For 2021, the subcompact Mazda CX-30 adds a smoothly functioning turbo engine with performance prowess that was missing when the compact CX-30 was introduced last year. This gives Mazda buyers another SUV model choice.
When it was launched, the CX-30 was initially squeezed in above the Mazda CX-3, the company’s smallest cross-over, and the Mazda CX-5 SUV, the most popular vehicle in Mazda’s fleet. However, the CX-30 siphoned sales away for the CX-3 last year and Mazda has said the CX-3 will be discontinued, victim to the surge by buyers for bigger vehicles and declining sales for smaller vehicles – sedans and subcompact SUV/crossovers.
We test drove the top trim CX-30 2.5-Turbo with Premium Plus Package and all-wheel-drive, armed with multiple standard driver assistance features and four options totaling $1,795 for paint, rear bumper guard, cargo cover and floor mats.
The Premium Package included 360-degree cameras, parking sensors and new for this year they added rear cross-traffic braking and rear braking if the car is about to back into an object.
Behind the wheel steering was precise, the CX-30 zipping when in sport mode using manual paddles (reminiscent of Mazda’s Zoom Zoom mantra) and handling like a sports sedan in turns with Torque Vectoring Control Plus, rack and pinion steering and using premium fuel, adding 23 horsepower.
Cutting-edge standard safety aids included dynamic cruise control, driver attention alert, blind spot detection, lane departure warning and assist – all helping CX-30 earn top safety crash ratings from government and insurance industry tests.
On the road, the slightly firm ride was always composed using an improved front strut and rear torsion beam suspension system. With 8-inch ground clearance the CX-30 was capable of mild off-roading with a reactive all-wheel drive system that shifted power to wheels needing it the most.
This test model was a pleasure to drive, its attractive sleek, monochromatic profile above lower black cladding surround showcases Mazda’s highly-touted, award-winning Kodo design.
Inside an ergonomic and spacious cabin, high-end materials show its pedigree with leather heated front seats, a heads-up display (unreadable with sunglasses, however), Bose® premium audio and Apple CarPlay™/Android Auto™.
Included in the model is a graphically sharp color 8.8-inch non-touchable display screen used for navigation and infotainment features. The display is accessed by a center spine knob which is challenging to use at first as it is not intuitive – best searched while parked.
Cabin storage space is ample; rear seating is challenging for taller adults. A power liftgate accesses the rear cargo area.
At a Glance
LIKES: Power, handling, ride, cabin, versatility, quiet, profile
DISLIKES: Infotainment complexity, HUD visibility with sunglasses, non-touch screen
BOTTOM LINE: The CX-30 with turbo becomes true competitor in compact SUV niche
Fact File: 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo W/Premium Plus AWD
2.5-liter, turbo I-4, direct injection
227-hp at 5,000 rpm
310 ft-lbs at 2,000 rpm
6-speed automatic w/manual paddles
22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy
12.7-gallon tank, regular
0-60 in just under 6 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.