The SUV bandwagon rolls on. Mazda already has the CX-3 subcompact and CX-5 compact crossover SUVs in its range but for 2020 has added the CX-30, a coupe-style SUV that sits between the two.
It’s also the first of the brand’s crossovers to sit on the new seventh-generation architecture that underpins the impressive Mazda3, the reigning Canadian Car of the Year and 2020 World Car Design of the Year.
Size-wise the CX-30 sits right between the CX-3 and CX-5 and is almost exactly the same length as the Mazda3 Sport (Hatchback in the US). Think of it as a high-riding coupe rather than an SUV that prioritizes utility.
For something much bigger, check out the Mazda CX-9.
We spent a week with a CX-30 GT to see whether the recipe makes sense.
2020 Mazda CX-30 pricing
CX-30 US pricing
In the US, the basic 2.5 S trim can be also had with Select, Preferred and Premium packages. The price span is $21,900 for the FWD S rising to $29,950 for an AWD S with the Premium Package, similar to the car tested here.
CX-30 Canada pricing
The entry point to the CX-30 range in Canada is the FWD GX, which has an MSRP of C$24,550 without freight and PDE. There’s also a GS trim before you reach our range-topping test vehicle, the GT, which is AWD-only and starts at C$33,850.
Since we drove this 2020 model, the 2021 CX-30 has gone on sale. It’s largely unchanged but now features automatic on/off headlights and rain-sensing wipers as standard across the range in Canada. The US now joins Canada in offering standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity on all CX-30s.
Mazda’s familiar Kodo design language shapes the look of the CX-30. The company says its designers were aiming for, “the most alluring, sleek silhouette in this market segment”. The car’s adventure-ready attitude is emphasised by the large gaps between the 18in wheels and the wheel arches, which are themselves thickly cladded in black plastic.
Leaving aside the questionable notion that any deliberately high-riding car could be described as “sleek”, we’re not convinced that the combination of ride height, cladding and chopped roofline provides as attractive a result as the chunky CX-3 or practical CX-5 – and certainly not as elegant a look as the stylish Mazda3.
Our test car was attractively finished in Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal paint. At C$450 (US$595), it was the only cost-option fitted to the car.
Interior and equipment
Inside, the focus on posture and comfort that informed the cabin of the Mazda3 applies equally to the CX-30, with winning results. The GT’s leather seating is comfortable, with a good driving position and visibility. The rear legroom is generous for this size of vehicle.
The minimalist dashboard has style, too, with a well damped feel to the control switches and solid build quality. The GT comes with brown accents on the upper dash panel, door panels, and centre console that help to break up the black.
There’s a central rotary dial to control functions on the 8.8in screen, a further digital display in front of the driver – who also gets a head-up display – and all the premium infotainment features you’d expect from a range-topping model, such as a Bose 12-speaker audio. One niggle we found was in the truncation of the song details displayed on the screen, which is split into a circular section on the left with different information on the right.
CX-30 cargo capacity
Despite the coupe look, Mazda’s designers have maintained decent trunk space for the CX-30. At 572L, the crossover has 3L more cargo capacity than the 3 Sport but is still a long way short of the CX-5’s 875L.
Engine and transmission
As the top-of-the-line model, the CX-30 GT comes with Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-litre engine with cylinder deactivation. It makes 186 HP and 186 lb-ft of torque. We recorded 8.0L/100km fuel economy in mixed driving, which is on the right side of the officially quoted numbers of 9.5L/100km in the city and 7.4L/100km on the highway. The 155-HP 2-litre (Canada only) and a 2.5-litre motor without cylinder deactivation are available elsewhere in the lineup.
The body control is pretty tight and the rolling comfort is on the firm side, but not hard, and Mazda engineers have done a good job to keep road and wind noise down.
The engine performs smoothly but unspectacularly – exactly as you’d expect for a naturally aspirated unit of this size. We had no complaints with the 6-speed automatic transmission, which comes with paddle-shifters on the GT. We didn’t have cause to stretch the i-Activ AWD system, which has efficiency enhancements in its latest generation.
We liked the way the Mazda3 drove and with very similar underpinnings, it’s no surprise that the CX-30 also scores well for ride and handling. The body control is pretty tight and the rolling comfort is on the firm side, but not hard, and Mazda engineers have done a good job to keep road and wind noise down.
The CX-30’s ride comfort didn’t seem overly affected by the choice of 18in gunmetal alloys on Bridgestone Turanza 215/55 tires. The lowest trim levels get 16in rims.
Takeaway: should you buy a Mazda CX-30?
The Mazda CX-30 GT is comfortable and well equipped. Those are good reasons to buy it, but we’re not convinced that it offers anything over the Mazda3 beyond its fashionable, crossover SUV body style. We’ve no doubt that it would acquit itself well off-road, but we think that few buyers will exploit that capability.
The Mazda3 Sport GT can be bought for a sizeable C$2,350 less than our CX-30, including AWD for winter traction, although in the US, the SUV’s price premium over the equivalent Hatchback with Premium Package is only US$1,050. In our view the hatch has more attractive styling and is even better to drive than its high-riding cousin. It holds a little less luggage (you won’t miss 3L) but gets marginally better fuel mileage than the heavier SUV. The Mazda3 is an excellent car and would be our pick of the two.
Comfort and refinement
Interior build quality
Good to drive
Styling won’t appeal to all
Infotainment display truncates song info
Mazda3 GT/Hatchback cheaper, just as capable
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