Visibility out is generally good in front and to the sides, even though the side windows are quite short in height and the upper door edge is really at about the level of one’s shoulders. It’s not really possible (or comfortable) to have an elbow riding on this edge as it’s too high. In practice though it doesn’t really feel confining as there seems to be plenty of space around the head area otherwise.
To the rear, straight out the back visibility is good (and certainly better than the Mazda3 hatchback). The rear 3/4’s view is a little tougher, however drivers of modern machinery are nowadays well used to blind spot systems, backup cameras and cross traffic alert technology which helps tremendously and allows one to see “through” that large truck parked to the side that even if in a convertible wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
The rear seats are finished in the same materials as up front, the seatbacks can fold 60/40 and even when the front seat is adjusted for my size the rear seatback can (with just a little force to get it past the front seatback) be pushed all the way down with the headrest in place.
Space back here was too tight (head and knees) for me to be comfortable behind myself unless it was a dire situation, but those of smaller stature and/or most children would be just fine. It’s not possible for every car to be a good fit for taller people so this can’t really be considered a serious demerit and isn’t by default a problem for everyone, if it is an issue Mazda has several larger vehicles that might be a better choice. Rear vents are incorporated into the back of the center console and the center armrest also features cupholders so that beverages could be held back here in lieu of a fifth (smaller) passenger.
The cargo area though was surprisingly large and deep and even contained a space saver spare tire underneath the floor, welcome in a world where a spare is increasingly not a given. When the rear seats are folded down it does not create a perfectly flat floor, there is a slight lip and the rear seatbacks remain at a very shallow angle. However it does obviously create quite a bit more cargo room.
The (optional) rigid cargo cover, while unwieldy if needing to be stowed mid-journey, is something I find more welcome than the flimsier roll-up covers as I think they provide more sound deadening from the cargo hold. The liftgate is powered and can also be programmed to stop at a certain height (handy if a garage door or something is lower than the maximum hatch opening angle, although this is a common feature elsewhere as well).
In conjunction with the keyless entry system (just touch the handle), the engine starts at a simple press of the starter button. As I mentioned we’ve seen this engine before a number of times, it displaces 2.5liters in a transversely installed inline-4 configuration and produces 227hp@5,000rom and 310lb-ft of torque @2,000rpm on regular gasoline. Choose to use premium unleaded fuel and those numbers rise to an astonishing for this size vehicle 250hp and 320lb-ft. Power is transferred to the road via Mazda’s 6-speed automatic transmission and the standard AWD system at this level.
No surprise then that the driving experience is quite enjoyable. The engine, normally very quiet, responds to heavier throttle applications with a refined growl that only encourages further use of the throttle. Response is quick off the line and once the torque peak is reached almost instantaneously there is plenty of power to chirp the inside front wheel on a turn without even trying before the i-ACTIV AWD system reigns it in and reapportions the power. When really on it in a turn the car will tend to understeer a bit, requiring turning the wheel a little more to keep it heading in the proper direction as the tires slip a bit, but in general it’s well behaved.
At any legal speed there is enough power to notice acceleration when it’s called upon, and while at elevated speeds there is more cabin noise than perhaps ideal, for a car starting in the low-20k range it is excellent. Even at the loftier price point of this one it’s still at least at par with others in a similar price range, if not slightly better.
Brakes are strong with good bite, and the steering responds very well to commands although initial turn-in feels surprisingly heavy, almost as if the front tires were a few pounds low in pressure (they weren’t). This feeling goes away quickly but on the first turn of every drive comes back and makes itself known again, from then on out it seems to feel fine, or at least I adjusted to it every time.
When in motion it becomes clear that the seating position really isn’t overly high, and in fact one sits below most other crossovers on the road, more on par with most products from another maker that has made their name in all-wheel-drive vehicles that are slightly lifted versions of regular cars (or wagons).
This though translates to a well-planted feeling and encourages spirited driving which is more rewarding here than in Mazda’s other crossovers (which are already quite good) if not quite as engaging as their sedans and hatchbacks with similar power. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Plus technology helps here as well, by controlling power output to particular wheels when turning in order to make things smoother and more precise, an invisible hand helping guide the car along its intended path.
Wheels are 18″ and as with seemingly all of the turbo-engined top trim variants, are painted black, or at least a very dark color. Tires are Bridgestone Turanza EL440 in 215/55-18. The tires are decent if not the most sporting option, as all-seasons I found them to be a pragmatic choice rather than being able to showcase the car’s dynamic properties to their fullest but likely well suited to the average owner of this vehicle.
Sportier rubber would make the CX-30 come alive even more in the corners however likely with tradeoffs of more noise and perhaps less grip in inclement weather. If in snowy areas, the Turanzas will likely be acceptable in the snow but again, not as good as a dedicated winter tire. If it were my car, I’d likely burn through the Turanzas, have a set of winters on hand and then end up replacing the Turanzas with something a little grippier.
Although the CX-30 is a relatively small car, the engine really isn’t, at least not in relation to it. Mazda recommends regular fuel and the published power outputs are based on that (the available bonus power is shown as an asterisk if one looks for it in the specs). In any case, the EPA figures that the car will return 22mpg City, 30mpg Highway and 25mpg Average.
I ended up driving 304 miles, the first just under 200 of which were mainly around town with some freeway and highway driving, a decent amount of idling while picture taking (akin to what many people might do when waiting to pick up kids or whatnot) and then a mainly freeway round trip to north Denver totaling 112 miles. Up until the Denver trip my average was right at 23.5mpg, but after the longer freeway journey that had improved to an overall of 25.6mpg, both right on the money and probably reflective of what most people would manage.
While the CX-30 2.5 S in FWD format anchors the line at the aforementioned $23,225 all in, moving to the opposing edge of the variant list opens things at a somewhat headier $33,900 plus the $1,100 Destination Charge to bring it up here from the plant in Salamanca, Mexico.
That price jump obviously includes the turbo engine and the AWD system for starters and also includes the following standard features in addition to any items specifically discussed/mentioned already, not all of which would be included on lesser equipped models: LED lighting all around with adaptive fronts, radar cruise control with stop and go, lane departure warning system, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, roof rails, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth everything, AndroidAuto and AppleCarPlay, carpeted floor mats, auto-dimming interior mirror, active driving display with traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert, high beam control, and the blind spot monitoring system.
Options were few but for some reason Mazda lists the Premium Plus package in the options column without a price, it includes a driver’s side exterior auto-dimming mirror, traffic jam assist, homelink, front and rear parking sensors, 360 degree view monitor, rear cross traffic braking, and rear smart city brake support. So that’s all standard on this car but the package is what elevates it to the top trim level somehow.
Additionally this car came with the cargo cover for $150, all weather floor mats for $125 and a stainless rear bumper guard for $125.
With all of that it comes to a total of $35,400, not necessarily the best value if you are strictly a price per pound shopper but in the modern idiom of being able to choose something smaller, exquisitely crafted and not necessarily seen on every corner of every block, a very decent value in my opinion (I don’t shop by the pound).
As might be inferred after reading everything so far, I found the CX-30 to be extremely appealing, in fact it’s my favorite of the current Mazda lineup and probably my favorite in this segment overall. Besides the infotainment which I would undoubtedly learn better over time if I owned it and the rear seat being probably a little too small for what I would need it to do as a member of the current permanent fleet it was excellent and a very good progression of what Mazda has been doing for some time now.
That, specifically, is building high quality vehicles that punch well above their weight and price as far as styling, finishes, power, and perceived vs actual cost are concerned. I don’t know for sure but if the revised naming convention of this obvious successor to the CX-3 now being a CX-30 presages more forthcoming updates in the form of perhaps a CX-50 and CX-90 (and dare we hope for a CX-70?) then I’m all for that and looking forward to seeing those products incrementally improving more as well, just like what has been happening for some time now to the entire Mazda suite of products.
Thank you to Mazda for sending us this CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus AWD with a full tank of fuel, and in a different color than the others to boot!
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You would love the look of our driveway – a CX9 in deep crystal blue mica, and a CX5 in soul red!
Great review, as always.
That Soul Red Crystal Metallic or whatever is a fantastic colour.
A friend had a current-shape MX5 in Soul Red. It looked absolutely stunning when the sun was bright, really highlighting the shape. Amazing paint.
Now if Mazda could only employ that same paint technology in some greens, a gold, a purple…..
Amen, oyez, PREACH IT!
The thing I hate most about the CUV craze is the black plastic wheel arches, and these are the biggest I’ve seen. Ruins an otherwise nice looking car, once you get used to the bobbed tail.
I can’t figure out why all these black interiors sell. It must remind people of the womb, but all I can think of is ovens.
The black wheel arches are there so nobody will mistake a CUV for a minivan, because nobody wants to look like a soccer mom – especially if they are one.
As far as the interior, I think it is well done and tasteful, far more appealing than the garish plastic fantastic interiors competitors like Toyota is putting out.
Will people look back on this automotive era the same way people today look back at the malaise era, with the tacky interiors and overdone exterior styling? Kind of a neo-Brougham?
Ive been making that comparison since the tacky look became dominant about a decade ago. This era is just lasting a lot longer.
People have voted with their wallets and want this to last forever.
What I find hilarious is that minivans became popular partly because they didn’t look like the station wagon’s minivan shoppers parents drove. Now it’s one more generation on and people don’t want to drive what look like minivans so they end up driving what are essentially tall all-wheel-drive station wagon’s!
The CX-5 plastic arches are way less cumbersome looking, I’m not sure why they supersized them for the 50 because I’m with you, they look really bad. I’m not a fan of them in general but back in my day plastic arches used to double as fender flares, these however are just as flat as the bodysides, it’s a very strange look. This black texture ages badly too, it’ll be dulled from black to an uneven grayish in no time, just like it did on the cars it was last popular on.
I think the idea is to visually de-emphasize the height of the body and the amount of bodywork around the wheels. I think the eye tends to read the black as wheel/tyre rather than body, and see the body as being lighter/smaller as a result. I know that’s how my eyes perceive my wife’s Mitsi ASX.
I’d want to see this in a lighter colour (or maybe I wouldn’t?), but I’m inclined to agree they’ve gone overboard here. It doesn’t look so bad against the dark body, but there must be, what, five inches of the stuff around the wheels? That’s excessive, the mark of a stylistic Band-Aid rather than good design. Five centimetres would be about right.
It is with some chagrin that I see the re-emergence of oodles of black/gray plastic trim along the lower surfaces of cars. I did not like the look the last time it was in and still do not, but it looks like I am going to have to deal with it for awhile. And the snarky part of me says that at least it will cover up the rust for a few years. 🙂
Actually, Mazdas seem to have been (finally) improving on this front, though the numbers of 10-ish year old Mazdas on the road seems fairly low in my area, so it is hard to guage. But those that I do see don’t stick out the way they did some years back.
Your impressions of modern Mazdas make sure that one is on my list for checking out when the time comes to replace something in my fleet.
I’m going to guess that you’re not a fan of my glamorous plastic-clad Scenic RX4 then?
Hmm, photo got stripped. Trying again…
Interesting vehicle. The top half says first gen BMW X5. The bottom half says first year Pontiac Aztek.
250 hp and 320 lb.ft. of torque….My parent’s 1978 Buick Estate Wagon with the Olds 403, 6.6 liter produced 185 hp and the same amount of torque…Amazing what electronics and turbocharging has done
Lately I’ve been re-reading magazines from thirty years ago, and that was one of the first things I noticed. Even without turbocharging, specific outputs seem to have hiked to an amazing degree.
Just make the whole thing unpainted black plastic and stop teasing us.
That said, Mazdas do have something of a pretty face, so that’s something. Not enough of these to balance all the Toyota UglyNauts trampling around though.
I checked these out at the dealership several months ago and didn’t get past briefly poking my head in the interior. The CX-30 is tiny inside with a fairly poor use of space (very common of the segment).
I don’t understand why you’d buy this over the CX-5 unless you REALLY need the slightly smaller footprint and slightly lower price. But I’d say that about any of the sub compact SUVS.
Speaking for myself, having driven the CX-5 and CX-30, I’d say the CX-30 controls body roll a little bit more than the CX-5 owing, I presume to a slightly longer/lower footprint.
As a side-note, the CX-3 could have been a fun pocket rocket with some sound deadening and the 2.5 Turbo. 👹😸
Interesting vehicle and difficult to pigeonhole, like most current Mazdas. A unique blend of premium and economy. Modest underpinnings, but a very nice interior, standout powertrain, adept handling, and sophisticated exterior styling details.
However, the overall shape of this particular Mazda doesn’t do it for me. The first profile pic–with the staircase in the background–shows every gripe I have. Gunslit greenhouse atop a cliff of sheetmetal, an overly aggressive hatchback rake, all seemingly teetering atop the most disproportionately large wheel set I’ve seen outside my 8-year old’s Hotwheels collection. It’s simply ridiculous in concept and only through the decades-long creep of shrinking glass space and oversized wheels is this remotely acceptable.
Compared to the amazing interior packaging of a first-gen xB or Honda Fit, this is a failure of engineering in my view. I know people insist on AWD, a bit more clearance, and something a bit more stylish than the Scion box, but it seems to me a middle ground should be possible.
Interesting timing. Just as you were posting this, I was drafting a comment about comparing it with my xB, which is 20″ shorter but has an absolutely massive back seat and huge leg room, as well as superb visibility.
I may have to buy another xB or two and store them so I have a lifetime supply.
Reading about your Nevada adventure certainly brought your xB to the front of my mind. It’s a brilliant little car and I think it’s a shame that the market didn’t take to it more, and that Toyota botched the second gen and sealed its fate.
Snap those low-mile xBs up before they become a thing. Honda Elements are trading for big money on the auction sites, and woulda thought that back in ’03?
I still recommend the 2000-2004 Avalon.
It’s overbuilt, supremely comfortable and has power and efficiency. With a tall seating position and no…damn, I forget the term… side windows upright with no tip in at the top… oh well, brain-fart.. butter-smooth steering, huge back seat.
No van-style room in the back, though, but a functionally huge trunk.
Makes your back feel good and you won’t feel any potholes.
Just a suggestion. Get one before they age out of commonality.
Of course I remembered it just as the edit deadline passed.😀
I guess the Kia Soul and Seltos represent the “middle ground” you speak of with good but not the same level of finish inside or power from the engine. The base CX-30 might be a bit of a closer comparison to those pricewise. Mazda has chosen not to go down that path (building a box) though once two generations of the Mazda5 didn’t seem to light the sales charts on fire and instead seems to want to compete with the Toyota C-HR (which it’s outselling), the Honda HR-V and on the other end take the fight to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 and perhaps even the MB GLA which it seems to be doing quite well. Note that neither the Fit nor the xB are sold here anymore and neither have a direct successor in those form factors at least, probably everyone who needs a more practical car already has a full size truck or two in the driveway. I will say that the cargo area is vastly larger than it appears in the profile pic, the high windowline deceptively minimizes the space available below it and the slanting hatch (but it isn’t a huge vehicle altogether.)
Mazda seems like another one of those Maxwell Smart auto manufacturers in that they “missed it by that much”. They build competent vehicles that almost always finish near (if not at) the top of any comparison tests, it doesn’t seem like their sales figures are ever that great.
A big part of that may be a definite reluctance to offer big incentives or rebates; Mazda just doesn’t do it, so the price will invariably be higher than similarly equipped vehicles from the competition. The problem is that while that kind of premium might be perceived as worth it for a Toyota or Honda, it’s tougher to justify with a Mazda.
Interesting to read that. In Australia Mazda’s near the top of the charts, and the 3 used to outsell the Corolla. But then in your country Honda’s huge, while here they’re more of an also-ran. C’est la vie, I guess.
If you hadn’t mentioned that, I would’ve! 🤓 Nifty, isn’t it? It’s all the turn signals, front-side-rear. They flash on instantly like any other LED, but fade to off like an incandescent bulb. There’s nothing at all the matter with this; it’s the instantaneous onset that increases the performance (speed and accuracy of message acquisition) of LED turn signals versus incandescents. In fact, there might be a safety advantage to this setup, because it increases the likelihood of an observer seeing some amount of light from the turn signal in any momentary glance.
I don’t know why Mazda have done this only on the CX-30, but that’s the only one so far.
The urgent, instant-on nature of LEDs is leading our society’s visual landscape in an unfortunate direction. Take the communication tower that site squarely below my mountain view. A few years ago they replaced the old red aviation lights with new LEDs. Now, at night, the tower blinks on suddenly, drawing your eyes and sending a tiny jolt of adrenalin saying, “Watch out!” That may suit the purposes of an aviation warning light, but it ignores aesthetics. There’s a major bridge beside an East Coast beach we visit every summer. The paired support towers sport six white lights that blink in the distance on every northbound beach walk. The lights crackle like firecrackers, in random rhythms because they’re not synchronized. They’re another eyesore, even from miles away.
Has anybody ever considered the psychological effect of modern police car lights, which put on a hysterical light show of blinking, random and chaotic? How many suspects, and cops for that matter, have had their thinking and behavior impaired by this panic-inducing spectacle?
The old red lights had a calm and a dignity, dimming and brightening on a human time scale. These new lights seem to anticipate a nighttime barrage of ever-increasing visual distractions, and they may be right. The proper balance between protection and distraction hasn’t been achieved. Good to know that Mazda engineers are at least thinking about this.
You’re assuming facts not in evidence, good sir; it is very unlikely Mazda did this fade-to-off thing on the CX-30’s turn signals for any reason other than eye candy. That’s what’s driving all of this turn signal frippery: fade-to-off, sequential-on, sequential-off, etc.
Lately there’s been new interest in what is called “human-centric lighting”. at the moment it’s primarily focused on spectral factors and circadian rhythms, but with growing focus on the potential for excessive blue light to cause problems and injuries. It seems likely there will eventually be some attention paid to flash and blink characteristics, but…well…æsthetics are not on the list of criteria for aviation lights. They are there for collision avoidance, full stop. Maximum performance of that job is overwhelmingly the most important consideration. After that comes power consumption, durability, dependability, time between failures, etc. The feelings of those of us down on the ground who happen to see them and happen to prefer the old incandescents? Not on the list.
Emergency-vehicle lights: mix of agreement and disagreement. The old incandescent rotating beacons consumed inordinate amounts of power, weighed a lot, burned out and broke down all the time, and were grossly unaerodynamic. However, the strobes that replaced them were a curse in any kind of bad weather. Unlike the rotating beacons, which created beams of light that could be visually followed back to the source, the strobes lit up the whole visual field for a very brief instant; it was very difficult to get a fix on where the vehicle was, and I suspect this contributed to crashes. LEDs are markedly better than strobes; their dwell time is much longer and their light distribution is more directionally deliberate. Some of them even rotate like the old beacons! But yes, there is still a “Super Size it!” tendency in America, and many of them are much more intense than they need to (or should) be.
I noticed the instant-on but fading LED turn signals (all synchronized) on the CX-30, and my first thought was one of amazement: that a struggling small OEM splurged on this (relatively) costly design. It adds cost to implement this sort of design (in a way it’s probably no less complex than a fancy sequential turn signal found on Audis or Lexi, since I assume a small microcontroller is required to do the fading), on the most affordable SUV offered by the carmaker.
I’m not in the market for this car but I give kudos to Mazda. Somebody (a designer I assume) surely had to fight big battles to get this design feature approved.
This what they did adds no cost. Turn signals are controlled by the BCM on pretty much all vehicles now, which means flash rates and fade-offs like this are a matter of no more than a line or two of code. Sequential turn signals require quite a bit more hardware (linear array of LEDs) but again, not more than a few lines of code to control.
No CD player…..fiddle with screen controls ’til ya’ die. Nope – This overly-fangled stuff can just strangle itself in complexity. I’m done.
Yeah, I’m still at the CD stage myself. But that’s not the problem for me. I can live without audible music. What bugs me is the lack of commonality across the automotive landscape these days when it comes to some of these (admittedly minor) controls. At least they haven’t tried reinventing the accelerator…. Or the brake.
When my wife got her Mini Cooper six years ago, the sales guy sat down and spent an hour explaining how to work this and how to access that. He admitted as how he’d like to have had longer, but she had over an hour to drive to get home – and peak hour freeway traffic is not when you want to be experimenting with controls in an unfamiliar brand-new car.
We were still discovering the odd adjustable parameter three years later – well, I was – most of which Jane greeted with “But why would you want to do that?”.
It’s nice to have all this adjustability, I’m not dissing that; if only there was across-the-board consistency in how to get there. Must be hell being a road tester…..
My wife says she plans to drive her 2012 Outback 3.6 indefinitely, but occasionally thinks about replacing it while it still has solid resale value. I’d encourage her to look at both the CX-30 and CX-5, but I think both are considerably smaller inside than the Outback. With one kid heading off to college this fall and the other in three years, back seat room — of which the Outback has plenty — is not as critical. But cargo space for all the crap we take on a road trip will still be important, and that’s another plus for the Outback.
She also talks periodically about buying a boat (since I have three cars, I have no grounds to object), and the Outback can tow the kinds of boats she’s looking at. Not sure about the towing capacity of either Mazda, if any.
I love the way Mazdas drive, and my 2018 6 Turbo feels so much more lively and fun compared to the Subaru. It might be a little quieter on the highway and rides just as well in most cases. The Outback is perfectly competent, comfortable and capable, but I would be bored out of my mind driving it all the time.
I have pretentious friends. I admit it. They ask me what they should buy and I say.. GO get a Mazda. It’s better than the Audi, the Volvo, the BMW and some even get as far as test driving and agreeing, it’s GREAT, but then they go lease an XC60 or Q5. It’s a drag. In some ways, the Mazda brand is equal to what Volvo was in the 60s and 70s. The smart choice. Not a BMW, not a Mercedes, not a Borgward, but smarter, more coy, better yet less prestigious. They’re SUCH appealing cars. Just get one.