2020 Mazda CX-30 — A refined, capable and practical small SUV

By Jim Prueter

(May 4, 2020) Mazda’s all new CX-30 fills the gap between the subcompact and tiny CX-3 and its popular compact CX-5. The CX-30 is based on the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback but feels immensely larger thanks to the taller roof and its raised driving position. If you’ve read my other Mazda reviews, then you might recall that the Japanese automaker is on a mission to move the brand more upscale and closer to brands like Acura and Infiniti.

You’ll be pleased to know that this newest Mazda doesn’t disappoint. Hallmarks of the brand, the CX30 is roomier than it looks, easy to drive, has intuitive operating controls, and materials and build quality aren’t the rent-a-car feel we’ve gotten from other competitors in its class.

The exterior styling mimics its siblings in shape, but I think the dark lower body cladding is too wide and a bit over the top. Prices start at $21,900 for a base front-wheel drive model with 16-inch alloy wheels, before the $1,045 destination charge. All-wheel drive will cost an extra $1,400. Move up one trim level to the Select Package for $2,000 more, and you’ll get blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, 18-inch wheels, dual zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay entertainment.

Our test CX-30 was the Premium Package, adding leather-trimmed seats, adaptive front lighting system, power rear liftgate, full-color active driving displays. All-in, it was just over $31,000; not cheap.

As mentioned, the CX-30 is closely related to the Mazda3 sedan, sharing the same 186-horsepower, 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine, and suspension, and is available with standard front- or optional all-wheel drive. It’s the only engine offered and the CX-30 is only available with a six-speed automatic transmission. Our Premium CX-30 also came with steering-wheel paddle shifters and a head-up display on the windshield.

Inside, our top trim CX-30 included heated leather seats with good support and legroom for average sized adults. You’ll also get a Bose sound system that sounds good and there’s an eight-inch display iPad-like screen atop the center of the dash. It isn’t a touchscreen and everything is controlled via a dial wheel just behind the gear shift lever on the center console. The dial wheel is surrounded by short-cut buttons for most-used operations. It works fine except for inputting directions for the navigation system and makes using your smartphone for directions the application of choice. Also, immediately to the right of the dial is a smaller dial for operating the audio system.

We were not fans of the rotary dial controller and wished for a touchscreen instead. The dial necessitates multiple twists and pushes on the knob to accomplish even simple tasks.

Rear seat room is on the small side, especially head and leg room. If you’re six-feet or taller you’ll struggle to even get back there, given the small rear-door opening. There are seat belts for three but the drive shaft tunnel is extra high, eliminating any possibility for a place to put your legs and feet if you are relegated to the middle seat. We like that Mazda includes HVAC vents at the back of the center console for rear seat occupants. Oddly, there’s only one storage pocket and that’s on the back of the passenger’s seat, and there’s no plug for charging your phone. Also know that rear seats are not heated, even on our top Premium Package model.

The rear hatch opens to reveal a 20-cubic-foot storage space, the same as in the Mazda3 hatchback. There is a spare donut-sized tire under the cargo floor, but with no additional space for storage.

Mazda says the CX-30 is targeted for those who have an “active lifestyle” and prefer the higher seating position and ease of getting gear in and out of the vehicle. In our weeklong testing we did find the vehicle practical; it was easy to drive and park, and comfortable for the two up-front occupants.

On the road, we wished for more get-up-and-go and found the 186-horsepower on the
low side. Our tested zero to 60 mph took just over eight seconds under full acceleration and the engine got annoyingly noisy. Once at speed, things settled down and the cabin was quieter than what we found in most competitors. Visibility was excellent, the ride quality generally comfortable, but rougher roads with potholes delivered a more pronounced hard bottoming out and jarring.

The CX-30 comes standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assistance. We found the lane keeping assist to be overly sensitive and would warn the driver by vibrating steering wheel even at times when we weren’t wandering out of our lane. It was so annoying we simply turned the feature off.

Overall, we came away with a generally favorable impression of the new CX-30 but it didn’t blow us away with excitement or wow us with an upscale experience, given its $30,000-plus MSRP. We think bumping up to the larger compact and excellent CX-5 for about $2,000 more model to model will deliver a much more enjoyable vehicle and driving experience.  

Vital Stats
Base Price: $29,600
Price as Tested: $31,025
Engine/Transmission: 2.5-liter 186-hp naturally aspirated 4-cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive.
Fuel Economy: 25/32/27 – mpg, City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: 2020 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and highest possible overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Where Built: Salamanca, Mexico

Competes With:
Buick Encore
Chevrolet Trax
Ford EcoSport
Honda HR-V
Hyundai Kona
Hyundai Venue
Kia Seltos
Kia Soul
Nissan Kicks
Nissan Rogue Sport

Fab Features
Attractive, pleasing interior trimmings
Available all-wheel drive
Easy, pleasant to drive