Mazda CX-30 Turbo — Rewarding performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(July 29, 2021) We proclaimed the Mazda CX-30 one of the best subcompact SUV crossovers on the market when we reviewed it for 2020. We wrote that while it looks like everything else in a Mazda showroom with clean lines, nice proportions and with a coupe-like silhouette, the CX-30 brings the sophistication of a more expensive car with a solid structure, an energetic engine, secure handling, a classy and quiet premium-looking interior, and a load of safety equipment.


Although the standard 4-cylinder making 186 horsepower is probably enough for most buyers, for 2021 Mazda has given the CX-30 a new and rewarding personality with the addition of a 2.5-liter 250-horsepower turbocharged engine. It's the same engine used in versions of the Mazda3, Mazda6, CX-5 and CX-9. And it does a wonderful job of transforming the CX-30 into a performance machine that can bring a smile every time you crank it up and hit the road.

To get the 250 horsepower, Mazda says you must run it on premium gas. Feed it the less expensive regular and you will still be rewarded with 227 horses and 310 pound-feet of torque. The turbo engine only adds 100 pounds to the CX-30's weight and drops EPA mileage numbers by just 1 mpg, rated at 22 city, 30 highway and 25 combined with all-wheel drive.

How much difference does the turbo engine make over the standard 2.5-liter? Zero to 60 time has improved almost 2 seconds down from 7.6 to 5.8 seconds. And perhaps more importantly the 50-to-70 mph time — performance needed for quickly passing on a two-lane road — has dropped by 1.1 seconds. These figures from Car and Driver magazine testing.

Among subcompact SUVs in this price range, the updated Mazda's acceleration makes it one of the swiftest options on the market. To find something quicker requires stepping up to one of the small, sporty options from BM, Jaguar, Volvo, Mercedes or Mini. But those higher-horsepower alternatives come with a much larger price tag than the CX-30 Turbo's $31,540 starting price.

The CX-30 has the crossover shape that seems to be extremely popular these days with a forward canted rear window and heavy black-plastic body cladding favored by crossover SUVs. Mazda says the CX-30 is the second model to adopt the latest evolution of its Kodo design, "a more mature interpretation of the striking design ethos."

You can spot the CX-30 Turbo model by its black wheels and exterior mirrors, larger tailpipes, brushed-aluminum roof rails, and the discreet Turbo badge on its liftgate.

The interior features elegant simplicity with well-made materials and in pleasing color combinations. We have found over the past couple years that Mazda makes the best interiors for vehicles under 30 grand. The gauges and switchgear are easy to read and understand. Climate controls all have buttons and knobs. Controlling the radio, settings, navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions all falls to the knob between the seats.

One sour note — we found accessing radio stations and setting a favorite station unnecessarily complex. In many cars you simply tune to a favorite station, press a preset button and — presto — you have your preset. Not so easy in the dizzy tech world of Mazda. Here's the procedure — go to the owner's manual to get instructions, punch the home button, then select the entertainment screen, then select source (FM, XM/Sirius, etc.), scroll to the tune option, go to your favorite station, then go to the favorites button, then hit add or edit station, then add to favorites. Hey tech guys — the old fashioned way is still the best way.

We found the driver's seat comfortable and we were able to attain an optimum driving position. Rear-seat passengers have adequate legroom unless they are over 6-feet tall. Cargo space is good for the segment measured at 20.2 cubic feet with the second-row seats in use and 45.2 cubic feet with seatbacks folded.

We were delighted to find that the rear-seat has adult legroom and decent headroom. The CX-30 also provides decent luggage space behind the seats measured at 20.2 cubic feet. Put the rear seatbacks down and cargo space increased to 45.2 cubic feet.

While the base CX-30 starts at $23,425, the turbo model begins at $31,540, which compares in features to the standard-engine Preferred trim at $29,315. Our Turbo Premium Plus AWD test vehicle was at the top of the food chain beginning at $35,000. Several low-price options including $495 for the Machine Grey Metallic paint brought the bottom line to $35,895.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo


Base price: $31,540; as driven, $35,895
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 227 regular/250 premium @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 310 pound-feet @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.4 inches
Length: 173 inches
Curb weight: 3,505 pounds
Turning circle: 37.3 feet
Luggage capacity: 20.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 45.2 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 12.7 gallons (regular/premium)
EPA rating: 22 city, 30 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 5.8 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Seltos, Buick Encore GX

The Good
• Powerful turbocharged engine
• Excellent handling traits
• Upscale interior, exterior design

The Bad
• Over complicated audio controls

The Ugly
• Below-average fuel economy