The Goldilocks model in the Mazda compact crossover line-up.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
This is yet another beautiful Mazda crossover. A round of applause for their styling department, because I think the CX-30 is a stunner. The highly expressive exterior combines powerful curving lines that flow from front to back, a high beltline and steeply raked glass, front and back. The Kodo “Soul of Motion” design language speaks loudly here, particularly in this paint colour. I find this colour one of the easiest paint upgrade prices to justify in this industry. It’s offset a bit by the plastic cladding along the bottom and wheel wells, but somehow I found the contrast attractive, whereas that cladding can often can come off as downright cheap feeling on other vehicles.
You’ll find LED head- and tail-lights and handsome 18-inch rims with a gunmetal finish. If there’s anything I would change, it would be the size of the gap between the tires and the rear wheel well – it’s not terrible, but it would look better if it were slightly smaller.
Stepping into the cabin, you’ll find a simple, clean, minimalist design that looks great and simply works. Take a look at how well the climate controls and the passenger air vents are integrated. Well done, Mazda!
Materials are excellent, with soft-touch surfaces nearly everywhere. And the colour combination is really nice – there is a swath of deep brown leathery material that makes its way across the dash, the door panels and the armrests, and the rest of the dash is black. That alone is pretty sweet, but my review sample had the stunning Pure White interior which really takes things up a notch. The heated perforated white leather seats are perfectly balanced between being very comfortable and offering outstanding support and bolstering.
The heated steering wheel is nicely sculpted and feels great in-hand – and looks fantastic! Behind it is a set of gauges with a flexible 7-inch digital display.
The wide 8.8-inch screen juts out of the dash and is controlled by the rotary joystick that Mazda calls the HMI Commander on the centre console. Mazda also adds a few hard buttons there to access some of the major functions. The system has matured a bit and is significantly easier to navigate and use than in the past.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are well integrated and the upgraded 12-speaker BOSE sound system is very, very good.
This top-trim CX-30 comes with a dual-zone automatic climate control system, sunroof and a full whack of driver assistance technology. It includes blind spot monitoring, a back-up camera with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, front collision mitigation and pedestrian detection and braking, adaptive front lighting, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, traffic sign recognition and a great heads-up display.
While the CX-30 is notably bigger than the tiny CX-3 (which has the tightest rear seats I’ve ever tested), it’s still not endowed with a big rear passenger compartment. Getting in, you immediately realize it’s very compact back there. I’m 5’10”, and sitting behind my own driving position, my knees were gently touching the back of the driver’s seat and I had about an inch and a half of head room to spare. Anyone taller than me would likely not want to spend a lot of time back there.
The outboard seats work for adults – the middle position is tight and straddles a floor tunnel. Rear passengers basically get adjustable air vents, a fold-down armrest with cupholders and that’s it – no charging ports back there which is a bit disappointing. There are two seats of child seat anchors if you’re transporting little ones.
There’s a little bin at the front of the centre console, a reasonably-sized bin under the armrest lid (along with USB and 12V plugs)
You access the 572L trunk via a powered liftgate – as it swings up, it carries a hard parcel shelf with it up and out of your way. The trunk initially surprised me, looking smaller than I had expected. But the intelligent design, tall shape and reasonable liftover height all combine to make a highly usable cargo space. You can, of course, fold the rear seats down to create a much larger 1,280L space if needed.
Under the Hood
Here you’ll find the excellent SKYACTIV 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, putting out 186 HP at 6,000 RPM and 186 lb.ft. of torque @ 4,000 RPM. It feeds a 6-speed automatic which sends power to an all-wheel drive system.
The CX-30 in this configuration is rated at 9.5/7.4 L/100 km (city/hwy) – we averaged 9.4 L/100 km during a particularly unforgiving cold snap, while mostly commuting in the city.
The CX-30 isn’t going to blow anybody’s hair back with its performance, but it has plenty of power off the line and enough to hold its own in all driving situations. The same powertrain motivates the larger, heavier CX-5 so it is more than satisfying here – and I really enjoy the snarl of the engine when you step on it. I really enjoy how this engine and transmission work in concert. Nowadays, a 6-speed transmission seems quite pedestrian with all the 7, 8, 9 and even 10-speeds out there. Yet this one is perfectly competent and does a great job. It has Sport and manual shift modes, the latter allowing the driver to make use of the paddle shifters.
The CX-30’s ride is sportier (read: firmer) than average, and while I consider this a good thing, it might catch a few drivers who are expecting something cushier a bit off guard. Of course it still remains comfortable, and it is impressively quiet. The pay-off is, as one would expect of a Mazda, truly excellent handling. The combination of a very well-sorted suspension and torque vectoring make for a crossover that is downright fun to drive.
The all-wheel drive system (particularly combined with winter tires – thank you, Mazda Canada!) is very good – the CX-30 saw a bunch of different Edmonton winter driving conditions, none of them good, and performed admirably in all of them. Traction was commendable and the grip was always there where it was needed. The brakes are powerful and effective.
We enjoyed the CX-30 on the highway too – it cruises effortlessly and would make a great road-tripper if you don’t need a lot of back seat space.
Visibility out of the vehicle is mostly good, with the chunky rear pillars becoming a minor issue when it comes to shoulder-checking.
I wrote about this regarding Mazda’s amazing 3, and I’m going to write about it here, and I’m going to keep writing about it until this isn’t happening anymore. The car automatically sets the parking brake when you park the vehicle. In order to turn it off, you have two options – you need to manually disengage the brake, or you can place the car into gear (Drive or Reverse will work), hit the gas and eventually the car disengages the brake for you – but not before you’ve run up against a set brake and the car lurches – badly.
This still drove me crazy after the entire week in this otherwise lovable vehicle. I have determined there is a procedure in the owner’s manual that allows for this feature to be disabled, but only temporarily – which means you’d have to go through a fairly tedious process every time you fire up the car – something I’m certain nobody wants to do. Apparently Mazda is working on a solution to permanent disable this due to customer demand. Good on Mazda for listening to its clients – although this “feature” should never have been given the green light in the first place.
The CX-30 is the vehicle Mazda needed to slot in below the best-selling CX-5. If someone wants a smaller vehicle than the CX-5, this is an obvious choice, whereas the diminutive CX-3 just isn’t enough for many buyers.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was pretty high – she said it felt very nice to drive and she loved the interior design and feel.
I found the CX-30 easy to drive, easy to use and easy to live with. If I didn’t need a bigger back seat, this would be a vehicle on my own shopping list. It looks fantastic, drives beautifully, offers a modern, high-end interior and enough utility to satisfy many a buyer – and the refinement level is almost shocking.
Pricing: 2020 Mazda CX-30
Base price (GT AWD trim): $33,850
Options: $450 Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $36,350
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mazda Canada.
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