Mazda’s 2020 CX-30 Crossover
Mazda’s marketers give
As the past owner of both a 2011 Subaru Forester and 2014 Subaru Crosstrek, I like the compact crossover. And while that warm-and-fuzzy may not extend to today’s Forester (I find its styling swollen, and its spec a tad too ‘comfortable’), the 2021 Crosstrek – bringing to the table another 30 horsepower – should be right in line with what I like about compact, all-road sport utilities. That coincides with Mazda’s new CX-30, which seems right in line with what I like.
The road to the CX-30 is more linear than its ‘CX-30’ tag would suggest. With Mazda offering a subcompact CX-3, compact CX-5 and 3-row CX-9, you/we might have thought that a crossover larger than ‘3’ and smaller than ‘5’ might have grabbed ‘4’. For reasons still lost within my yet-to-fully-form logic, CX-4 wouldn’t work for the U.S. market, but CX-3-to-a-multiple-of-10 would work. And so, in showrooms, on window stickers and in my driveway sits a CX-30.
If you like the tidiness of Mazda’s small CX-3, but wish there was a tad more utility within its sport-utility footprint, the CX-30 will be right up your fire road. The most notable difference is in its longer wheelbase (by three inches) and overall length (4.5 inches) relative to the CX-3, while avoiding the visual bulk (although ‘bulk’ sounds too negative) of the CX-5. In its proportion the CX-30 exudes a lightness and athleticism that is reminiscent of Jaguar’s F-Pace, in roughly 3/4 scale. And unlike so much of Asian design at the moment, there’s not a stylistic hair out of place on the CX-30. Its overall form and detailing looks to have been executed by a design team not trying to draw too much attention to itself; instead, the team effort amplifies the attention given to its brand.
Inside the CX-30’s Premium trim, the already good efforts we’ve seen expended on the Mazda3, CX-3 and CX-5 are magnified in the CX-30’s perforated white leather, soft-touch surfaces and attention to ergonomic details. And while you won’t confuse the space with your dad’s Tahoe, neither will you confuse it with the CX-3. The CX-30 affords four adults real room, while the smaller CX-3 is better for a young family – the big kids up front, small kids in the back.
Of course, a premium trim nets you all you’d want in tech and infotainment. But we still take issue with Mazda’s two-step approach to changing most aspects of that infotainment. In Hyundai and Kia products changing a station or band requires no more effort than it did when Motorola first introduced car radios, and that – by God – is the way I still like it. At a time when there are far too many distractions when behind the wheel, infotainment systems shouldn’t magnify those distractions.
Under the hood, the CX-30 gets Mazda’s normally aspirated 2.5 liter four, an engine that does reasonable service in both the CX-5 and Mazda6 sedan. Within the smaller footprint of the CX-30 performance is adequate – and better than the 2.0 liter in the still-smaller CX-3 – but you won’t find any inspiration here; the zoom has left the room. While the 2.5’s horsepower is superior to the turbocharged 1.6 in the Kia Seltos, the Seltos feels much more immediate – and in Premium trim, with a window sticker of around $32K, the Mazda needs its own dose of immediacy.
There’s more, however, to on-road performance than just the stopwatch, and in both steering feel and handling dynamic the CX-30 is about as good as a small crossover is going to get in 2020. The CX-30’s on-road behavior is exemplary, and if you opt for all-wheel drive, its I-Activ system provides you with a few tricks for navigating your what-the-hell-it’s-why-I-have-insurance detours.
If spec’ing my own CX-30, I’d probably opt for a lower trim (Select?) with all-wheel drive, keeping the outlay at around $26K. Or I’d wait for Mazda to give its CX-30 a turbo or performance-oriented hybrid system. With either of those options, I won’t care what they call it…