Automotive

Review: 2020 Mazda CX-30 fits oddly, but feels great

Review: 2020 Mazda CX-30 fits ...
Not your Chinese TikTok friend's CX-4. The CX-30 is unique, being larger than the CX-3 and smaller than the CX-5
Not your Chinese TikTok friend's CX-4. The CX-30 is unique, being larger than the CX-3 and smaller than the CX-5
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While maintaining the robustness of a crossover-SUV in its beefy appearance, the CX-30 has a small footprint and the maneuverability of a small car
1/7
While maintaining the robustness of a crossover-SUV in its beefy appearance, the CX-30 has a small footprint and the maneuverability of a small car
The new Mazda CX-30 feels higher off the ground, from the driver’s seat, than does its smaller CX-3 sibling
2/7
The new Mazda CX-30 feels higher off the ground, from the driver’s seat, than does its smaller CX-3 sibling
Not your Chinese TikTok friend's CX-4. The CX-30 is unique, being larger than the CX-3 and smaller than the CX-5
3/7
Not your Chinese TikTok friend's CX-4. The CX-30 is unique, being larger than the CX-3 and smaller than the CX-5
The small size of the CX-30 makes it maneuverable, but visibility out the back window is narrow and impeded by large rear pillars
4/7
The small size of the CX-30 makes it maneuverable, but visibility out the back window is narrow and impeded by large rear pillars
A versatile design makes most crossovers a top choice and the 2020 Mazda CX-30 definitely has versatility
5/7
A versatile design makes most crossovers a top choice and the 2020 Mazda CX-30 definitely has versatility
The winner of several Wards Best Interior awards, Mazda didn't skimp when designing the new 2020 CX-30
6/7
The winner of several Wards Best Interior awards, Mazda didn't skimp when designing the new 2020 CX-30
Excellent materials choices and upscale appeal are a surprising standard in the CX-30
7/7
Excellent materials choices and upscale appeal are a surprising standard in the CX-30
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Mazda introduced the all-new CX-30 as a new compact-small vehicle that fits between its CX-3 and CX-5. This isn’t our first time seeing the 2020 CX-30, as we got a first drive in the crossover earlier this year. Now we’ve spent a week with it as a daily driver, and can talk about the ups and downs of this new Mazda.

At a Glance

  • Odd naming seems to sore-thumb the CX-30 in the Mazda lineup.
  • The CX-30’s size is a pretty deliberate fit for a market that’s growing fast.
  • A few downers like blind spots and fuel economy are present in the CX-30.
  • The 2020 CX-30 does have a great ride and drive quality, a strong interior, and good powertrain pairing.

The first question to come up will obviously be "If the CX-30 fits between the CX-3 and the CX-5, why isn’t it called the CX-4?". A fair question and an obvious one. The short answer is that Mazda has a CX-4 in China and didn’t want the confusion that would come with having two different vehicles being sold under the same model name. Mazda hasn’t explained much further, but has said that the CX-30’s four-character name isn’t unique, as the company sells the BT-50 pickup in some markets and there have been two-letter, two-number combinations in the past. The obvious next question is whether this means that other Mazda vehicles will begin to get the same naming convention. Could the CX-5 become the CX-50 and so forth? Mazda won’t say, so we can only guess.

Naming aside, though, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 has more going on than just a confusing monicker. It slots between the CX-3 and CX-5, but is more closely aligned, in terms of size and drive feel, to the smaller CX-3. Comparatively, the CX-30 is more robust and square in shape (similar to the CX-5) and thus has more interior room. The new Mazda also feels higher off the ground, from the driver’s seat, than does its smaller sibling.

The small size of the CX-30 makes it maneuverable, but visibility out the back window is narrow and impeded by large rear pillars
The small size of the CX-30 makes it maneuverable, but visibility out the back window is narrow and impeded by large rear pillars

That small size, though, is one of the CX-30’s main selling points. While maintaining the robustness of a crossover-SUV in its beefy appearance, the CX-30 has a small footprint and the maneuverability of a small car. This makes the 2020 CX-30 fit in a market that is growing quickly as urban and suburban buyers looking for something roomy, maneuverable, and versatile in a small package find their niche. This segment of crossovers is growing very quickly.

For that buyer, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 is a near-perfect fit on most fronts. There are some downsides, such as sub-par fuel economy and some difficult blind spots to the rear, but for the most part, the CX-30 fits the bill.

Probably the best feature of the new CX-30, beyond its near-perfect sizing, is its eye-catching interior. Mazda went all-in with it, using premium-feeling materials and smart design that reinforces the numerous Ward’s Best Interior awards that the company has won in recent years. Each trim level builds on the last in four levels of great design. There are a few ergonomic misses, however, like high rear door sills making entry difficult, and the odd placement of USB ports in the cabin. Drink holders are limited in how large the container can be, and the rear seats don’t really fold flat when expanding the cargo space. These downsides are small things, but they add up on the daily. In every other aspect, though, the interior of the CX-30 is very well done.

Mazda did not skimp on the standard features either, including a host of safety and driver-assist technologies. The 2020 Mazda CX-30 comes standard with an 8.8-inch infotainment screen, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist. You do have to go up to the next trim level (Select) to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Infotainment is powered by Mazda’s latest user interface and in some packages, including our Preferred model, has a premium Bose audio system that makes the words "excellent" and "perfect" sound inadequate. Mazda built the CX-30 to accommodate this audio setup and it shines beyond any we’ve tried before – even in very premium vehicles. The added ability to play lossless audio in FLAC format is icing on that already tasty cake.

Excellent materials choices and upscale appeal are a surprising standard in the CX-30
Excellent materials choices and upscale appeal are a surprising standard in the CX-30

Where the CX-30 misses is in visibility. Out the front, there is a lot of it, but towards the rear, a narrow rearview, large rear pillars, and not-quite-big-enough side mirrors come together to make for difficulties when looking back. They're not insurmountable, but they're there.

Under the hood, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 186 horsepower (139 kW) and 186 pound-feet (252 Nm) of torque. If this sounds familiar, that’s because this same engine powers the larger CX-5. This runs into a six-speed automatic transmission that does a pretty good job of being in the right gear for the task at hand. All-wheel drive is optional, but available in all four of the CX-30’s trim levels.

Fuel economy in the CX-30 is rated at 32 mpg (7.3 l/100km) on the highway. We were under that in the real world, averaging closer to 30 mpg (7.8 l/100km) in our testing. For comparison, the Honda HR-V achieves 34 mpg (6.9 l/100km) and the Nissan Rogue Sport easily finds its 32 mpg mark.

Drive quality is really good, though, with a tight feel and that signature Mazda "Zoom, Zoom" appeal. The CX-30 is more refined than most similarly-priced vehicles (in any market, including Mazda’s own models) when it comes to ride quality, noise and bump absorption, and road comfort.

While the 2020 Mazda CX-30 isn’t a fit for everyone, as a niche vehicle aimed towards a specific (and growing) market, it’s a hit. While there are a few misses in it, the CX-30’s batting average is well above the competition overall and worth a look.

The 2020 Mazda CX-30 has a starting price of US$21,900 plus delivery.

Product Page: 2020 Mazda CX-30

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