2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian Review: Fun Yet Not Fun

Mazda took the world by surprise last year when it unveiled the very first CX-50. The new boxier and rugged-looking crossover was a refreshing addition to an already SUV-crowded lineup. The CX-50 also marks Mazda’s first move into the “adventurous” segment, a new trend in the automotive industry.

In 2023, the CX-50 was still around, but there was a new trim for people who want a bit more than just another SUV with boxed fender flares. The new Meridian is Mazda’s answer to what the Wilderness trim is to the Subaru Outback, but with a softer twist than what Subaru offers with the most rugged version of their lifted family wagon. The CX-50 Merdian also made our list of the top family-friendly off-road SUVs.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian grey front profile2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian grey front profile
Photo: Mazda

We drove the 2023 CX-50 Meridian during the coldest weekend of the year, which also explains why there are no “on-site” pictures of the crossover. Let’s see if it did well during those days when the temperature gauge indicated close to -40°F and -40°C. Yes, you read right! (Interestingly, -40 degrees is the point where the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales intersect and display the same temperature reading, so now you know).

Key Features:

  • The Meridian trim sits below the Turbo Premium and Turbo Premium Plus grades in the US (and at the top of the CX-50 lineup in Canada), at a starting price of $47,850 USD ($48,200 CAD)
  • To benefit from that very cool roof platform, you need to select the Apex option group at around $ 1,400.
  • The platform is nicely built, but it’s worth mentioning the extra noise coming from the roof at highway speeds. 
  • The Meridian trim also comes equipped with the “biggest” engine available: a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, delivering 256 hp and 320 ft-lb of torque with premium gas. 
  • It’s worth mentioning these numbers are lower with regular gas: 227 hp and 310 ft-lb.
  • The only transmission option is a 6-speed automatic unit.
  • The Meridian trim comes out of the factory with 18-inch unique two-tone wheels wrapped with all-terrain Falken tires. 
2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian rear head on2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian rear head on
Photo: Mazda

Direct competitors:

  • Ford Bronco Sport
  • GMC Terrain AT4
  • Hyundai Tucson Urban
  • Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
  • Kia Sportage X-Line
  • Subaru Forester
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota RAV4 Trail Edition

Price: Meridian Grade Sits Near the Top

2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian rear off roading2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian rear off roading
Photo: Mazda

The Meridian Edition is the third most expensive trim in the CX-50 lineup at a base price of $47,850 USD ($48,200 CAD, where it’s the top grade available) before applicable fees and taxes. In this case, with the Apex optional group (around $1,400), the total price reaches $49,250 USD ($49,600 CAD).

Then again, the CX-50 compact crossover SUV doesn’t need to be fully optioned to be appreciated. Indeed, the two first trims, the 2.5 S and 2.5 S Select (GS-L and GT in Canada), are available with the base non-turbocharged 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. For some extra cash, the turbo engine can be optioned on the 2.5 trim (GT model) at $45,350 USD. The Meridian Edition trim is the only other option for the adventure enthusiast. In this case, the Apex option adds, on top of the cool roof platform, roof bars, and mudguards, a more sinister-looking CX-50. 

2023 Mazda CX-50 US Pricing:

CX-50 2.5 S $27,550
CX-50 2.5 S Select $28,950
CX-50 2.5 S Preferred $30,250
CX-50 2.5 S Preferred Plus $32,690
CX-50 2.5 S Premium $35,150
CX-50 2.5 S Premium Plus $37,150
CX-50 2.5 Turbo $37,150
CX-50 2.5 Turbo Meridian Edition $39,950
CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium $40,300
CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus $42,300

2023 Mazda CX-50 Canada Pricing:

CX-50 GS-L $37,900
CX-50 GT $42,850
CX-50 GT Turbo $45,350
CX-50 Meridian Edition $47,850
CX-50 Meridian Edition Apex Package      $49,250

Mazda CX-50 Meridian Interior

2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian sunroof2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian sunroof
Photo: Mazda

Even if Mazda regulars will find several points of reference when they sit inside the CX-50 – we’re thinking of the steering wheel that’s pleasant to hold, the classic three-dial gauge and the infotainment screen (it’s also touch-sensitive) embedded in the dashboard or even this center console – the fact remains that the design of this dashboard isn’t as organic as that of recent models from the brand’s recent models, especially with the use of vertical ventilation nozzles on either side of the driver’s seat and on the right side as well. We feel that they wanted to offer us something more “truck-like”.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian interior front2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian interior front
Photo: Mazda

The seats are also very comfortable, regardless of the row. As for the trunk, it’s very accommodating with 889 L behind the second-row seat or 1,595 L when the latter is folded forward. However, this second volume is less than that of the Subaru Outback, which delivers 2,144 L with its bench seat folded.

In general, the CX-50’s interior is well put together, it’s nice and even well lit, because Mazda is taking advantage of this new model to introduce its first panoramic roof. Unfortunately, this testdrive was performed during the coldest weekend of the year. With a -40°C temperature, every vehicle on the road was challenged in la Belle Province, and the Meridian CX-50 was no exception.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian back seats2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian back seats
Photo: Mazda

In fact, on the second day of these extreme conditions, the center screen stopped working… for a few days! After checking with Mazda, all the vehicle needed to regain its infotainment center screen was a few hours inside a heated garage. The screen came back to life afterward. 

Performance & Drive Impressions: CX-50 Meridian Gets the 256 Horsepower Turbo

2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian front off roading2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian front off roading
Photo: Mazda
  • Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.5 Turbo
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: AWD
  • Horsepower: 256 hp @ 5,000 rpm (with 93 octane fuel); 227 hp @ 5,000 rpm (with 87 octane fuel)
  • Torque: 320 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm (with 93 octane fuel); 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm (with 87 octane fuel)
  • Towing Capacity: 1,588 kg (3,500 lb)

Over the years, the manufacturer gained a solid reputation when it comes to driving fun. The crossovers in the current lineup are all fun to drive, and the CX-50 is no exception. From the start, you notice that the CX-50 is a bigger and heavier vehicle than the CX-30 Turbo. This partly explains the slightly longer acceleration times, but an adventure vehicle doesn’t have to deliver sports car performance; all it must do is to get there. 

As for the Apex kit, it’s all up to the customer’s needs. Sure, it looks cool, but the sound it generates at higher speeds is not fun at all. 

And in that sense, the CX-50 is a fun vehicle to drive. The steering is precise, the engine sounds are not unpleasant, the automatic transmission is very efficient, and the suspension offers flexibility and firmness. Overall, the newcomer is not a bad car to drive, no matter what the surface. But that very cool roof platform is not as cool… as it sounds! At highway speeds, the unit is noisy… and annoying! Maybe a little spoiler in front of the platform could fix that issue, but for now, all you need to know is that the main piece of that Apex option group is not quiet at all! 


2023 Mazda CX-50 compact crossover SUV 12023 Mazda CX-50 compact crossover SUV 1
Photo: Mazda

This first test drive of the CX-50 Meridian is conclusive: the SUV is performing well on many levels, but we still haven’t been able to drive the base engine. The CX-50 is excellent to drive and a great option for the small family. However, some questions regarding the Meridian trim still have to be answered. These smaller wheels (18-inch instead of 20-inch on lower models) are perfect for rougher roads, and the all-terrain tires will certainly help in some situations. As for the Apex kit, it’s all up to the customer’s needs. Sure, it looks cool, but the sound it generates at higher speeds is not fun at all. Gallery:

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