Earlier Zoom-Zoom In the early 2000s, Mazda became a household name, so Mazda turned to manufacturing partner and significant stakeholder Ford to buy several rebranded 4X4s. The Navajo was a 2-door Leader, B-series Ranger pickup truck and Tribute a small SUV based on the Escape. But in 2008, when Ford decided to divest itself of its stake in the small Japanese automaker, Mazda’s product line began moving toward more street-oriented utility vehicles like the CX-7. Not to miss the off-road SUV craze currently sweeping American drivers, Mazda introduces the CX-50 Meridian Edition – the brand’s first foray into tougher territory in more than a decade.


Technical characteristics

  • model: MAZDA CX-50 Meridian Edition
  • Engine :: Skyactiv-G 2.5L with four cylinders and turbocharging
  • Power output: 227 hp
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft
  • Drive line: i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) system.
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic

  • Beautiful style
  • All-terrain tires
  • Premium Personality

  • A warm approach to off-roading
  • Skyactiv is an acquired taste
  • Some sweets are missing

CX-50 Meridian, a real SUV?

When I reviewed the all-new 2023 CX-50 earlier this year, I found a disconnect between Mazda’s crude marketing message and the CX-50’s actual capabilities. But a tougher edition of the Meridian was on the way and has now arrived – Mazda’s ode to adventure seekers. Remember, this is a company that designed its current EV with a range of just 100 miles, so don’t start drooling over the improved suspension and such; instead, the Meridian Edition’s focus is where the rubber meets the road.

It’s all about rubber

A close-up of the passenger side wheels and tires of a Polymetal Gray CX-50 Meridian Edition parked in the driveway.

Having the right tire is critical for daring off-road rides, making this Falken Wildpeak All-Terrain Trail the foundation of Meridian’s modest package. Scaled down to 18 inches and designed for all-terrain vehicles like this one for daily use, it has a durable construction that prevents punctures, and it’s got the three-peaked snowflake symbol for light snow, though it’s technically an all-season tire rather than a true winter tire. .

RELATED: 2023 Mazda CX-50 review: Really tough, but not meant for serious off-roading

All-wheel drive with Off-Road mode

Interior shot of CX-50 Meridian Edition with Terracotta leather cabin.

Turbocharged CX-50s typically come with 20-inch wheels, so the Meridian’s smaller-diameter rim actually creates slightly less ground clearance than its similarly powered 8.5-inch siblings, but is still respectable. i-ACTIV All-wheel drive actively sends torque from the front wheels to the rear in a 50/50 ratio, while an off-road mode, selected by flipping the Mi-Drive switch on the center console, helps prevent drive-wheel spin.

So, slippery park trails, muddy camp roads and sandy beach paths are now more comfortable with the Meridian treatment. Just don’t look for items like 4-wheel lock mode, hill descent control, or off-road settings, because they’re nowhere to be found.

SKYACTIV is an acquired taste

Steve Hams drives the CX-50 Meridian Edition, finished in a Terracotta leather interior.

The first day of driving a new Mazda is always the same for me – I start with a complaint about the unnatural feeling of driving; a byproduct of Skyactiv development that coats the drivetrain in an artificial sweetener, if you will. But by the middle of the week, I start to come around to the idea, and then by the end of my loan, I’m turning into a liar for the smoothness it promotes.

Thanks to the off-road tires, the CX-50’s drive is very smooth and premium with a torquey engine that delivers spirited drives. The chunky tires do add a bit of road noise, but not much. When it comes to off-roading, it’s by no means a Jeep, but it will go further than a CX-50 without the Meridian treatment. This, as said by a Comparably priced Jeep Cherokee worth crossing for those with dirtier dreams.

RELATED: That’s why it’s important to have four identical winter tires

Wide capacity

Engine bay showing off the CX-50 Meridian Edition’s 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G Turbo engine.

The 2.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder engine produces 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque on regular CNG and 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft on 91-octane, the difference. And thanks to a semi-independent rear suspension and lower final drive ratio than the CX-5, the CX-50 can tow up to 3,500 pounds as opposed to 2,000, but Mazda recommends using premium gasoline.

When a trailer is connected, tow mode appears in the drive selection. Thanks to the ability to disengage the rear axle when four-wheel drive is not required and an engine start/stop system called i-Stop, the CX-50 delivers 25 mpg – a one mpg improvement over the CX-5.

More wagon than SUV

The front seats of the CX-50 Meridian Edition are covered in Terracotta leather.

From behind the wheel, art The CX-50 epitomizes the wagon; the entry height and seating position are unusually low for an SUV to accommodate the shorter roofline. The windshield is also squinted. When it comes to infotainment, the Mazda has one of the least user-friendly systems on the market. The (mostly) non-touchscreen Mazda Connect now supports wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, which is obviously an improvement, but interestingly, it’s the only time touching the screen is really effective. Otherwise, you’ll be left fumbling with the rotary knob on the center console.

RELATED: How Mazda Reduces Turbo Lag in SkyActiv Engines

Where are the all weather mats?

Cargo compartment with folded rear seats CX-50 Meridian Edition.

With the shorter roof, there’s also slightly less passenger volume and a reduced maximum cargo volume compared to the CX-5, but there’s an extra cubic foot of space with the seats upright. No hands-free tailgate opening. Still, there are remote levers for folding the rear seats, but where are the smart outdoor accessories like a mud mat or cargo organizer?

The Apex Package

Polymetal Gray CX-50 Meridian Edition with Apex Package parked in front three-quarters along the lake.

The Meridian Edition does come with a snazzy black hood graphic that bears its namesake, a little chrome trim on the rocker panels, a special headlight treatment, and black lug nuts. Not enough? There is a package available to take it up a notch. The $1,235 Apex package includes black cross bars, a roof platform and mudguards. – The platform can support a 2 person Yakima tent on the roof.

Exclusively painted in Poly Metallic Gray or Zircon Sand Metallic with a Boutique Terracotta Leather interior, MSRP for the CX-50 Meridian Edition is $41,620 including shipping, and it is equipped with the more powerful turbocharged engine of this model. All-wheel drive is now standard on all Mazda trucks.

Some sweets are missing

Front Polymetal Gray CX-50 Meridian Edition with included headlights.

Unlike the Turbo Premium Plus trim of my original CX-50 test, the Meridian Edition is a few rungs down the trim ladder, so it gets a panoramic sunroof, driver seat memory settings, a height-adjustable passenger seat, and adaptive cruise steering gives up ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, and satellite radio. So if you like things more than track tires, the Premium and Premium Plus trims will be more appealing to you.

Bottom line: The CX-50 Meridian Edition’s drivetrain is commendable, in the salon near Lexus – quiet, and the design is worth noting. It may not be fully invested in off-road adventures, but it’s a better buy than a slightly less expensive one Mazda CX-5 and a bit more capable.