Last year, I enjoyed a few days behind the wheel of the Mazda CX-50 and spent a good amount of time driving it on dirt and gravel roads. I kept Mazda’s adventurous crossover on the pavement this time and was equally pleased with its looks and driving dynamics. It was Mazda’s with the CX-50 goal to make a vehicle equally at ease driving on a rocky trail as it is to the grocery store, and I think they succeeded.

For those wondering where the CX-50 fits into the Mazda line-up, it’s longer and lower than the CX-5, giving it a station wagon-like appearance. That said, it still has an above-average ground clearance of up to 8.6 inches. Mazda did a great job styling the CX-50, combining the brand’s KODO design aesthetic with a slightly more rugged appearance. Black plastic cladding helps protect the lower part of the body from dings and scratches. Other black trim elements provided a nice contrast to the Machine Grey metallic paint on my review vehicle. The Premium Plus grade rolls on sharp-looking 20″ alloy wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle Touring all-season tires.

While the base model CX-50 has an 187 horsepower naturally-aspirated engine, this turbocharged model has a 2.5-liter, inline 4-cylinder engine producing 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque on 87-octane fuel. That jumps to 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque on 93-octane. It’s a potent little drivetrain with good passing power and a 6-speed automatic transmission that’s far more satisfying than the CVTs found in some competing vehicles. And if you want to tow a jetski or some dirt bikes, it’ll pull up to 3500 pounds. All-wheel drive comes standard and does a respectable job providing traction in wet conditions and on loose surfaces. Mazda is known for making vehicles feel connected to the road, and the CX-50 continues that trend. The steering has a nice, direct feel, and the suspension is soft enough to handle rough roads but still provides good handling on smooth surfaces and at highway speeds.

In keeping with Mazda’s driver-centric philosophy, the CX-50’s dashboard is intentionally spartan. Ergonomics were taken into account with thoughtfully placed controls and excellent forward visibility. The 10.25″ multimedia screen is set high up on the dash to help keep your eyes on the road. That system can be operated with a dial on the center console, but if you’ve got long enough arms, the display is also a touchscreen. It has support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well. The center console has a wireless charging pad and dual USB ports for charging and connectivity. The 12-speaker Bose sound system is above average, though it isn’t one of the more memorable car audio systems I’ve experienced. Safety tech includes radar adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, and a 360º surround view monitor.

The leather-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, stitching on the dashboard, and soft-touch materials throughout the cabin give the CX-50 Premium Plus a high-end look. The front seats are comfortable and offer good support, though the Terracotta leather color isn’t my favorite. I’d prefer the black leather with brown trim that’s also available. The front seats offer heat and ventilation to help regulate your temperature, and those climate features work well. I did notice that the heat takes longer to warm up than on some other vehicles I’ve driven.

A panoramic moonroof brings lots of light into the cabin, and the front half slides or vents to bring in fresh air when the weather is nice outside. The outboard rear seats have enough legroom and headroom for taller passengers. Those seats come with heat in the CX-50 Premium Plus. The middle position of the bench seat is best for kids and shorter adults due to the center console vents’ position and the driveshaft tunnel’s height. Rear seat passengers get two USB ports and their own vents.

Like many crossovers and SUVs, the second-row seats fold forward in a 60/40 split for flexibility. Those seats lay close to flat so you can carry longer items like big-screen TVs and tabletops with ease. There’s a total of 56.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded and 31.4 cubic feet with the seats upright. Cutouts behind each rear wheel well provide extra room to fit golf bags even when the back seat is in use. Since the cutouts are slightly lower than the cargo floor, they’re also suitable for carrying things you don’t want sliding around. They came in handy when I had to drive home with a couple of gallons of paint from the Home Depot. Standard roof rails provide extra carrying space for longer trips.

The CX-50 is a well-rounded crossover for people who want a vehicle that’s great for everyday tasks and capable of light off-roading. Since most of us don’t spend that many days off the pavement, Mazda started by ensuring the CX-50 is comfortable and drives well on-road. Then, they tested and tuned it for the trails. The result is a well-balanced crossover that’s right-sized and retains the driving dynamics that Mazda is known for. Pricing for the 2025 Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo starts at $38,000. The Premium Plus reviewed here had a sticker price of $45,270, including delivery, processing, and handling fees.