2020 Mazda CX-30 — The look and feel of a more expensive car

By Russ Heaps
Clanging Bell

(June 10, 2020) Answering a question not many were asking, Mazda added the all-new 2020 Mazda CX-30 to its lineup. Shoehorned into the narrow crease between the pipsqueak CX-3 and compact CX-5, the CX-30 brings the Mazda CUV count to four. Did the world really need another small CUV? Not really, but no complaint here. The CX-30 is loaded with all manner of technology and it's a hoot to drive.

Easy on the eyes, the CX-30's styling is pleasing inside and out. Immediately recognizable as a Mazda, the newest CUV entry shares styling cues with the more established members of the family. As with other Mazdas, the CX-30's tidy interior is a blend of comfort, utility and quality materials. If it feels familiar, that's because the furnishings are very similar to the Mazda3.

Simplicity and user friendliness are the themes. Poking out of the top of the dashboard is an 8.8-inch display commanded by a rotary knob on the center console. A 7-in digital gauge provides the driver with all key info. There are controls for the climate system and a volume knob for the audio setup. Most drivers will probably be able to get the core systems operating without consulting the owner's manual.

For the powertrain, Mazda took the one-size-fits-all approach. Every CX-30 draws its go from a 186-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It generates 186 lb-ft of torque. Every grade can be equipped with all-wheel drive. Transferring engine output to the wheels falls to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Enhancing the sporty experience, upper trims offer steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Mazda employs a number of tricks for maximizing fuel economy, including cylinder deactivation. Government-estimated mileage for front-wheel-drive versions is 25 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. Opting for AWD drops those numbers to 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined in all trims, but the top-of-the-line Premium grade like my test CX-30. Here the estimated mileage for AWD is 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway/27 mpg combined.

Not surprising because the CX-30 shares a lot of chassis components with the Mazda3, Mazda managed to bring most of the car's excellent driving dynamics to the CUV. Nimble and surefooted, this crossover corners brilliantly. The steering is highly responsive. Despite its acute handling, the CX-30 still delivers a high degree of ride quality. This paragraph could have been cut and pasted from an evaluation of the Mazda3.

If there is a grievance to air, however, it's the lack of a turbocharged-engine choice. Most drivers will be quite satisfied with this CUV's get-up-and-go, but a turbo would certainly cement the CX-30's performance creds.

With the CX-30, Mazda departs from its established range of grades for crossovers. It offers four CX-30 trims, but they are named CX-30, Select, Preferred and Premium. Before the $1,000 factory delivery charge, prices range from $21,900 for the base grade to $28,200 for the Premium trim, like my test Mazda.

Although in its base form, the CX-30 doesn't provide as standard every feature you might want — you must, for example, move up to the Select trim to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — but the array of included equipment and technology is impressive. Included are LED headlights/daytime running lights, LED taillights, auto on/off headlights, Mazda Connect, rain-sensing front wipers, power accessories, mobile 911 auto emergency notification, SMS text-message audio delivery/reply, Bluetooth connectivity, eight air bags, rearview camera, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, high-beam assist, driver-attention monitor, and an 8-speaker audio system with HD radio, two USB ports and Pandora.

If you want to talk added value, part with another $2,000 for the Select grade and add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, 18-in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, advanced keyless entry, integrated turn signals in the outboard mirrors, push-button start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The ideal size for negotiating crowded city streets and narrow parking garages, the CX-30 is a solid urban warrior. But, thanks to its superb drivability, it also serves well as a freeway cruiser. Well-formed seats and a pliant ride ward off the discomfort of longer cross-country trips.

The 2020 Mazda CX-30 looks and feels like it costs thousands more than it does. Does that make it a bargain? Maybe not, but it is a value.