Mazda’s unusually-named just-right-for-some crossover on steroids.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Let’s just get this out of the way first. The naming, while weird and quite a departure for us, is a name that is used for this vehicle world-wide, so Mazda stuck with it. In terms of familial placement, the CX-30 slots in between the diminutive CX-3 and the larger CX-5, which, at this time, is one of my most recommended vehicles.
I really like the styling of the CX-30. It is quite sensuous with plenty of sculpted curves and genuinely sexy surfaces.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of misses too. I hate how much visual space the plastic cladding at the bottom of the vehicle takes up – it’s way too much – and the fender gap between the top of the tire and the wheel well, particularly in the back, is comical. It’s about 6 inches and just looks stupid. I actually had a couple of onlookers ask if it was “jacked up”. Hilariously, Mazda addresses this in their literature as follows: “Black cladding makes the upper body appear as if it is floating on the wheels, giving the vehicle a light and agile character.” Haha! Nice try. I love Mazda, but in my opinion this is a reach, and I’m not buying it.
Otherwise, it’s quite a handsome ride – complete with LED lighting and lovely black finish 18-inch rims. Little hints like a Turbo badge on the rump and bigger exhaust tips hint at what makes this CX-30 special. We’ll get to that eventually.
The interior is simply styled – it’s clean and modern. Materials are great and feel upscale – plenty of soft-touch surfaces surround the cabin. The centre console’s faux carbon fiber trim isn’t my favourite – it’s incredible reflective and immediately becomes a fingerprint and dust magnet and it’s not very convincing either.
The colour scheme is two-tone – brown over black. It’s an interesting choice that I’ve seen in other Mazdas. I don’t hate it, but it’s odd because there is nothing else brown. I do appreciate that they are doing something different.
The leather-trimmed seats are fantastic – comfortable and really well-bolstered. The gauge cluster features a fully digital and customizable speedometer nestled between analog fuel, temperature and tach indicators on the sides.
Mazda’s crisp screen is controlled by the rotary knob on the console – everything works pretty well and the new interface is generally a good one. This trim has navigation and the 12-speaker BOSE sound system is awesome.
Mazda includes plenty of driver assistance technology here including adaptive headlights, pedestrian detection, forward obstruction warning, smart front and rear crossing brake support, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, a heads-up display, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. There’s also a heads-up display that I found, even at its brightest setting, occasionally got washed out in bright sunlight – quite strange.
There are three rear seats, each with a headrest. Rear passengers get adjustable air vents and a middle seatback that folds down to become an armrest with cupholders. No charging ports are provided.
Rear seat space is a big improvement over the smaller CX-3 (which has bragging rights for the worst rear seat space I’ve reviewed). I had about 2 inches of leg room as well as head room to spare.
There are a few spaces for your stuff – a small drop-in bin at the front of the console along with USB charging and a small bin under the armrest lid.
Pop the power liftgate and you’ll find a big-enough 572L trunk – it’s not super wide nor super deep, but has enough depth to make it useful. My review vehicle had both a first-aid kit and a road-side assistance kit that velcro to the trunk carpet floor. Neat touches, but they aren’t practical there.
The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split and that increased the cargo space to 1,280L.
Under the Hood
Here’s the big news – the CX-30 is now available with Mazda’s ubiquitous 2.5L turbo 4-cylinder engine – it’s an option on this highest GT trim. Power is rated at 250 HP and 320 lb.ft of torque (with 93 octane fuel). It will run harm-free on regular gas as well, which drops those numbers to a still-highly-respectable 227 HP and 310 lb.ft of torque.
All-wheel drive is standard on this trim, and the transmission is a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 10.5/7.9 L/100km (city/highway). We actually averaged 9.4 L/100 km after a week of mostly city driving, with no real effort to drive economically. Not bad at all, considering the power on tap.
OK so I have “complained” about Mazda’s turbo engine in other vehicles. To be clear, it’s great, but on the road, it never quite feels like it’s putting out the power that the numbers would suggest. This CX-30 is the happy exception. It is the best application of this engine yet. I’m not sure if it’s been blessed with different programming, or what the difference is. But it felt much more accessible and immediate in terms of power delivery, and the vehicle happily launched off the line with a much more noticeable surge of power. I wish all the other Mazda turbo vehicles would react with such immediacy.
The transmission is smooth and intelligent. Gears can be shifted manually using paddle shifters or with the gear selector.
While the Turbo is no slouch, putting it into Sport mode really awakens the beast and things get even more responsive.
The CX-30 is downright fun to drive – it handles beautifully and it’s a very athletic crossover. The compromise is that the ride is bordering on almost-too-firm. It’s comfortable enough, but it could be more so. Mazda does admit the suspension was tuned to be stiffer in the Turbo, but they claim only to support the additional weight of the engine. It’s quiet on the road, even at highway speeds, and it’s a rock-solid vehicle.
Visibility is mostly great. Shoulder-checking gets a bit iffy because of the huge pillars and the high beltline. That also makes it hard to rest your elbows on the window sill, because it’s very high.
I really loved the front-facing turn signals. Mazda uses razor-thin LED strips – two on each side – one on the side-view mirror and one near the bottom front corner. You don’t really even notice them until they start blinking. Very cool!
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was quite high. She enjoyed driving it and said it drives and feels like an expensive car. She liked the styling as well.
It was good of Mazda to add this second Goldilocks model for those who felt the previous mid-sized offering (the CX-5) was still too big. I like the CX-30’s (mostly) sophisticated design, tight coupe-like proportions and sexy curves. The well-appointed and intuitive interior has everything the typical driver would want and need. I also like that, if you don’t need that back seat room all the time, it’s perfectly sized. Its nimble, athletic character and outstanding driving dynamics and the addition of the turbo engine makes this a legitimate little hot-rod. It’s a well-made, well thought-out and engaging little crossover and I really enjoyed it.
Pricing: 2021 Mazda CX-30
Base price (GT Turbo AWD trim): $36,400
Options: $300 Machine Grey Metallic paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $38,750
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mazda Canada.
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