2022 Mazda CX-30 – Here’s why we absolutely love this vehicle

By Jim Prueter

(April 21, 2021) Based on the Mazda3, the sub-compact CX-30 tested here slots just below the larger CX-5 and the smaller CX-3 that was discontinued for the 2022 model year. Its stylish exterior design and premium interior cabin renders the CX-30 a close competitor to subcompact luxury crossovers such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA, but for thousands of dollars less.

Now in its third model year, the CX-30 remains virtually unchanged except for making plug-in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard last year, along with the addition of the optional 250-horsepower 2.5-liter engine. This year, Mazda has made i-Active all-wheel drive standard and there’s a new Carbon Edition based on the smaller horsepower non-turbocharged models but otherwise remains unchanged.

Our test CX-30 was the top of eight trim levels — the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus with a starting price of $34,700. We’d recommend either of the 2.5 turbo-powered trim levels over the smaller 186-horsepower models. Regardless of engine choice, all power is delivered through the CX-30’s six-speed automatic transmission, which we found to be very responsive to driver throttle inputs, delivering prompt downshifts when more power is requested during heavier acceleration.

The CX-30 is impeccably finished with premium materials and unexpected luxurious touches. All surfaces are nicely padded, with contrasting French stitching throughout that adds to the upscale look and feel. Our Premium Plus trim was finished with heated leather seating, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather wrapped gear shift knob. A power sliding moonroof, adaptive lighting system, a 12-speaker Bose® premium audio system, and navigation with traffic sign recognition are all standard.

As a taller driver, I was impressed with the ample front seat room and a driving position that adjusts to drivers of various stature. The front passenger seat is especially low and those shorter would benefit with a cushion they can take in and out of the vehicle. The passenger seat also lacks preferred lumbar adjustment support. One other complaint was the center console with its awkward, two-step process of sliding first then lifting to gain access. I also found the center console overly wide toward the front, limiting the space for the driver’s right knee. At least it was padded.

The rear door openings are limited, and rear seat’s knee and head room make it small and uncomfortable for all but the average and shorter occupants. Compared to competitors in its class, cargo area is modest, but can handle grocery shopping items, or small and medium sized packages. As with all vehicles in its class, the rear seatbacks fold forward to expand cargo space and there’s a one-piece security cover to keep items out of sight. A power rear liftgate is standard on the top trim. We like that a temporary spare tire is standard, rather than just a tire inflation kit.

The CX-30 infotainment, Bluetooth, navigation and operating controls requires a bit of a learning curve that got easier as the week moved along. The Mazda Connect Infotainment system is a combination of physical control buttons and a knob on the center console that is the primary tool to interact with the 8.8-inch display screen mounted atop the instrument panel. Unlike others, the display is not touch capable, requiring adjustments to be made with either physical buttons or the console-mounted knob.

Standard driver safety assistance features include forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, driver attention monitor, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, a surround-view parking camera system with front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, reverse automatic emergency braking and a head-up display.

The absolute best thing about the CX-30 was its driving dynamics. It felt more BMW-esque than some BMWs we have driven. The ride was on the firm side but in no way uncomfortable or punishing. Handling felt secure, predictable and confident in driving maneuvers and even in an avoidance maneuver where we swerved to avoid safety cones in obstacle testing. The vehicle handled sharp curves with absolute minimum of body lean or roll and remained settled when pointing it in our intended direction. Steering was precise, brakes had excellent feedback with assured stopping distances.

While the CX-30 comes standard with all-wheel-drive, know that it is not designed for off-roading, rather is used to help the vehicle gain grip on low traction surfaces like wet or snow road conditions or sand.

Overall, we easily found the CX-30 to be our favorite subcompact crossover utility vehicle. The exterior is extremely attractive, modern and upscale. The interior is first-rate with premium materials, impeccable build quality and attractively designed. But again, the best part is how it drives with a relaxed ride, exceptional driving dynamics, powerful acceleration from the turbocharged engine, and overall remarkable “fun-to-drive” benefits. All at a very competitive price.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $22,500 to $34,700
Price as Tested: $35,750
Engine/Transmission: 250-hp 2.5-Liter turbocharged four cylinder with all-wheel-drive and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 22/30/25 – mpg City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Highest possible 2022 Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and highest possible overall 5-Star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Where Built: Salamanca, Mexico

Competes With:
Buick Encore
Chevrolet Trailblazer
Honda HR-V
Hyundai Kona, Hyundai Venue
Kia Soul, Kia Seltos
Jeep Renegade
Nissan Kicks, Nissan Rogue Sport
Toyota C-HR, Toyota Corolla Cross

Exceptional ride, driving dynamics
First-class interior
Highest possible safety ratings

Low sitting passenger seat, small rear seat
Takes practice to learn operating/infotainment controls