2020 Mazda CX-30 Off-Road Drive Review By Matt Barnes

Mazda is unique in the automotive world, as it doesn’t report to a parent company. Mazda has a proven record of making reliable and fun to drive vehicles. They have once again delivered with the all new CX-30.


From the outside the CX-30 looks very similar to the Mazda 3 hatchback. Upon closer inspection it becomes clearer that these two are quite different. The CX-30 is about 5-inches taller than the 3 with an additional 2.5-inches of ground clearance. Interestingly enough the CX-30 is also shorter than the 3 by 2.5-inches and has a 3-inch shorter wheelbase. The exterior design cues are very similar between the two vehicles, but the CX-30 is a little taller, higher off the ground, and has a shorter rear end.


On the inside, the Mazda 3 hatchback and CX-30 are nearly identical. The cargo capacity is the same, and with the exception of the CX-30 having noticeably more rear hip and leg room, the passenger space is the same size as well.

Like most Mazda’s, the interior of the CX-30 is laid out in a driver centric orientation. Everything is clear, within reach, and easy to manipulate for the driver. The layout is basic and simple, but everything needed is there.

The CX-30 is borderline luxury. It is very nicely appointed with excellent fit and finish. The infotainment system is clear and easy to use with the controls mounted in the center console behind the shift lever.

Top quality materials make the CX-30 feel more expensive than it is. The leather is soft, and the seats provide great support all around without being cramped. Rear passenger room is a little tight, and while two car seats fit, they were very close to the front seats which resulted in toddlers kicking the front seats.


One of Mazda’s core design features is Jinba Ittai. Jinba Ittai is oneness between the vehicle and driver. They also call this human-centered engineering. This feeling of oneness has not been lost in the CX-30.

This design methodology becomes immediately clear when pushing the crossover a little bit. The balance is near perfect. When cornering, there is understeer when throttling, neutral steer when coasting, and oversteer when braking. In short, the CX-30 is easily controlled when cornering.

For 2021 Mazda will be offering the 2.5-liter turbo charged engine standard on the AWD versions and optional on the FWD versions of the CX-30. This engine is up 64 horsepower from the 186 horsepower in the NA 2.5-liter and should make the driving experience that much more fun.


Clearly the CX-30 is designed for on-road operation, but it actually fares quite well off-road. Mazda’s I-Active AWD monitors 27 sensors at a rate of 200 Hz. The whole purpose behind watching that many sensors is to have a predictive AWD system. Many systems detect wheel slip and then transfer power to the rear wheels, but Mazda claims that their system will start transferring power before wheel slip has even occurred.

The additional height over the Mazda 3 does add some ground clearance for the CX-30, but it’s weakest point for off-pavement driving is the low clearance. The off-road mode provides good wheel slip control and transfers power to the wheels with traction well.

The engine doesn’t have a high torque or power output, but the CX-30 is light weight enough that it is able to make it up the easy line on our steep hill climb, which is more than some other small crossovers are able to do. Due to the low clearance we weren’t able to climb the hard line.


Our test model was the 2020 CX-30 Premium AWD and has a base price of $29,600. The only options that were added were the frameless auto-dim mirror for $275 and Navigation SD Card for $450. Adding in the $1,045 destination charge the total price comes to $31,370. In comparison to the others in the class like the Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos, and Toyota C-HR, the CX-30 is right in the range, but with a nicer interior and better driving dynamics.


When looking for a small crossover the Mazda CX-30 is at the top of its class. The interior is excellent, and the driving dynamics are pure Mazda. Off-road it will get you through the occasional rough patch and easily handle all weather conditions with the AWD system. Don’t choose another small crossover without at least taking the CX-30 for a test drive, it might just make your mind up for you.