First Drive: Smooth 2020 Mazda CX-30 is an audio game changer
The new Mazda CX-30 is a compact crossover that fits between the Mazda3 and the CX-5. The CX-30 doesn’t just shake up Mazda’s usual nomenclature for models, but also changes how car audio integrates into the design process. While the CX-30 misses a few marks in some areas, it sets a new (and high) benchmark for others.
We traveled to San Diego, California on an atypically rainy weekday and drove the CX-30 to Palm Springs along highways, surface roads, and through windy pathways. The rain, though dampening our ability to photograph the day, didn't squash the joy Mazda brings to driving.
The all-new CX-30 is hitting dealerships in North America now. Its starting price is commensurate with the compact markets at US$21,900. It’s well-heeled for that price tag, though, which includes the smart Skyactiv engine shared in all CX-30 models and an 8-speaker stereo. Along with standard safety equipment that includes emergency braking and crash mitigation.
The revamp of the Mazda3, with its beautifully eye-catching design and smart layout, feeds into the new CX-30. Although physically (and visually) larger than the 3, especially in height and clearance, the CX-30 has a similar interior layout and feel. We’d expect the larger crossover to have bigger back seats and were disappointed to find that wasn’t the case. Cargo is much improved over the smaller Mazda3, though, with a larger and more usable space thanks to the benefits of a crossover’s design.
Integral to the interior changes for the CX-30 is the cockpit layout for the driver. Mazda rethought where things should be positioned to maximize driver attentiveness and it shows. In real world driving, it also works. Mazda kept the standard controls and instruments as the centerpoint, which has long been the norm in the industry.
The infotainment screen, however, moves upward and slightly towards the driver on an upward cant, making it easier to see with eyes still forward facing. An optional head-up display also helps keep eyes forward, and operation of the infotainment is through a simplified control knob located just ahead of the arm rest at the driver’s right hand (center console).
What’s more, Mazda has grouped information presented to the driver in an intuitive, no-blend set of zones. Directly ahead of the driver, including the head-up display, are shown only “mission-centric” (driving) information outputs like vehicle status (instruments) and control. Everything to the right of that is tertiary, with items like music, phone status, and navigation being away from driving focus. This creates a clear differentiation for the driver and is ultimately designed to lead to safer conduct behind the wheel.
The only engine offered in the 2020 CX-30 is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv-G that produces 186 horsepower (139 kW) and 186 pound-feet (252 Nm) of torque. This engine runs to a six-speed automatic and while peak horsepower is at high RPM (6,000), torque comes faster (4,000 RPM at peak) and is delivered more smoothly. This makes the CX-30 feel quick without actually being race-ready and the smooth transmission adds confidence to that. Like most well-made driver’s cars, particularly those from Mazda, this combination means that the CX-30 feels quicker than it really is, and eliminates the frustration and the confidence-sapping hesitation that low-powered engines and turbocharging can bring.
We were unable to test mileage well on our initial drive of the 2020 Mazda CX-30, but feel confident that the EPA numbers for the car are fairly close to reality. The CX-30 is expected to get 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway (9.4 and 7.1 l/100km) in its front-wheel drive configuration. These change by about a point (24/31 mpg) when adding all-wheel drive.
Probably the greatest and most welcome change for the CX-30 comes in its stereo. The standard system is an 8-speaker setup that includes two subwoofers and well-placed output. The upgrade adds 3 more speakers, including another subwoofer. The numbers don’t tell the story, though. It’s all about placement.
Mazda literally engineered the CX-30 to optimize stereo capability and output. The forward subwoofers are ahead of the doors in the side panels, placed in boxes designed to improve resonance and reduce rattle. Higher in the doors, at dashboard level, are specially-mounted midrange speakers and above that, at the base of the forward pillar (A-pillar) are the tweeters. All are tuned to send sound towards the front passengers, not the windows or other speakers. In the back, a similar mounting setup for midrange and tweeters finishes the experience. The upgrade stereo, which we tried, also adds a subwoofer to the trunk and two more forward-facing speakers in the rear. The total system takes advantage of surround sound from Bose and is the closest we’ve ever been to listening to a car stereo in the way we’d normally listen to music on headphones. Everything is crisp and sonorous. The Mazda is also able to handle high-resolution audio files (like Flac) by default.
This makes the Mazda CX-30 by far the best audio experience I’ve had in a production level vehicle. Including most high-end luxury and premium vehicles. In my mind, the audio is the biggest selling point for the new CX-30.
As it is, Mazda has managed to make a good, workable crossover in the new CX-30. Its daily ergonomics could use some work, with a difficult back seat and a weird center console open-close procedure, but overall this is a great entry into the fast-growing compact crossover segment. And for the audiophiles out there, nothing can top this vehicle without serious aftermarket revamp. It’s worth getting into a CX-30 just to listen to a favorite tune and experience what could (and should) be the norm in car audio.
Product Page: 2020 Mazda CX-30