We’ve been looking forward to the review of the Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo for some time. As part of the Mazda 3 chassis family, we’ve enjoyed the Mazda 3 Sedan and Mazda 3 hatchback immensely.
And when Mazda started squeezing the 250-horsepower 2.5-liter, turbo 4-cylinder in these models (as well as the CX-5), we have hoped for a thrill machine like the old MazdaSpeed 3. Close, but no cigar. While the turbo motor does make these mounts quite quick, it seems that Mazda was leaning much more towards sophistication. Nice cars. But they didn’t get your blood up.
Well, we remain hopeful. Like the prince with Cinderella’s slipper, we’re hoping for that one vehicle that will be the right fit for the enthusiast. So, will the CX-30 be the one, or just another banged bunion? Let’s find out!
Of all the three variants, the CX-30 may be the handsomest. We like the tasteful sedan, and the hatchback is decidedly sporty, but the 5-door hatchback, with the slightly lifted, SUV ride height seems to push the proportions in just the right way and make the CX looks muscular and elegant all at once.
The font end is no stranger to the current large-grille sweepstakes, but in the CX-30 it doesn’t step all over itself, and with tasteful chrome surrounds on our Premium Plus model, looks upscale. Equally tasteful LED headlamps and contrasting dark lower fascia make for a simple, clean design.
The profile is traditional 5-door hatch, and with the raised ride height with 8-inches of ground clearance and black fender flares and blacked-out 18-inch alloys, you look ready for some light off-roading – something we guess few owners will actually do, but it’s nice to have the look.
The rear has familiar wing-like LED taillights, a concave rear hatch door that gives a snubby sporty look. With a small lip spoiler above the rear window and contrasting lower fascia with two very serious looking exhaust pipes sticking out, it’s a good view.
Our tester wore the signature Soul Red Crystal Metallic, and it really does capture the eye, with a deep rich shine and a nice shimmer when the light hits it right.
Luxury on a Smaller Scale
Inside, the CX will be familiar to anyone that’s been in a Mazda lately. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat, because the carmaker has been going after a level of quality of materials and clean design that feels like Audi – at decidedly non-European prices.
Open the door and you’re greeted by the scent of real moo-cow leather that looks very European, with handsome and comfortable front seats. This is not a large vehicle, so the rear seat will accommodate adults for shorter jaunts, but if you will be carrying big folks regularly, we’d look at the CX-5 SUV. In all fairness, the CX competitors are all about the same size, interior wise.
Opening the hatch is easy with our tester’s power opener, and cargo area is reasonable with the rear seats up and is spacious with them folded. Again, about what you’d expect for the class.
What you don’t expect is how lovely everything else is. No hard plastics or rough edges, everything looks beautifully crafted and well laid out. The gauges are large analog affairs we see in other Mazda 3-series, and we love them – crisp, bold, with cool little indicators that are tastefully built in.
The Info-tainment display is nestled in the center dash like the Lexus UX, and the 8.8-inch is a good size. The only downside, it’s not a touch screen (you’d have trouble reaching it anyway!) so you’ll have to access things through the Audi-like rotary knob on the center console. Well designed, and concise, with the smaller volume knob next to it, it all works well in a way that other manufacturers could learn from.
It may be compact, but it is loaded, and out tester positively spoiled us with goodies like dual-zone climate control, advanced keyless entry, 12-speaker Bose audio system, heated leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, 360-degree overhead around view monitor, Head-up display, auto-dim mirrors, navigation and more. You also get Mazda Connected Services with all the nice concierge and remote features that make life easier. Combined with the luxury materials, you feel positively pampered!
The Turbo We’ve Been Looking For
We mentioned that we haven’t yet found that application of the 2.5-liter turbo motor that sizzled. Well, correct that – now we have!
We can’t really tell you why – maybe it’s exhaust note, maybe tuning, but in the CX-30, the 250 horsepower, 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder turbo sparkles in this application. One note, you only get all the horses on premium fuel. Run regular, and it drops to 227, which still isn’t bad. Either way you get a mountainous 310 lb.-ft of torque at low rpm, and this makes the little hatch take off from stops with loads of oomph. 0-60 comes up in under 6 seconds. That’s plenty quick!
Ok, this is no rough-house engine – it is smooth and refined – but it responds quickly and has a nice throaty burble as it goes to work. We found the enhanced quick shifting in Sport Mode of the 6-speed automatic really wakes things up, and it’s great fun to pop off shifts with the steering wheel paddles. Keep it out of the turbo zone – good luck – and you’ll have no trouble hitting the EPA 25 MPG combined figure as well.
That slightly raised ride height pays off in a slightly smoother ride than the 3 sedan and hatch, but doesn’t seem to bother handling, as the excellent steering feel and quick response to the wheel reminds us of the VW GTI. Just loads of fun. If you do feel like hitting a fire trail, snowy road, or other slippery conditions, the standard i-ACTIV AWD does a fine job, and we think the balance of grip it provides also helps when hustling around your favorite road. It’s a win-win.
One area where the CX-30 feels pure Mazda is in the quiet interior. Hit the freeway and all is calm, composed, and perfect for enjoying that 12-speaker Bose Audio. You’ll also feel confident with the full suite of safety goodness, including Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Monitoring.
How Much for a Trip to the Fun House?
Well, like most Mazdas, you get a nice range to choose from. If you love the looks, and can do without Turbo and AWD, the CX-30 2.5S starts at just $22,050. We call that a stylish bargain! Our tester lives at the other end of the CX spectrum, with the 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus Package starting at $33,900, but that is fully loaded. Add in $595 for the gorgeous Soul Red Crystal Metallic Paint, a few accessories and $1,100 for Destination, and we rang the bell at $35,995.
Competitors would include the Lexus UX at $41,655, it’s also gorgeous and lovely, but it would be eating the Mazda’s dust, and is a considerably more costly. The Mini Countryman All4 is another competitor, and we love the distinct Brit character of the Mini, but at $45,850, you’d have to really love the experience to fork over $10k more than the CX30.
The 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus Package is the one we’ve been waiting for. Great looks, luxurious, practical and immense fun to drive – the slipper fits!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.