Jeff Haas Mazda
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APR 26, 2024

Mazda CX-50 Wins: "2024 Compact SUVs for the Real World Compared"

The Mazda's combination of a solid powertrain and winning chassis made it the vehicle we most wanted to drive and live with. And the plush, high-quality interior is a fine place to spend time, even when sitting in traffic. The real world can often be unglamorous, but the Mazda proves that the right compact SUV can elevate the mundane.


  1. Mazda CX-50
  2. VW Tiguan
  3. Honda CR-V (non-hybrid)
  4. Ford Escape 2.0T
  5. Toyota RAV4
  6. Nissan Rogue

Mazda’s CX-50 Turbo Meridian SUV a crossover soft-roader for the masses

Today’s crossover SUV market has as many choices as the ice cream aisle at a grocery store. There is so much variety, and all share the same core goal of satisfying our consumer need to enjoy a frozen treat. Variants like the 2024 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Meridian fall into a niche subcategory of compact SUVs with rugged trim levels designed to provide a weekend’s worth of off-road capability.

Featuring all-wheel drive as standard with jagged all-terrain tires and some adventuring accessories like undercarriage skid plates, a heavy-duty roof rack, or a snazzier paint scheme, it’s gotten to the point where these vehicles are categorized as “soft roaders.”

The Mazda CX-50 offers eight trim levels with standard all-wheel drive. These trim classes are evenly split between non-turbo and turbocharged variants of the 2.5L four-cylinder engine. The naturally aspirated models produce 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and the turbocharged models get a power boost making 256 horsepower and a brawny 320 pound-feet of torque, provided you use 93 octane fuel. If you burn 87 octane gasoline the performance figures drop to 227 hp and 310 pound-feet.

Opting for the turbocharged engine also increases the max towing capacity to 3,500 pounds from 2,000. Regardless of trim level, every CX-50 model uses a six-speed automatic transmission. Driving impressions speak to Mazda’s reputation for engaging handling, and the turbo-aided engine will quench your thirst for dynamic trills when you put your foot down.

The CX-50 Meridian Edition of Mazda’s SUV lineup could be seen as the family’s black sheep, thanks to its rugged approach to exterior styling with matte black hood graphics, 18-inch matte alloy wheels and black cladding around the fenders and rocker panels. These dark accents contrast aesthetically with the Zircon Sand Metallic exterior color ($450). One design detail I find particularly charming is the texture lines in the headlight housing that give the appearance of eyelashes dripping with mascara.

The interior of this CX-50 Turbo Meridian features a delightful terra-cotta design that will impress anyone who steps inside. Moreover, the seats manage to retain their upscale look and comfortable feel as you ease into them. Folding the rear seats down gives you a better view of the CX-50’s wagon-like cargo space with plenty of real estate to fill when you visit Costco, the beach or a regional state park.

Fuel economy is less than I expected from a four-pot, subcompact SUV with an average of 25 mpg (23 city and 29 highway). It’s not exactly a fuel sipper and has a taste for premium fuel. Moreover, the optional roof platform ($899), which goes over the roof’s cross bars, certainly doesn’t help conserve fuel aerodynamically and makes an annoyingly hard to ignore wind noise at highway speeds.