Mazda’s lineup of hatchbacks and crossover SUVs keeps growing, with the latest entry a subcompact crossover curiously called the CX-30.
Yes, you may need a scorecard to keep track of this lineup. The newest is situated between the CX-3 and CX-5. So why not call it the CX-4, you ask? That model name was taken, being used for a model only sold in China.
Adding to the confusion, the CX-30 is not related the CX-3, which is smaller and based on the Mazda2. Rather, it shares a platform with the Mazda3 sedan, causing some to question how much different the crossover can be than the Mazda3 hatchback. Spoiler alert: Not a lot, but the crossover has 2.4 inches of extra ground clearance and a tad more inside space, while the hatchback is shorter and has a sedan-like ride.
The CX-30 gets Mazda’s signature grille and slim LED headlights, plus the sleek, streamlined profile that makes it such a popular design. Black cladding on the fenders and doors protects from off-road mess and makes it appear lower.
All CX-30s are powered by a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engine capable of 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The CX-30 won’t cause any neck strain on its way to 60 mph: It takes a leisurely 8 seconds. But top speed is listed at 126 mph.
More important, it’s nimble and fun to drive, with a suspension that is rigid enough for good composure on S curves yet tuned to offer a quiet and smooth ride along the bumpier roads in town.
Credit for CX-30’s performance goes to Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel-drive system and G-Vectoring Control, a predictive system that monitors the vehicle dynamics, figures out where traction is needed and tweaks the power distribution to accommodate those needs.
An electric-assisted steering system adds to the fun — it’s medium weighted and as responsive as some sports cars. Paddle shifters enable greater control, or flip into Sport mode which lengthens the shift points for you.
While the CX-30 isn’t a towing brute, it can handle a light trailer with dirt bike or Jet Ski atop. It has a tow rating of 1,500 pounds.
Fuel economy is respectable; The AWD version manages an EPA-rated 32 mpg highway, 25 city, for a combined of 27. The FWD is only slightly less.
Like its brethren, the five-seat CX-30 has a surprisingly well-crafted interior for the segment, including some materials found in luxury cars. The CX Premium has a two-tone interior with nicely bolstered seats trimmed in perforated leather. They have eight-way adjustments, including lumbar and thigh support.
While it’s comfortable enough for trips up front, the rear seats — with 38 inches of headroom from seat to roof — are best kept for kids or smaller teens. Adults can squeeze in for shorter rides.
An 8.8-inch infotainment display stands atop the dashboard and is controlled by a rotary dial behind the shifter. It is not a touchscreen, but that’s OK since it would be a long reach. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi hotspot capability are standard; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available.
Added Premium features for safety and convenience include head-up display, adaptive headlights, moon roof and power lift gate. And a Bose audio system sends the tunes over 12 speakers.
Behind the rear seats there is 20.2 cubic feet of cargo space, about average among subcompact crossovers. It’s also almost identical to the Mazda3 hatch but offers better access due to its wider lift gate. Space opens up 45 cubic feet when the rear seats folded down.
The CX-30 also has top crash-test scores with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as well as an impressive list of standard safety features. Bundled in Mazda’s i-Activsense suite are adaptive cruise with collision warning and automatic braking, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, driver monitor system and rear-view camera.
So check your scorecards, inspect the interiors, and take a few test drives. The CX-30, with its upscale cabin, fun ride and abundance of safety features is a worthy contender.
2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD
Starting MSRP: $29,600 (Includes leather upholstery, paddle shifters, power lift gate, moonroof, head-up display and adaptive headlights)
What’s all the excitement about? All-new CX-30 slots between CX-3 and CX-5 crossovers, is fun to drive, has a plush interior and long list of standard safety features
Powertrain: All CX-30’s get a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline four, mated to 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission
How’s the performance? Nimble, good corner grip, but 0-60 mpg takes patience — around 8 seconds
Fuel economy: EPA estimates 25 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined with AWD
ABOUT THE WRITER
Barry Spyker was the automotive columnist for The Miami Herald and editor of its Wheels & Waves section. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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