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2024 Mazda CX-50 Review By Thom Cannell

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Family fun for all but the most challenging off roads

By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Bullet Points—2024 Mazda CX-50

No attempt at completeness, simply comments on one week’s driving experience—balanced against a decade of experience and hundreds of comparisons.


Since its introduction in early 2022, little has changed for the Mazda CX-50 and little is needed, though we do have several suggestions.

Winging into Detroit’s winter grunge, we picked up an Alabama-built Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Meridian Edition outfitted with 18” Black Metallic alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, side rocker garnishes and CX-50 Meridian hood graphics. Zircon Sand Metallic paint added $450 to the MSRP price of $40,800; we might have chosen Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal Mica, the best red in the industry and worth its $595 upcharge. The Apex package, $1,235, of black crossbars and roof platform is designed to carry kayaks, bicycles, surfboards and cargo pods, and includes front/rear splash guards. Meridian Editions are fully kitted out with extensive safety and security: lane departure and assist, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert, stop-and-go radar cruise, plus unexpected wiper and mirror deicers, rear power lift gate, rear A/C vents and of course, i-Activ all-wheel drive with multi-mode (normal, sport, towing).

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Immediately, upon joining I-94 at 70 mph, we faced a regrettable dilemma. If you absolutely need to transport cargo, claim that Apex. Otherwise, like every roof rack we’ve had mounted and regardless manufacturer, above 50 mph roof racks are annoyingly noisy.

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On that grotty afternoon the CX-50’s sunny terra-cotta interior was a joy, inviting, comfortable and stylishly adroit. Seating leather seemed rugged in keeping with the off road theme, with sophisticated accent stitching to enhanced interior elegance. Mazda has, for several years, delivered upscale interiors when compared to its competitors to differentiate the brand. Go for a look and test drive and you’ll agree.

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Further along, heavy fog occluded all but the next quarter-mile of the highway, so having a clear driver information center (DIC) told me everything I need to know about speed, nearby vehicles and cruise control distance. Steering felt precise, delivering real road feedback despite large 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake off-road tires, and standard rain-sensing automatic wipers kept the windscreen very clear and clean; I felt safe at highway speeds.

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So, immediate impression? Would I buy this vehicle? It's comfortable, with generous seating for four, somewhat less so for five. The back hatch area is wide, easily swallowing two suitcases of carry-on size, so it's good for travel for a family. Its 2.5-liter turbocharged engine (227 HP, 310 torques) makes plenty of power for on-ramps, passing and feels instantly available and Mazda always delivers enthusiast-oriented ride and handling.

Though a non-distracting infotainment system does not yet exist, Mazda’s infotainment system uses a 10.25” color screen which unfortunately is not a touch screen and therefore requires multiple button/dial pushes/rotations to achieve success with Apple CarPlay. The 8-speaker sound system was highly customizable and more than adequate, when not whelmed by wind noise.

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Returning to Detroit Metropolitan amidst abundant snow-phobic idiots on I-94, the standard seat heaters and retro appeal of an HVAC system that reminded me of 60’s-80’s in-dash AM/FM radios— knobs for driver and passenger temperature and a small display—minimized distractions.

Something often overlooked in reviews is how very easy to drive the CX-50 feels. That's incredibly important with distractions from other drivers, highway conditions and of course dealing with any entertainment system. On multiple 100-mile routes around Michigan, we noted the the CX-50’s compliant ride, a signature of Mazda vehicles. Equipped with Mazda’s i-Activ all wheel drive, the discomfort of multi-repaired pavement was minimized.

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Here's the Bullet Points:

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The Good:

Steering wheel profile with leather covering is just right for most hand sizes

Seat comfort

Overall interior design

Overall driving experience

Punchy SkyActiv engine

Needs improvement,

Overly stiff brake pedal feel; solid, but requires far more effort than expected

Fuel economy (23 City 29 Highway) is less than competitors

Six-speed transmission needs a couple of extra, and frugal, gears