The Mazda CX-30 is a subcompact crossover with the confidence of a full-size SUV. I had the opportunity to test drive the 2021 Mazda CX-30 AWD in various terrains last month. Two Texas-hosted events allowed me to get a feel behind the wheel of the CX-30 while traversing through mud, clay, sand, gravel, and asphalt. This smart-looking crossover provides stand-out styling, refined interior space, and surprisingly credible off-road prowess. It can be challenging to stand out in an ever-increasing class of CUVs with varying forms of AWD systems, yet Mazda, as usual, offers its own vibe. It’s a capable compact SUV that will have Subaru Crosstrek owners thinking twice.
Cool and Collected Style in the Mazda CX-30
Mazda’s interiors feel like sitting in a recently built luxury condo. Everything inside is meant to express elegance and subtle sophistication, creating a pleasant space to escape the outside angst. The model shown is the 2021 Mazda CX-30 AWD Premium, featuring a host of additional standard features within its upscale trim, such as a Bose 12-speaker premium audio system and leather-trimmed sport seats. The CX-30 is designed to hold up to five passengers, with three in the second row. However, the person sitting in the middle might feel cramped.
Other standard features on the higher trim Mazda CX-30 include 8-way adjustable heated seats with lumbar support, a heated steering wheel, and 18-inch alloy wheels. These are in addition to all of Mazda’s safety driver-aids, like Stop & Go Radar Cruise Control, Lane Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Smart Brake Support, Traffic Jam Assist, Adaptive Front Lighting System, and a 360 view camera.
All-Wheel-Drive Now Standard on Mazda CX-30
For 2022, all-wheel-drive is standard for all Mazda CX-30 trim levels. These trim levels share two engine options. The first is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder producing 186-hp and 186 lb.-ft of torque. While I have not tested that engine, those power figures seem low for an AWD crossover meant to underpin an active lifestyle. The option is a turbocharged variant of the 2.5-liter producing 227-hp and a healthy 310 lb.-ft of torque. In addition, this engine likes the good stuff, so filling the tank with premium 93-octane fuel increases power to 250. Both engines are bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission. If you want to get the most out of the Mazda CX-30 AWD, get it with the turbo.
2021 Mazda CX-30 Driving Impressions
The Mazda CX-30 steering offers the resistances of a feather as you effortlessly move it with two fingers. While navigating slippery muddy trails, the light electronic steering took some getting used to as you cannot feel where the front tires are pointing. However, thanks to the Mazda’s signature attention to handling characteristics, you can maneuver the CUV with the accuracy of a high-dollar driving simulator.
Driving the 2021 Mazda CX-30 on the road at the Texas Truck Rodeo (hosted by the Texas Auto Writers Association) showcased the CX-30’s quiet interior cabin and velvet-smooth ride. Meanwhile, the Texas Off-Road Invitational hosted by the Texas Motor Press allowed the CX-30 to prove its AWD system is more than just filler for the brochure. Crossing through mud streams and down moist, muddy hills was a total breeze in the CX-30 thanks to its off-road traction assist system. While not a rock crawler, the Mazda CX-30 AWD is undoubtedly capable of handling a weekend camping trip and snowy winters, especially with the optional turbocharged engine producing 310 lb.-ft of torque.
The CX-30 sits between the CX-3 and CX-5 in Mazda’s CUV family table. Its walking-tall wheel stance and soon-to-be standard all-wheel-drive system reminded me of the American Motors Eagle 4×4 sedan from the 1980s. Looking at the CX-30 profile, you notice it sits high like it’s trying to reach something from the top shelf. As a result, the Mazda CX-30 has 6.9-inches of ground clearance.
A Suitable Subaru Alternative
Starting price for the 2021 Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD is $33,900 and $35,400, as shown in this article. Like its competition (the Subaru Crosstrek, as one example), the Mazda CX-30 pricing starts in the low 20s and gradually climbs up into the mid-30s. For those looking for a suitable alternative to Subaru, take a test drive in the Mazda CX-30.
The Crosstrek and CX-30 are both all-wheel-drive CUV hatchbacks that get roughly 26-mpg and span similar pricing scales. However, the CX-30 offers a more upscale interior and significantly more power than the Crosstrek if optioned with the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine. Of course, Subaru has an almost bulletproof reputation for all-weather driving that manifests into brand loyalty. On the other hand, Mazda has its own reputation for developing vehicles that tap into the driving enthusiast in all of us.