2023 Mazda CX-30 Review

2023 Mazda CX-30 - Sporty CX-30 is a perfect fit for active-lifestyle enthusiasts.


The Mazda CX-30 was introduced 2020 as a subcompact crossover from that fills a gap in the model lineup between the CX-3 and CX-5. The CX-30 is a 4-door wagon based on the Mazda 3, but rides a wheelbase that is shortened from 107.3 inches to 104.5 inches. Other differences include a higher ride height and additional exterior body cladding. Changes for 2023 a bit more power for the base engine and removal of the 2.5 Turbo trim. The CX-30 competes in a very crowded segment. Key competitors include the Buick Encore GX, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade, Kia Niro, Nissan Kicks, Subaru Crosstrek and Toyota C-HR.

The CX-30 is offered in S, Select Preferred, Carbon Edition, Premium, Turbo Premium and Turbo Premium Plus trim. S, Select Preferred, Carbon Edition, Premium come standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 191 horsepower (five more than last year) and 186 lb-ft of torque. Turbo Premium and Turbo Premium Plus get a turbocharged version of that engine that makes 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Both engines mate to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The CX-30 in not rated for towing.

Standard safety features on all CX-30 models include driver attention system, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, rear-view camera and drowsy-driver monitor. Support for Apple Car Play and Android Auto is standard. Pricing ranges from $24,000 to almost $36,000 on the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus.

Even with five more horsepower for 2023, the normally aspirated 4-cylinder engine in the base models is somewhat of a disappointment. The engine feels sleepy initially, though things get modestly better once underway as the engine provides decent passing punch. At full throttle, it will propel the CX-30 from 0 to 60 MPH in about 8.0 seconds, which is class average. The turbocharged engine comes with a price penalty, but it addresses the base engine's low-speed deficiencies and provides robust mid-range power. It drops the CX-30's 0-60 MPH time to about 6 seconds flat.

Bucking the trend, Mazda paired its fairly large-displacement four cylinders with a traditional 6-speed automatic. With so many slushy continuously variable automatics in the class, the conventional transmission is a welcome change. It provides smooth upshifts in acceleration and positive and prompt downshifts when more power is needed. Up-level models also get steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for more precise control.

Despite additional body cladding and higher ride height, the CX-30 is no off-road champ. The all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use. However, the all-wheel-drive system does make the CX-30 more secure on slippery roads and also provides a bit more balance in high-speed maneuvers.

Fuel economy with front-wheel drive and base engine comes in at 26 MPG city, 33 MPG highway and 29 MPG combined. The turbo all-wheel-drive models net 22/30 MPG ratings. Those numbers compare favorably to most competitors and the CX-30's 4-cylinder engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline. In the real world, most owners are likely to average about 30 MPG in overall suburban commuting. Perhaps a bit less if they regularly carry a full passenger load. The only downside is a dinky 12.7-gallon fuel tank that limits overall range to less than 350 miles.

The beauty of starting with the Mazda 3 platform is that the CX-30 gets to share its athletic underpinnings. Though MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in back are fairly commonplace in the class, Mazda has tuned the suspension to provide a firm and controlled ride, making the CX-30 drive more like a sports sedan than a subcompact crossover. Adding to the fun are nicely weighted and communicative steering and a responsive brake pedal. Body motions are nicely kept in check as well.

On the flip side, the CX-30 does ride with more firmness than one might expect. There's little impact absorption and hard impacts can pound through. This is certainly more noticeable on models with the 18-inch wheels, but even the base models have a firmer ride than most competitors.

Road, wind, and tire noise are impressively quelled as the CX-30 might be the overall quietest offering the class. In fact, it is one of those vehicles that is always going faster than it seems. So, keep a close on the speedo.

Like all Mazda's, the CX-30 interior is a model of simplicity and elegance. If you didn't know it, you'd think you were in a vehicle costing thousands more. Top-of-the-class materials and high-end finishes abound. Traditional analog gauges are augmented by a digital information screen and an available head-up display. The simple center stack features conventional climate controls topped off by an extra-wide display screen for the infotainment system. Conversely, the center console is a bit busy, with the shifter, jog dial to control the infotainment, and radio volume knob, which is an awkward reach on the right. Ancillary controls are in expected locations and lit for use at night.

Speaking of the infotainment system, one plus is that it supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play. However, clunky navigation forces you back into the main menu each time you want to make a change or adjustment.

The front seats are firm and heavily bolstered -- so much so that some may find them uncomfortable. For most they are the perfect complement to the CX-30's sporty demeanor. Leg and head room are good, though the seats seem a bit narrow. The rear seat suffers compared to many competitors. It's fairly tight with just adequate head and knee room. Entry exit is decent, but again, competitors with taller builds provide easier access. Thanks to an airy greenhouse and thin roof pillars, outward visibility is good.

Cargo capacity comes in at a scant 13 cubic feet with the rear seat up. That trails most in the class. In addition, the opening is small and the liftover seems high. Of course, the rear seats do fold to increase cargo capacity. Interior storage is about average. There are a couple of bins in the center console and a modestly sized globe box. Door map pockets disappoint.

Bottom Line --
Enthusiasts shopping for a subcompact crossover need look no further; the CX-30 is here to quench your thirst for an affordable but sporty ride. Driving dynamics aside, the CX-30 is a well-appointed and nicely equipped crossover that, honestly, makes most of the others blush a bit. Prices might seem a little steep at first, but compared on a feature-for-feature basis, the Mazda is really quite affordable. Take note of the ride quality on up level trims and the scant cargo capacity.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.