Pros—Racy look. Roomy. Fast. Deft handling. Upscale interior. AWD. Safety features.
Cons—Bumpy ride on bumpy roads. Low seating. Fussy infotainment system.
Bottom Line—The CX-30 2.5 Turbo AWD is fun to drive and practical.
The 2021 subcompact Mazda CX-30 SUV is based on the sporty Mazda 3 auto and fits between the smaller Mazda CX-3 and larger Mazda CX-5.
There are various CX-3 trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD). They start at approximately $22,000. I tested the top-line $33,900 CX-30 Turbo AWD with the Premium Plus package. With options, the bottom line price was $35,595, including a $1,100 delivery charge.
If that seems like a lot for a subcompact SUV, consider that the CX-30 2.5 Turbo AWD is fast, fun to drive, roomy for four or five adults, has an upscale interior and is nicely built. It’s only 173 inches long and thus is handy to maneuver in congested urban areas. New for 2021 is the addition of standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
However, the entertainment system, controlled by a rotary console dial, is fussy. Moreover, shorter rear occupants may feel the seating is too low.
The styling is definitely racy, and my test vehicle’s optional Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint really made it stand out. Over-the-shoulder rear visibility is average, so a driver should make best use of the outside rearview mirrors.
The CX-30 comes with a 2.5-liter, 186-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The turbo engine generates 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on regular-grade fuel or, as Mazda says, 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque if 93-octane fuel is used.
I assumed my test CX-30 had 93-octane in its 12.7-gallon tank, as it weighed approximately 3,400 pounds and was swift in the city and on highways. The 0-60 mph time is an estimated brisk 5.8 seconds.
The engine works with a slick 6-speed manual transmission and could be quickly manually shifted via steering wheel paddles or the shift lever.
The quiet near-premium cabin has items including power driver’s seat with lumbar support, heated leather seats, push-button start, Bose 12-speaker sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, power moonroof, rear privacy glass, heated leather-covered steering wheel, k navigation system and a rearview camera.
Gauges can be quickly read, and the row of neatly marked dashboard buttons for such things as climate control, heated seats and heated steering wheel will be appreciated by drivers who don’t want to fool with a dashboard screen. All side windows are powered, a large fold-down rear center armrest has twin cupholders and there are decent number of cabin storage areas.
The power hatch opens and closely easily, and the cargo area is decent. Heavy, thick fold-down rear seat backs sit flat when folded forward for additional cargo room.
The electric power-assist steering quick and precise, but a little too light, with only a fair amount of road feel. Adroit handling is one of the things that makes the CX-30 2.5 Turbo fun to drive, which is a characteristic of all Mazdas. Dynamic stability and traction control systems help here, as does the nicely developed AWD system. A driver can manually switch to a “sport” driving mode, but it’s not really for routine driving.
The firm ride is comfortable on smooth roads, but bumpy ones cause a bumpy ride. The brake pedal has a linear action to help the four-wheel disc brakes with Smart Brake Support provide smooth, quick stops.
Safety features include front/rear side air curtains, front side-impact and knee air bags, radar cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, heated power mirrors with turn signals, rearview camera, air bags, blind spot monitoring system and daytime running lights.
Safety options include front/rear parking sensors, 360-degree view monitor, traffic jam assist and rear cross-traffic braking.
Many who regard vehicles just as transportation devices generally only think of Mazda as a producer of the long-popular MX-5 Miata sports car. _Too bad, as they’re missing out of practical driving fun with models such as the CX-30.