Mazda has proven to be a cut above many others where you find more premium interiors and a sportier driving attitude than competing segments, which have both paid off well for the brand. In the recent couple of years, Mazda has introduced new models that widen its appeal, such as the new Mazda CX-50 I had a chance to check out again, only this time in the unique Meridian Edition trim that touts a more rugged appeal along with a few specialized add-ons to make it more off-roading friendly over the current gamut of trims levels.
Utilizing similar principles of the popular Mazda CX-5, the new CX-50 brings a slightly rugged edge to the equation but doesn’t depart from the sporty road-going nature that you find in the CX-5. The CX-50 attempts to foreshadow a more rugged appeal with its plastic cladding and increased ground clearance but doesn’t necessarily take away its feeling at home on paved roads, where most buyers will spend their time with such a vehicle. However, having a Meridian Edition trim affords some light off-roading without worry due to having standard all-terrain tires and a rather large roof rack with integrated crossbars ready for mounting active lifestyle equipment or hauling a little extra outside of what the 31 cubic feet of cargo space provides.
Just like in my previous review of the new Mazda CX-50, there’s a respected sporty nature that you get, and having the more powerful turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine in the Meridian Edition trim elevates your driving experience. The turbocharged engine is good for 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque using regular unleaded fuel. If you use premium fuel, that power increases to 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, which is sent through a 6-speed automatic transmission. All Mazda CX-50s are all-wheel-drive and include a Sport and Off-road drive mode.
The way the CX-50 2.5 Turbo Meridian Edition drives is no different than any other trim with the turbocharged engine. The Falken all-terrain tires do well to limit road noise and prove to be compliant even on wet road surfaces instead of suffering from being somewhat slippery like other all-terrain rubber. The suspension, which is slightly re-tuned for the 2024 model year, feels somewhat firm but not overly stiff. In all, the CX-50 rides excellent with a subtle sporty nature that inspires confidence on the road at just about any legal speed.
The power from the turbocharged engine using premium fuel feels substantial with the sweet spots mostly in the midrange from the amble torque. Zero to 60 mph ticks off right at 7 seconds, but you must contend with the optional large roof rack on the Meridian Edition trim as part of the Apex package, which is surely to add a good bit of wind resistance as there’s an abundance of wind noise that enters the cabin at highway and interstate speeds.
Towing capacity increases with the turbocharged engine to 3,500 pounds, up from the 2,000-pound limit for the base, non-turbo engine trims.
Fuel consumption is mostly consistent and doesn’t depart far in the real world from the EPA estimates of 23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. However, my test vehicle seemed to never really reach the 29-mpg highway figure, which I attribute to the large roof rack, causing a bit of extra drag.
Mazda has pulled off a few magic tricks with its interior by offering an overall premium feel that doesn’t add much to the pricing scale. In the CX-50 Meridian Edition trim the interior is elevated a bit from the lower trims with contrasted stitching throughout the soft touch areas of the trim, along with contrasted colored Terracotta-colored leather seats with front seat heating and power adjustments. The driver’s seat gets power lumbar, height adjustments, and memory settings.
The seating areas have a good amount of room for a compact crossover, and are mostly easy to find an optimal seating position up front. The rear seats are accommodating for most adults on the outboard seats, but the center seat will require someone saddling the floor hump.
There’s a welcomed straightforward operation of the infotainment system, which mostly commits you to using a central control knob and a set of primary function buttons. However, the 10.3-inch infotainment screen does have touch functionality but only when using the integration of wireless or USB-connected Apple CarPlay or Android Auto when the vehicle is stationary. Otherwise, the screen does not permit touch for any of the core functions at any time. The wireless charging pad is conveniently located just under the latch for the center armrests.
There’s a welcomed simplistic approach to the CX-50’s interior and controls, which is mimicked through most of the Mazda lineup. The dual-zone automatic climate controls are also simplistic and have a dedicated set of physical knobs and buttons for control, in addition to rear seating area vents behind the front armrests.
The cargo area is decent, and you get just over 31 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats. If you fold the 60/40-split rear seatbacks down, you have just over 56 cubic feet of storage, which is all accessed by a power lift-gate.
A full array of active safety features is included across the board for all trim levels, including radar cruise control with stop and go, blind-spot monitors with rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and driver attention alert. Unfortunately, my CX-50 Meridian Edition trim does not include the 360-degree camera system, nor does it have the rear smart brake support, traffic jam assist, and blind spot assist systems, which are reserved for the very top-level CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus trim.
New Mazda vehicles seem to be an excellent value for the lower and mid-level trims when you factor in the number of standard amenities and active safety features bundled up with each trim, which starts at $30,300 for the base 2.5 Select trim. My mid-level CX-50 Meridian Edition trim test vehicle comes to $40,800 before adding in the options of the Apex package (roof rack platform with cross bars), cargo net, attractive Zircon Sand paint option, and the delivery/processing fee of $1,375, which then comes to a total of $43,960.