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Mazda’s 2020 CX-30 Crossover – Mazda’s marketers give us ‘30-something’

Car Reviews

Mazda’s 2020 CX-30 Crossover – Mazda’s marketers give us ‘30-something’

Mazda’s 2020 CX-30 Crossover

Mazda’s marketers give
us ‘30-something’

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.

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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…

David Boldt

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, Chicago's Midwest Automotive Media Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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