Mazda stamps its latest crossover with dependable family themes.
The 2020 Mazda CX-30, a subcompact CUV, is Mazda’s fourth crossover.
It squeezes into the Mazda lineup between the CX-3, an even smaller subcompact CUV, and the compact CX-5. By rights, It should be named CX-4, but a vehicle in China uses that name and Mazda chose to avoid confusion in the world’s largest auto market.
The CX-30 ($21,900) shares its siblings’ fluid lines, flowing profile and elegant cabin. Like them, it has comfortable seats, a good ride and zesty driving dynamics.
Less is more
Its cabin is finished in high-quality materials. Padded surfaces lined with contrast stitching confer an upscale air, as does Mazda’s less-is-more design philosophy. The unadorned dashboard stretches in an unbroken flow across the forward cabin, its color palette a blend of understated grays brightened with chrome and gloss-black trim.
The center console in our Premium trim tester wore a subtle weave finish. The high-quality leather seating and door-panel surfaces were as soft and supple as those found in more expensive vehicles.
Extensive noise-reduction strategies ensure a quiet cabin at highway speeds.
Mazda offers the CX-30 in four trims: base, Select ($23,900), Preferred ($26,200) and Premium $28,200).
The base model is nicely equipped. Standard features include LED headlights, driving lights and taillights, the Mazda Connect infotainment system with an 8.8-inch color display and HD radio.
There are rain-sensing wipers — rarely seen in this segment, even as options — and remote keyless entry and ignition.
Safety and driver-assist features include adaptive cruise control; low-speed forward-collision warning with automatic braking; lane-keeping; and lane-departure assist.
If you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you’ll need to step up to the Select, which also offers tinted rear windows, heated seats and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.
Engaging but not speedy
The CX-30 is based on the Mazda 3 Hatchback. They use the same front-wheel-drive platform with available AWD. Their shared powertrain mates a 186-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The CX-30 isn’t quick; 0-60 comes around in a tick or two over 8 seconds and the engine makes a bit of a racket getting there. The gearbox keeps the engine in the heart of its power band and makes quick and unobtrusive shifts with dead-certain timing.
Cheers to Mazda for its loyalty to authentic automatic gearboxes; they better suit its cars’ characteristics than would a CVT.
The CX-30 is more engaging and fun to drive than any small crossover not named Mazda. It is athletic and responsive, nimble in city traffic and stable on the highway.
Some may find its ride too firm, but there may not be another affordable little crossover that better locates the sweet spot between suspension compliance and body control. Despite its 18-inch wheels, our tester muted the impact of all but the nastiest potholes.
When given the spurs on winding backroads, the CX-30 dives into corners with little body lean. Steering is precise and communicative and the CUV tracks true at highway speeds.
The CX-3’s weaknesses are family weaknesses; it’s less roomy than key rivals and its cargo bay is small. Its knob-based infotainment system is easy to operate but buries such simple functions as tuning the radio under too many screens.
The CX-30 cabin is snug. The narrow, form-fitting seats are set tightly between the door panels and the center console. Larger drivers may feel hemmed in.
The rear seats are tight, and while two adults can squeeze in, they won’t be happy for long.
The door panels and console are nicely finished and offer plenty of small-item storage space.
It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, but small windows limit visibility.
The CX-30’s forward-tilted rear window contributes to its energetic profile but reduces cargo area and rearward visibility.
Outside, beefy black lower-body cladding alludes to outdoor adventures the little rig will never have.
The Mazda DNA shines brightly in the CX-30; its blend of elegant simplicity and exuberant dynamics single it out among a crop of competent, if less rewarding, peers.
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2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium
Vehicle base price: $21,900
Trim level base price: $29,600
As tested: $31,670 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Machine Gray paint; frameless auto-dim mirror; navigation SD card; heads-up driving display; adaptive headlights; leather seats; LED signature illumination; moonroof; paddle shifters; power rear liftgate; roof rails.
EPA rating: 27 combined/25 city/32 highway
Regular unleaded gasoline specified