in general is more capable on moderate off-road trails than most other SUVs in the class. The special Meridian Edition goes a bit further with all-terrain tires and an available roof platform, but it’s still intended for dirt camping trails rather than rock crawling.

If off-the-grid adventures aren't your thing, the CX-50 remains one of the sportier SUVs and also benefits from an interior that dips its toes into the entry-level luxury market with sophisticated styling and comparably premium materials. Even though it may not be able to hold as much cargo as some rivals and doesn’t offer a hybrid powertrain, the 2024 Mazda CX-50 is one of our favorites in the class for its overall goodness. We easily place it among the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it's like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What's new for 2024?

The 2024 Mazda CX-50 receives retuned dampers and steering to improve off-road abilities. The wireless charging pad is also standard on more trims. Last year's base S trim and Preferred Plus have also been discontinued, leaving the S Select as the entry-level model.

What are the CX-50's interior and in-car technology like?

The interior design is consistent with the rest of the Mazda line, but the blockier, upright air vents add a slightly more muscular vibe consistent with the exterior. Materials quality is similarly elevated, with padded, soft-touch surfaces and high-quality switchgear. Turbo trim levels get soft (and convincing) simulated leather on the dash and doors with contrast stitching in a unique criss-cross pattern. It’ll be hard to find a nicer cabin than this for the money.

Every CX-50 comes with a 10.25-inch widescreen display in 2024. Most functions, including selecting a radio station, making a Bluetooth phone call, or operating the navigation system, are done with the control knob and supporting menu buttons on the center console. This generally works well and helps keep your eyes on the road. However, as the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity can be a royal pain to operate with a knob-and-display system, Mazda allows those, and nothing else, to be operated with touchscreen capability. It’s a decent compromise, but we admit it won’t be for everyone, and it’s also quite the reach to the touchscreen. Apple CarPlay can be run wirelessly, but not Android Auto, and a wireless charging pad is standard on the Premium model and higher.

Another potential technology shortfall is the gauges. While the central gauge is a screen that can change its design and provide information, it’s inherently small and flanked by analog gauges. We’re traditionalists who like old-fashioned gauges, but we know there’ll be those who’ll like the big, colorful full-width offerings of Kia, Hyundai and Nissan.

How big is the CX-50?

The CX-50 is one of the biggest compact SUVs on the outside, but only an average-sized one inside. Blame, or thank, the longer front end and general proportions intended to prioritize a more visually appealing small SUV. There’s really nothing comparable in the regular compact SUV segment, but the Genesis GV70 comes close in the luxury realm. The Chevy Blazer isn’t too far off, either. In the end, though, the CX-50 offers plenty of family-friendly legroom – you’ll still find more than a Toyota RAV4, for instance.

The Mazda CX-50 has a bit more cargo space on paper than its CX-5 sibling: 31.4 cubic feet versus 30.9. That leaves both below our luggage test hierarchy of the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander. The CX-50 does rank higher than the Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape, though. Our CX-50 luggage test revealed that the CX-50 can hold almost as much as rivals, but you will be sacrificing rear visibility more than you would with the top-rated SUVs.

What are the CX-50's fuel economy and performance specs?

The CX-50 comes with the exact same powertrain options as the CX-30 and CX-5, including their standard six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system.

The standard engine is a 2.5-liter inline-four that produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It returns 24 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. This is comparable to the similarly powered Subaru Outback and Kia Sportage.

The optional engine is a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four boasting 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque (it’s good for 256 hp and 320 lb-ft should you want to pump in 93 octane). Few compact SUVs offer a performance upgrade at all, let alone something that muscular. Fuel economy falls to 23/29/25, which is actually a bit better than the CX-5 with the same engine.

Unlike its top competitors, Mazda does not offer a CX-50 hybrid.

What's the CX-50 like to drive?

The CX-50’s longer and wider footprint makes it feel more substantial and planted on the road than the CX-5 and other compact SUVs. It feels a bit more like a midsize model, especially with the turbo engine, and therefore will make a happier highway cruiser. It also showcases Mazda’s typical obsession with ensuring the primary controls and overall vehicle dynamics behave in a natural, immediate, and quite simply, exceptional way. Even the adjustable drive settings are programmed to ensure the CX-50 behaves and feels consistent regardless of conditions or driving situation … as opposed to trying to make it behave like five different cars with widely different steering and throttle responses. We wholeheartedly agree with this approach. If there’s a more enjoyable compact SUV to drive, we can’t think of it. Or it’s a far more expensive luxury model.

The turbo engine option produces far more muscular acceleration than is typically offered in the compact segment. Again, here’s where the CX-50 is more like a midsizer. Its throttle and transmission response are also spot on. We have not had a chance to test the base engine, but considering the CX-50 effectively weighs the same as the CX-5, which we have driven with the base 2.5, it should be perfectly sufficient and possess the same above-average responses.

As for its outdoor adventure readiness, the CX-50 won’t be crawling any rocks but is well suited for the dirt roads that most crossover SUV owners are bound to use. Its 8.6 inches of ground clearance with the turbo (or 8.3 with the base engine) is greater than average, though short of Subaru’s Forester and Outback. We also found the CX-50’s Off-Road mode does a commendable job of ensuring traction on loosely packed dirt, both on steep hills and higher-speed corners. New tweaks to the suspension and steering could improve its off-road manners slightly, but we have yet to test a 2024 CX-50. We doubt they will noticeably affect on-road behavior.