2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo Premium Plus AWD Review

The CX-3's proper replacement has finally arived


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: One of the most attractive hatchback/crossovers around, true to Mazda's engaging driving experience, handsome interior, gets the engine it deserves.
Negatives: Tight back seat, not as entertaining as the Mazda3 hatchback on which the CX-30 is based.
Bottom Line: The CX-30 was great to begin with, but the more powerful engine changes the way it drives quite dramatically. It's now one of the best small crossovers money can buy thanks to its interior and exterior styling, tech, safety, and driving dynamics.
The replacement for the Mazda CX-3, the CX-30 compact crossover has received excellent reviews from car critics, but the one major demerit is the lack of good power from the existing turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger that delivers 186 horsepower. After waiting in the wings for more grunt, Mazda finally gave the CX-30 the Mazda3's excellent 2.5-liter turbocharged mill that provides 227 hp on normal gas and as much as 250 hp on premium fuel. We drove the upgraded CX-30 Premium Plus for a week to see how much the new engine changed the personality of the CX-30. Read our detailed review below.
 

Driving Experience

8.1

 

Not many crossovers drive as well as the entire lineup from Mazda, and the CX-30 is no exception. The new engine brings the proper gutsiness to the Mazda3-based crossover, and it pays off in spades.

Ride Quality: The ride in the CX-30 is on the firm side but not upsetting. For the most part, it's very good and compliant, as well. If you hit big pavement gaps, you can feel a bit of jarring.

Acceleration: The non-turbo CX-30 will hit 60 mph in the mid-sevens, but the 2.5 turbo mill changes that time to a quick 5.8 second sprint. Dial the drive mode selector into Sport, and the gearshifts are quicker.

Braking: As with all Mazda's, pedal progression is good, and braking distances are short. The additional 100 lbs of weight from the new engine only extends the stopping distances a little bit.

Steering: Steering is precise , and turn-in is quick. The feel isn't quite as good as the Mazda3, but it's decent. There's also some mild effort, enhancing the driving experience.

Handling: The CX-30 isn't a street carver, but shy of the excellent Hyundai Kona, not many small crossovers can handle like the little Mazda. Body control is very good, and there's just a hint of roll.

Technology

8.5

 

Mazda's in-car tech is great. It's not the most sophisticated or sexy system on the planet, but it does what it's supposed to do quickly and easily. Mazda keeps things simple and easy to execute across the board, and we think it's much better to go with less distraction and complexity in favor of ease of operation while driving.

Infotainment System: The 8.8" screen is clear and easy to read. It's not huge, but we think it's the right size for the CX-30. We love the updated look with improved graphics, as well as the better menu. It's still not a touchscreen, but that's part of the reason why Mazda keeps its reliability ratings so high.

Controls: The control knob between the seats is excellent and looks like it belongs on a premium vehicle. The buttons surrounding it are easy to decipher just with the icons. The audio knobs, climate controls, and steering wheel buttons are also some of the best in the business. There's plenty of tactile knurling, making the knobs easy to grip and turn.

Styling

8.7

 

Mazda definitely makes some of the best-designed mainstream vehicles in the industry. While the CX-30 isn't as attractive as the lower-riding Mazda3 hatchback and sedan, it's still a looker in the small crossover segment. The tight proportions and the sculpted bodywork are worthy of a premium brand, and the interior is sublime. There's not much the brand is doing wrong these days, and the CX-30 continues the trend.

Front: The CX-30's front end iis a great blend of the CX-5 and the Mazda3 with the large grille, thin headlights, and creased hood. We love the simple lower fascia.

Rear: The back end isn't as aggressive or as muscular as the 3 hatch, but it's definitely sportier than the still handsome CX-5. The beautiful round tailpipes match the round taillight signature nicely, and the liftgate has a nice curvature, giving the rear fascia depth.

Profile: The big wheel wells with the black fender trim give it almost a rally car look that's coolly exaggerated. The body sculpting adds some nice athleticism and refinement. We love the way that light plays with the body at certain angles.

Cabin: With the exception of the overuse of piano black plastic on the center console, the interior of the CX-30 is stunning. The linear dash, the swoopy brown leather trim on the doors, and the beautiful 3-spoke steering wheel all add a dose of premium to this great little crossover.

Comfort

7.8

 

It's not a surprise that the CX-30 isn't huge inside, so rear passengers suffer a little when it comes to legroom. There is, thankfully, more headroom than the Mazda3 and about an inch more than the now gone CX-3. It's the cabin materials and the ergonomics that make the CX-30 better than most of its competitors in terms of overall comfort, if not overall interior size.

Front Seats: The sporty bucket seats are supportive and well-cushioned. Our 6-foot, 200-lb frame had no trouble getting comfortable, and it held us nicely when hitting the apexes.

Rear Seats: Legroom is tight if tall occupants are in front, but the headroom is good. The outboard positions have good seat contours, while the middle position is flat and only good for short trips.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Sound deadening is good, and even at highway speeds, the CX-30 is relatively quiet.

Visibility: Visibility is much better than the Mazda3 hatchback since the D-pillars are not as steeply raked. There's also more rear glass for better sightlines.

Climate: The climate system and the heated seats worked very well. Airflow from the medium-sized vents is also good.

Safety

9.3

 

The CX-30 fares better that most of the competition when it comes to safety, including the Hyundai Kona and the Nissan Kicks. It nabbed top awards from both testing bodies.

IIHS Rating: The CX-30 earned the Top Safety Pick+ award, with the only demerit in the headlight category as "poor" for some trim levels.

NHTSA Rating: The CX-30 earned five stars overall from the federal government with its only one-star drop for the rollover test.

Standard Tech: Our tester came standard with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring system, Mazda Radar Cruise Control w/ Stop-and-Go, Smart Brake Support, rearview camera, Driver Attention Alert, Lane Departure Warning System, Lane Keep Assist, and High Beam Control.

Optional Tech: We had Rear Cross-Traffic Braking to supplement the standard Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and the Rear Smart City Brake Support that supplements the Smart Brake Support by providing detection and braking avoidance of close objects in urban environments.

Storage/Cargo

6.8

 

The storage space is pretty good for front row occupants, but the overall cargo space in back is on the small side, equal to the Mazda3 with which the CX-30 shares a platform.

Storage Space: The center console has a large tray and twin cupholders in front of the shift knob. There's also a medium-sized but quite deep center armrest and decent door pockets.

Cargo Room: The rear cargo area has a usable 20.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 45.2 cubes with the 2nd row folded flat. That's smaller than the Kia Seltos and about on par with the Hyundai Kona.

Fuel Economy

8

 

Even with the new, more powerful engine, the CX-30 is prettye efficient for a sporty crossover. We drove exclusively in Sport mode, and we were able to extract just a tad less than the EPA estimate for combined mileage. In normal driving mode, it should have no problem meeting those numbers.

Observed: 23.9 mpg.

Distance Driven: 144 miles.

Audio

8.5

 

The Bose premium audio system in the Premium Plus is excellent, and it comes standard at this trim level. It's a great-sounding system that provides ample bass, great clarity, and no noticeable distortion.



Final Thoughts

The CX-30 is now even more compelling than ever before now that a more powerful, noticeably punchier engine is available. The non-turbo engine was fine, but now the extra horsepower pairs better with the driving dynamics of the CX-30. It's also incredibly stylish, technologically easy, tremendously safe, and decently efficient. If you don't need a ton of space and cargo room, the CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus makes for a convincing, fun-driving, and handsome small crossover that's anything but a compromise.

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