Driven: 2022 Mazda CX-30 Is Fun And Focused

Test Drive / 3 Comments

But it has its flaws.

Let's cut to the chase here. The Mazda CX-30 is, effectively, two things Mazda needed in its lineup. It's a Mazda 3 hatch with a higher ride and also a CX-3 with more usable legroom in the back. It's a smart move for Mazda when crossovers are outselling traditional cars by a significant margin, even though the Mazda 3 is a great car. The result for Mazda is that the CX-30 is its second best-selling vehicle behind the larger Mazda CX-5.

Power comes from either a humble naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine producing 186 horsepower or a more engaging turbocharged four-cylinder making 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque when running on premium gas. The base model comes with enough standard features to satisfy most people, the interior is built to Mazda's typically high standards, and features Mazda's usual attention to detail when it comes to handling dynamics. Does all of that mean you should buy a CX-30? Let's find out.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Exterior Design: Photogenic Style

Like many of Mazda's cars, the curves flow elegantly, and the proportions are attractive. There's a lot of Mazda 3 going on, but with the extra black cladding over the wheel arches, color and wheel choice becomes more important. Of the eight trims available, including the Carbon Edition, our tester was the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus. The Snowflake White Pearl Mica is a $395 option, but the roof rails are standard equipment. The Carbon Edition follows the same pattern as other Mazda Carbon Edition models with Polymetal Gray Metallic paint and red leather upholstery, along with 18-inch black wheels.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Interior Design: Upscale Materials

Mazda has a habit of delivering interiors that punch above their price point, and the CX-30's is no exception. If you've seen a Mada 3's interior, then you've seen this one. It's handsome and curved around the front, with the infotainment screen set far back and nicely in the driver's field of view. A rotary dial controls infotainment from the center console, and it's easy to use. Upgrading the CX-30 to Carbon Edition or Premium trims get you a leather interior, but you'll need at least the Turbo Premium to get the 12-speaker Bose sound system instead of the standard eight-speaker unit. Heated seats are an upgrade from the base model, but our Premium Plus trim didn't even have adjustable lumbar on the passenger seat or wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Wired versions of those connected services are standard, as is Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, and automated emergency braking are all standard, as well.

The seating is spacious, and a couple of average-sized adults will fit in the back, which is a big upgrade over CX-3 which was discontinued in the USA. At 20.2 cubic feet behind the second row, cargo space is plentiful for a couple going away for the weekend but might be a squeeze for a family load of carry-on luggage. You'll have to go up the trims to find a power-operated rear liftgate.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Engines: Two Solid Choices

The base engine for the CX-30 range is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. It's enough for the car to get out of its own way and a solid entry-level engine. For those that like to put their foot down, the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine makes 250 hp and 320 lb-ft on premium gas. The torque gets the CX-30 off the line well, and there's overtaking power in reserve. It won't set the world on fire, but in Sport mode, it's a fun, responsive, and punchy engine. Out of Sport mode, the six-speed automatic mutes the engine and is seemingly permanently looking to be in a different gear. That's no bad thing for fuel economy, but it can be annoying to the point Mazda could go with a well-programmed CVT rather than program the six-speed within an inch of its life.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Driving Impressions: The Driver's Crossover

All-wheel drive is standard for the CX-30, which turned out to be fortunate. Before we get to that, though, we had a couple of days to drive it before the California fires and flash floods hit. While a little on the firm side, ride quality on freeways and city streets is nicely balanced in firmness to how the CX-30 becomes agile and fun on twisting roads. However, if you're not pushing the CX-50 around on a twisty road and just cruising, that's when the transmission can become clumsy in its gear choices. It's always searching for the right gear to help the economy in Normal mode, which can lead to indecisive gear changes. At its worst, there's a jerky and harsh change down, or a change-up that can cause a brief but uninvited surge in acceleration. Around town and on the freeway, we didn't find a problem - the transmission is just busy. Road noise is kept low, which adds to the premium feel inside when cruising.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Unfortunately, we were just three miles away from the start of one of the big California fires a few days into our loan of the CX-30. With roads shut down, it meant we put more miles on it than usual to get anywhere. That didn't affect road conditions other than visibility from smoke, but it gave us an appreciation of the crossover's air filtration system. What did affect road conditions were the flash floods that helped contain the fires but created treacherous conditions. There, the i-Active AWD system got to show its chops when there was no choice but to put one side of the car through deep puddles and when tight roads had mud and gravel washed across them. The CX-30 remained consistent and became confidence-inspiring as it shifted torque around to just the places at the right time to help maintain control, stability, and forward momentum.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Verdict: Should You Buy The Mazda CX-30?

If you love to drive but still want the extra ride height and elevated seating position of a crossover, the Mazda CX-30 is an excellent choice. Occasional transmission clumsiness aside, it's the most fun crossover of its size to drive in the segment but if you want more cargo space, check out Honda's new HR-V. With a $22,500 starting price, the value is there, and moving up the eight trim levels, there should be something for everyone. The Turbo Premium Plus comes in at $34,700 and makes it worth cross-shopping against the base $39,500 Lexus NX ($41,100 with all-wheel-drive). Even though the NX is a luxury crossover, the Mazda comfortably elevates itself above other mainstream brands which is why we consider this to be a legitimate comparison. It's little wonder that the CX-30 is one of Mazda's best-selling vehicles.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright

Join The Discussion



Related Cars

To Top