2020 Mazda CX-30 by Ben Lewis

Okay, we’re spoiled for choice these days. If you say you can’t find a vehicle to meet your needs, you’re not looking hard enough. Let’s take small cars/SUVs/crossovers. And a manufacturer like Mazda. Need a small car? There’s the Mazda 3 sedan and the Mazda 3 hatchback. We’ve tested both and loved them. Maybe want a small crossover/SUV? There’s the Mazda CX-3. Also, excellent.

But you say, well, I want something a little taller than a sedan/hatch, but not quite an SUV. Okay says Mazda – here’s the all-new CX-30! And it might be the perfect blend of all the above.

Mazda CX-30 exterior – Coupe-like Charisma

The CX30 makes a great first impression. Interestingly, if you see it in pictures, it looks quite large, but when we parked next to a Mazda CX-5, it looked much smaller.

Staying true to the Kodo design language, it falls right in line with the Mazda 3 models we have recently been in. It’s a mature, sleek design, that catches the eye. Up front is a prominent cheese-grater grille with upscale chrome trim, flanked by slender signature LED headlamps on our Premium model.

The profile is a happy marriage of Coupe lines, and taller SUV stance, enhanced by black plastic fender flares for a rugged look. Handsome 18-inch alloy wheels add the finishing touch. Swinging around back, the rear window is angled for a sporty look, while sharp LED taillights with afterburner ridges look modern and aggressive as well. The pushed-in rear tailgate gives the CX a tight waistline, while the black bumper and dual exhaust promises fun.

Finishing it all off, our tester’s Soul Red Crystal Metallic is one of Mazda’s newer colors, and it never fails to get compliments.

Mazda CX-30 – First Class Cabin

Inside is the typical interior upgrade we’ve seen with all Mazda’s recently, and it is a beautiful place to spend time. Like our recent Mazda 3 sedan, the seats were covered in a soft leather – this time in a nice dirt-hiding shade of black, while, a lovely chocolate brown trim covers key areas and looks very upscale. The seats themselves are very supportive, and two adults can squeeze in the back – but best for short trips. Interestingly it has about the same cargo volume as the Mazda 3 hatchback, but the taller height does make for easier loading and unloading.

Up front is where you want to be, with an interior that wouldn’t look out of place in an Audi. Sensible, logically placed controls feel expensive to the touch and work with a well-polished slickness.

Framed by a large leather-wrapped wheel is one of our favorite gauge packages of any vehicle. A super crisp 7-inch LCD display flanked by a tach and temp/fuel gauges, with clever slider-style gauges bracketing the speedo. It is simple, clean, and so elegant to look at. Not like some premium sedans we have driven lately. We’re looking at you, BMW M340i.

If you feel left out of the ritzy high-tech display, you can enjoy the Premium model’s full-color, heads-up display, which works nicely.

Adding to the luxury feel is a handsome 8.8-inch screen nicely nestled in the dash instead of the expected tablet display. Mazda’s info-tainment controls remain in the center console, with a big easy to touch rotary dial surrounded by a few select pushbuttons. We’re even getting used to the volume knob, sitting like a small moon to the big dial’s planet.

And we did enjoy that volume knob, as it is connected to a sweet-sounding Bose 12-speaker audio system. All CX-30’s except the base model now feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with 2 USB audio inputs, so your tech cravings should easily be met.

To impress your friends, you can point out that the woofers are mounted on the side cowls, instead of the doors like most cars. This allows for an audio system with more bass that won’t rattle the doors – ok, some people like the rattling, but they’ll probably be loading up the hatch with a competition level audio system. For the rest of us, the lack of a speaker port in the door reduced another area where potential road noise could sneak in. Clever thinking!

Mazda CX-30 Performance – The Drivers Choice!

The nice looks and interior are great, but what always excites us about a Mazda test drive is the excellent way they perform. We say it a lot, but we’ve noted from the Mazda 3 hatchback to the CX-9 3-row SUV, you get the Mazda Miata driving joy in every vehicle.

And the CX-30 is no different. Under the hood is the familiar 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, that puts out a sturdy 186 horsepower, and a strong 186 lb.-ft at 4,000 rpm. Another reason to love Mazda, no CVT transmission here – you get a quick-shifting 6-speed automatic that is tuned to perfection to work with the automatic.

Mazda knows how to make cars feel lively, even if they are not roadburners, and the CX-30 keeps that tradition alive. It feels strong off the line, with that large 4-cylinder moving you smartly off the line. Keep it in Sport mode and it’s responsive and feels very, well, sporty! Stay frugal and 30 mpg should be easily attained.

While it is not as fast as turbo competitors like the rocketship Hyundai Kona, you never feel down on power. It’s also typical Mazda with a delightful chassis. The steering is precise and full of feel, the ride is firm but not harsh, and it really does beg to be thrown in the corners. And our tester’s all-wheel-drive gives even more grip and gives a hunkered-down feeling when pressing on.

It also feels incredibly well balanced and refined. There’s an Audi-like fluidity in the body motions, the smooth and quiet road manners that make it feel like a vehicle that’s much more expensive than the CX-30 is. Our only gripe is the brake pedal feel was a little stiff and lifeless. Brakes worked great, just not up to the excellence everywhere else.

A Cut Above, at a Price Below

We also love that Mazda gives you the premium experience without the premium price tag.  You can get into the CX-30 base model at $21,900, while that’s a front wheel drive model, you get the powerful 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, LED headlights and Mazda Connect with 8.8-inch center display. You also get a nice selection of safety gear, including smart brake support, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, radar cruise control with stop & go, high beam control and driver attention alert.

The Select is probably the value play, starting at $23,900, but your 2k goes along way, adding 18-inch alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Dual zone auto climate control, keyless entry and most notably, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. Step up to the Preferred package at $26,200 and you get goodies like 12-speaker Bose audio, Heated front seats Sirius XM radio and more.

Our Premium tester started at $28,200, which piles on leather-trimmed seats, Adaptive front lighting, Rear Power liftgate, heads-up display, power moonroof, paddle shifters, roof rails and more for a luxurious package. add $595 for Soul Red Paint, $1,400 for All-Wheel Drive, $1,100 for Destination, and we range the bell at $31,295.  

Competitors would first have to include Mazda’s own Mazda3 hatchback ($32,390) which is lower and sleeker, but you do feel a bit cramped. And there’s also the CX-3 SUV, ($23,735) Mazda keeps this one simpler with less features now, so if you want the goodies, you’ll be going to the CX-30. The Hyundai Kona is also a fine choice, turbo power and a lot of value at $30,490. You decide if you go for the more exuberant vibe (Kona) or more refined feeling (CX-30).

Sometimes a compromise is just that. But sometimes it’s the best of everything in one package.

We love the 2020 Mazda CX-30, stylish and premium inside and out, a delight to drive in the pure Mazda way, and attractively priced. Not quite a hot hatch, not quite an SUV, but this one is juuuust right!