First Drive: 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo Review

The popular CX-30 gains a Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo engine, packing 250-hp & 320 lb-ft of torque - here's a closer look.

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The automaker introduces their Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo engine to their popular CX-30. This is the same Turbo setup they added to their Mazda3 just a few months ago.

Given the consumer shift towards SUV-like vehicles over sedans—evidenced by the fact the Mazda CX-30 has become Mazda’s third top-selling vehicle in just one year—it makes a lot of sense to add this engine option to their compact SUV. 

Mazda sees customers cross-shopping the CX-30 with nameplates you might expect including the Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Seltos and Nissan Rouge Sport / Qashqai. The addition of the Turbo, however, sees the brand eyeing a whole new crop of competitors.

“The CX-30 is now comprehensively positioned within the premium segment” says Drew Carey, Senior Manager of Communications. 

Under the hood: packing a capable turbo

The Turbo engine packs 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque with premium fuel—227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque with regular gas—giving it more power than the likes of the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 and Lexus UX 200 FWD. 

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo rear
2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo. Photo; Mazda

It’s definitely felt. When I punch the gas pedal it leaps to life. It’s not over-the-top or attached to a loud roar; rather it’s a smooth, linear power that gracefully launches you off the line in a hurry. If you don’t need that type of power in your day-to-day, though, simply opt for regular fuel. The horsepower potential drops slightly, but it won’t take the fun out of your commute.

“Most people don’t use this car for sustained driving above 4,000 RPM [where you’ll experience the top-end power of the engine],” says Jay Chen, Manager of Powertrain Performance. “The value is the car makes the same power and similar torque below 4,000 RPM. Depending on your driving needs, you can choose the right fuel.”

By no means, however, is this a track vehicle when using premium fuel. Mazda makes it known the CX-30 Turbo is designed for real world situations. 

Dave Coleman, Manager of Vehicle Dynamics says it’s made for people who have an active lifestyle, but still use it for their daily commuter vehicle. It needs to be comfortable, quiet and be able to take you wherever you need to go.

The last point is helped with Mazda’s AWD system—the only option when getting the CX-30 Turbo. “We tuned the capability around the ground clearance,” Coleman explains. “We’re not building a rock crawler, but [made it to handle] anything the car can clear.”

CX-30 Turbo interior

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo interior
2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo. Photo: Mazda

As for comfortable and quiet, the CX-30 Turbo delivers in spades. Tuned to minimize gear shifts, this is one incredibly smooth drive. That adds to the CX-30’s cabin, which is designed with calm in mind: instrumentation is symmetrically placed around the driver, speakers are specifically placed for optimal sound, and there’s a lot of negative space on the passenger side. In short, it’s a peaceful place to be. 

Couple that with leather seating, great tactile feedback from controls, and a load of standard features—such as heated surfaces and a programmable power liftgate—and Mazda succeeds at creating a premium vehicle with premium performance that should entice buyers looking for an upgrade.

Travis Persaud
Travis Persaud has contributed to a number of magazines across North America, including enRoute and Exclaim! He loves variety and it shows in the wide range of topics he’s covered: automotive to music, technology to travel, beer to real estate. He’s currently the editor of WHERE Ottawa (city travel guide), beer columnist for Ottawa Magazine, a frequent contributor to CAA Magazine and the former associate editor of Zoomer Magazine.