Just when you thought the roads couldn’t possibly fit another small subcompact crossover comes one more that begs to differ. The first-ever Mazda CX-30 hits the road slotting between the CX-3 and CX-5. Designed to be the premium offering of the segment, it succeeds. For those of you wondering why it’s not called the CX-4, which would make way more sense, that’s because the name’s already taken. Mazda sells the CX-4 in another market. Therefore we have the 5-passenger CX-30 offered in four trims: Base, Select, Preferred and Premium with the base starting price ranging from $21,900 to $28,200, not including options or destination. My test model is the top of the line Premium.
To understand the CX-30 starts with knowing that it is born of the Mazda3 sedan. It rides on the same platform as the Mazda3 sedan/hatchback, but is 10-inches shorter than the sedan and about five inches taller with about 1.5-inches more ground clearance. My CX-30 in Machine Gray Metallic is for the most part sleek with a swoopy, long hood that flows down to a gloss black finish grille with a strong chrome bar. There is an abundance of black body cladding especially on wheel arches that frame upgraded 18-inch alloys. The Premium model sports full LED Adaptive Lighting headlights but there are no fog lights. The much squarer rear and trunk opening, more traditionally shaped than the far more rounded Mazda3 hatchback, are bookended by circular LED tail lights. Slim turn signals are integrated into the bumper. Roof rails round out the top.
A SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter 4-cylinder shared with the Mazda3 delivers 186-horsepower and matching 186 lb.-ft. of torque. Horsepower felt fine for its size and weight, but the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts too slowly for my taste and hinders initial acceleration a bit, though once past that I had no complaints. All-wheel drive is optional and the top trim exclusively features AWD with a cylinder deactivation system that improves MPG by one.
Ride and Drive
Mazda threw me a curve ball as the ride and drive is an unusually mixed bag for me. Essentially designed to be a Mazda3 but with a higher center of gravity, the CX-30 rides a line between a sedan and crossover. While it still delivers a best-in-class engaging ride, it’s not as responsive as a sedan and lacks the sporty, precise driving experience and planted feeling I’ve come to expect and love from Mazda.
Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control gives it secure handling and stability, and I found it most enjoyable in Sport mode. The CX-30 rides rather firmly and I enjoyed the smoother driving experience on the highway as opposed to the one on poorly maintained roads. The CX-30 gets points for being easy to maneuver and its ride height for a great view of the road ahead. Visibility out the rear window is fine but the side roof pillars are thick so I recommend Blind Spot Monitoring which comes on all but the base model.
The cabin’s multi-toned leather interior sets the bar for its class, like the rest of the lineup. It offers soft-touch materials and the dash and armrests offer generous padding as does the center console area where your knee might fall.
The CX-30’s well-designed leather-trimmed seats get my two thumbs up. They’re quite amazing. Mazda says it designed the seats after studying the human body. I felt like I had the perfect posture the whole time -- with my spine well-supported yet the seats weren’t too firm. I could feel the difference they made for my posture and it felt wonderful (and would reduce my trips to the chiropractor I am quite sure!) The back seat passengers also benefit too, though the seats are more upright and they don’t recline.
The Premium trim features a leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel with steering-mounted controls. A nice Head-Up display projected onto the windshield greets you in this trim with speed limit and navigation info.
The push button start lights up a 7-inch digital tachometer with speed limit signs which correlate to a red line on the speedometer so you can check your speed. The tachometer is a little light on digital driver display info, though I do like the customization offered.
A nicely-sized high-quality 8.8-inch multimedia screen is set back on the dash but it is not a touchscreen. Map size and quality is great but what surprised me was the small size of the backup camera. The image itself has great resolution but doesn’t take up enough real estate.
Below the dual zone climate controls, a well-designed glossy black center console is home to a leather-wrapped gear shifter, a switch for sport mode and buttons for the automatic electric parking brake and brake auto hold. The main event is the large round dial for Mazda Connect and a smaller volume knob to the right. The slide-to-open center console bin reveals a USB and 12 Volt.
The rain sensing wipers are fantastic and came in handy during my week behind the wheel. I kept the one-touch power moonroof closed most of the time due to rain and cool temps.
Second-row passengers are treated to a cushy center dropdown console with cup holders (as well as air vents in all but the base model.) There is plenty of headroom, but leg-room and could be cramped for those on the taller side. A high hump in the floorboard awaits the middle seat passenger.
This CX-30 rides quietly for a crossover in its class and the 12-speaker Bose audio system sounds terrific. Mazda placed the subwoofers in the side panels in front of the doors, instead of in the door panels themselves, to reduce vibration.
Mazda’s infotainment system is called Mazda Connect. You control it via a multi-function commander control. It’s responsive with a polished, clean interface but I’ve found over repeated tries that it’s not the simplest to use. It takes multiple turns of the knob to do things like change the station. Voice recognition works well though. Bluetooth, HD Radio and Pandora are standard across the line up. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard on all but the base trim. There are 2 USBs in the front of the cabin and a 12 volt.
The CX30 offers a 60/40 split, but the seats don’t fold completely flat. The Premium is equipped with a power liftgate. While there is less trunk space than in the Honda HR-V and Nissan Rogue Sport, I had no problem stuffing it with paper goods and groceries during a shopping trip for my parents.
Of special note, when you lock the vehicle with your key fob, you don’t get a “beep”. You get a loud honk, as if you are honking at someone in traffic. I did not find a way to lower the volume.
The Mazda i-Active safety system is standard on Select and above trims. It includes Driver Attention Alert, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go function, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, Smart Brake Support. Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert come standard on all but the base trim.
The Mazda CX-30 is entering a jam-packed segment that’s growing. It’s also the only one at the premium end of the segment so it’s likely to be a popular choice for those looking in the $30,000 price point. The CX-30 Premium’s quality interior, fantastic seats and Bose audio system shine. I’d steer clear of the base model because it lacks a lot of features, most importantly Blind Spot Monitoring. I’d spring for at least the Preferred for the heated seats and upgraded 12-speaker Bose system. If you want to get the leather trim, power liftgate and other tech goodies, the Premium is the way to go.
2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium
- What I liked most: Posture-perfect seats, near-premium interior quality, Bose system
- What I would change: Upgrade 6-speed automatic.
- MSRP: $29,600 base price, total MSRP with transportation: $31,670.
- Fuel Economy: 25 city/32 highway/27 combined.
- Official Color: Machine Gray Metallic ($300).
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,074 miles.
- Weight: 3,408 Curb weight.
- Final Assembly Location: Salamanca, Mexico.
- Spare Tire: Temporary Spare.
- Length-Width-Height: 173.0” long/70.7” wide/61.7” high.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 12.7 gallons with the filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing Capacity: N/A
- 2020 Mazda CX30 in a few words: A lifted Mazda3 that continues to elevate the brand’s near-premium status.
- Warranty: 60-month/60K mile powertrain/ 36-month/36K mile bumper to bumper warranty/24-hour roadside assistance.
- Manufacturer’s website: Mazda