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Mazda’s CX-30 Turbo Premium Plus – PHILLY FLYER

Car Reviews

Mazda’s CX-30 Turbo Premium Plus – PHILLY FLYER

Mazda’s CX-30 Turbo Premium Plus

PHILLY FLYER

The connection between cycling and automobiles has roots as old as the car itself. When Karl Benz attached a motor to a tricycle he created what is generally recognized as the first motorcar. And paved streets – which made motorized transport more practical – began with the demand for smooth, all-weather roads by cyclists. At the beginning of the last century, any number of bicycle makers ventured into auto production, unless – of course – they were the Wrights, and took time from their bike shop to invent the airplane. I recently made the connection between cars and bikes via a drive to Philadelphia in Mazda’s CX-30; Bina Bilenky’s Philly Bike Expo was on my radar, with the Mazda’s 2.5 liters of turbocharged four under my right foot.

A Bilenky custom road bike. Pic courtesy of Bilenky Cycle Works
A Bilenky custom road bike. Pic courtesy of Bilenky Cycle Works

The Philly Bike Expo has been a fall show, and were it not for the interruption caused by Covid might still be a fall show. But as you’d guess, spring is more welcoming for cyclists than November, even in an area as obsessed with cycling as Philadelphia. Comprising a wide variety of independent builders (including Stephen Bilenky, father of the show’s organizer), specialty brands – such as Ritchey and Willier – and accessory makers, Philly’s Bike Expo gives even those of us with all the bikes we need a chance to get acquainted with what we didn’t know we need.

The same might be said for a week spent with Mazda’s CX-30. As the smallest crossover in Mazda’s AWD lineup, the 4-door hatch sits on an elevated platform relative to its Mazda3 stablemate, while offering the same powertrain options: a normally aspirated four of 2.5 liters and our test vehicle’s 2.5 liter turbocharged four. To give the CX-30 a place in today’s automotive lineup, I’d liken the turbo version to an all-season, all-road GTI, offering similar power to VW’s ‘hot’ hatch, in combination with that elevated ride height, available all-wheel drive and – cosmetically – some questionable ‘accents’ around the wheel wells and rocker panels. 

In the walkup I liked the clean surfaces employed for the majority of the CX-30’s sheetmetal. A compact overall length of 173 inches sits atop a wheelbase of 104.5 inches, in combination with a roof height of just over five feet. If – as many do – you mount a bike rack or cargo box on that roof you stand a very good chance of reaching it. And unlike the Mazda3 hatch, there is a modicum of glass behind the rear doors, which avoids the tunnel-like vibe that goes with the Mazda3’s hatchback architecture. There’s still too much front overhang for my taste, and as mentioned, the cladding around the wheelwells is applied with too broad of a brush; this ain’t a Jeep, Mazda, and will never be a Jeep…

Inside, Mazda continues to set the benchmark for upscale interiors at  accessible price points. The instrumentation creates no confusion, the infotainment screen doesn’t overwhelm, and while Mazda’s dial-up console-mounted control for that infotainment could be more intuitive, owners – as opposed to reviewers – will get used to it. Interior room is adequate, if not generous. (This is a 4-passenger compartment for young families, and not – notably – young NBA players.) Behind the rear seat Mazda claims 20 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than enough for that young family’s long weekend adventure – or one overstuffed kiddo.

If the CX-30 needs to justify its $30K-plus price point (with the standard powertrain, it starts at $25,000), you’ll find that justification behind the wheel. Steering is perfectly weighted, the ride is composed and compliant, and while its elevated suspension contributes to some body lean, you won’t roll out of your supportive bucket seat. I’m not sure I’ve felt as good behind the wheel of a 4-passenger envelope since driving Alfa Romeo’s Giulia several years ago. And I think you’ll find the turbocharged CX-30 is arguably more Alfa-esque than Alfa Romeo’s own Tonale.

Our test CX-30, with turbocharged four, all-wheel drive and in Premium Plus trim, comes in at $38K, which I’d see as roughly 10% too dear. Dropping down to the Premium trim will secure a mid-$30s price point, all you need in the way of equipment and retain the sweetness of its 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque driving all four wheels through a conventional automatic. Fuel efficiency could be better (and is with the standard powertrain) but on our trip up and down I-95 – at speeds between 70 and 80 miles per hour – I averaged 28+ miles per gallon, and did it all in an extremely sublime five hours of driving for the 300-mile roundtrip. 

At $35K I think I’d still have enough left for a new bicycle. And in the vintage display at the Philly Bike Expo I found it. A road bike, built in 1962 by Dick Power. As you’d assume, it’s a boy’s bike…

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as AutoTrader.com, 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, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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