When is one compact crossover not enough? When you’re Mazda, it seems. The Hiroshima-based brand is looking to fill the narrow gap between its current subcompact CX-3 and compact CX-5 models with the all-new 2020 CX-30, also nominally a compact but based on a different platform than the CX-5. Mazda is rolling out a new naming convention in 2020 as well, which is why this car is not named the CX-4. The brand has identified the target buyers for the CX-30 as young couples, potentially with a small family and a monthly budget to match. They should find the price point, starting at about $22,000, fairly easy to swallow.
All about the Driver
Rather than deciding what the car buyer wants, Mazda has spent considerable time and energy researching driver behavior. As a result, the CX-30 has a seat adjustment that forces the spine into alignment, a no-touch infotainment screen display, a brake pedal with a safer feel, and a slew of other features you wouldn’t really know you were missing until you have them. In a very Zen Japanese design kind of way that Mazda calls Jinba-Ittai, the brand has appointed a cleaner and simpler cockpit with luxury-style finishes and stitching, and those extra efforts are immediately noticeable. The idea is connecting the driver to the vehicle is a tangible way, and Mazda done exactly that.
Sleek and Seductive
The first thing you notice about subcompact CUV CX-30 is its size and shape. The newest Mazda is another expression of the brand’s Kodo Design theme (Soul of Motion) and the result is quite appealing to the eye. The sleek curves and lines of the car are bold and seductive, and it draws the driver in. Beyond the exterior appeal, the engineers at Mazda made the cockpit clean and intuitive, but also less cluttered. All of the sound and climate control buttons and switches the driver needs to access are within easy reach of the steering wheel, easy to locate visually and very intuitive to use.
Mazda also made the bold decision to stay away from the ubiquitous touchscreen, citing lengthy research that shows touchscreens inside cars equate to distracted, unsafe driving. Instead of the touchscreen, the infotainment system has a large knob and series of buttons on the center console that control the infotainment and navigation. The (non-touch) screen itself is built into the dashboard, purposefully out of reach of the driver’s right hand. This screen is for looking, not touching, and the driver’s eyes need only shift a bit to the right and down to see it, which minimizes glance angles and focus time. That means less time with the driver’s eyes off the road. It took a bit of getting used to this navigation, which involves a series of turns and pushes of the knob to change the audio sources and radio stations, but we eventually figured it out, as will other drivers.
While the back seat is cozy, it is not cramped and provides plenty of legroom for an adult even with the front seat pushed all the way back. The rear cargo hold is also surprisingly roomy with 21 cubic feet of storage that expands to 45 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down, which compares well with other CUVs.
The CX-30 is available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive and is powered by a 2.5-liter engine with Skyactiv-G technology. The engine’s 186 horsepower is among the best in the segment, and yet the CX-30 also offers 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway/28 mpg combined fuel economy. On the road, the CX-30 feels peppy, and its handling is enhanced by Vehicle Dynamics with G-Vectoring Control, which is technical speak for drives great and handles great.
We drove it from San Diego to Palm Desert on windy back roads through the mountain ranges that separate the coast from the desert, and it was fun to put this car through its paces. It cornered well and showed off some attitude when we switched to manual shifting and let the gears wind out a bit. The G-Vectoring Control is real, and we could feel it as we transitioned into and out of the steep curves. At the start of the turn, the system lessens engine torque shifting the vehicle weight toward the front wheels, which enhances cornering response. The result for the driver is a sensation of feel, control, and safety in high-consequence driving conditions.
The list of standard features in this car is long and impressive, especially the safety features. Mazda has refined the idea of lane-keep assist, and the CX-30 is very comforting to drive in that the driver doesn’t have to fight the wheel as in some cars with the technology. The assist is subtle and gentle, which keeps the driver in command and control of the vehicle safely.
When we consider the Mazda CX-30 the word that we keep coming back to is “value”. Can you spend a lot more on a bigger, more powerful SUV? Of course you can. But for the money, you’d be hard-pressed to find the kind of performance, efficiency and safety value that the CX-30 offers. The Mazda CX-30 is available in both front-wheel-drive (starting at $21,900) and all-wheel-drive (starting at $23,300) in Base, Select, Preferred and Premium trims. Color schemes are the popular Soul Red Crystal, Machine Gray and the new Polymetal Gray, with interiors in brown and blue. The Mazda CX-30 is in dealerships now. See which of Mazda’s small crossovers — CX-3, CX-5 and CX-30 — you like best.