Class: Compact Crossover SUV
Miles driven: 537
Fuel used: 20.8 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||186-hp 2.5-liter|
Real-world fuel economy: 25.8
Driving mix: 45% city, 55% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 25/32/27 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $29,600 (not including $1100 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: none
Price as tested: $30,700
The great: Peppy engine, nimble driving dynamics, classy interior trim
The good: Impressive collection of standard safety features
The not so good: Difficult-to-master/frustating infotainment controls; modest small-items cabin storage space
Whenever automakers produce a progression of vehicles to blanket a category, ideally those products advance from smaller to larger and cheaper to costlier in an orderly way. Adjacent vehicles of the same type should present buyers with a clear, but obtainable, hierarchy of capacity, power, and price.
Somehow that didn’t quite happen for Mazda’s small crossover sport-utilities. The subcompact CX-3 and compact CX-5 wound up far apart in terms of size and cost. Now, for 2020, the manufacturer plugs that gap with the CX-30.
Here’s how the new vehicle does it:
- Positioned amid the 5-inch difference in wheelbase between the CX-3 and CX-5, the CX-30’s 104.5-inch stretch hews closer to that of the larger model.
- Meanwhile, at 173 inches overall, the CX-30 leans nearer to the CX-3 than toward its bigger brother.
- The CX-30 engine is the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder standard in lower-line CX-5s, with 38 more horsepower than the CX-3’s 2.0-liter four.
- Where in 2019 there was a base-price gap of $9700 between the top-trim all-wheel-drive CX-3 and the corresponding CX-5, the AWD Premium Package CX-30 tested by Consumer Guide starts at about $8100 more than the 3 (which has been reduced to a single trim for ’20) and $7000 less than the 5.
Mazda stands back from what it has created and sees a subcompact SUV. We deem it just big enough to be considered a compact. No matter how you look at the CX-30, it delivers sporty handling, upscale interior trimmings, and accommodating passenger space.
Just don’t get some CGers started on “Commander Control,” the console-mounted access to the infotainment system. This was your reviewer’s experience at trying to set up the radio stations to which he hoped to listen during the test: He tapped . . . he twisted . . . he nudged the console dial up, down, and sideways. Words came up. “Favorites,” it said, with no context, and no obvious link to what those favorites are where they might be kept. The only way anyone is going to master this thing is to be brought blindfolded to a secret subterranean lair and made to learn the “great and hidden knowledge” and the secret handshake first. As colleague Rick Cotta pointed out in his First Spin report on the CX-30, Mazda trusts that once an owner does set preferences, changes will be few, and some basic adjustments can be made via steering-wheel controls. But initial setup and moving from one function to the next have to be done through the controller—because the display screen isn’t a touchscreen—and this knob-twiddling is an attention-robbing exercise.
The CX-30 Premium takes what the lower-rung models have to offer and adds a head-up driving display, perforated-leather seat upholstery, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, power moonroof, signature LED headlights and taillights, adaptive front lighting, power liftgate, and roof rails for starting prices of $29,300 with front-wheel drive or $30,700 with all-wheel drive. A short list of other key standard items includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a Bose audio system, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, Wi-Fi hotspot, keyless access and starting, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts, and Mazda’s iActivsense suite of safety tech.
One additional feature that is exclusive to the Premium Package is cylinder-deactivation capability; per the EPA, it adds one mpg to the city and highway fuel-economy ratings of AWD models. Thus, the test vehicle was pegged at 25 mpg in the city, 32 in highway driving, and 26 combined. After putting 180.8 miles on the test truck, with 45-percent city-type driving, this reviewer recorded 24.9 mpg.
The 2.5-liter engine develops 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, enough to move the CX-30 with pleasing briskness, even in highway driving. The 6-speed automatic transmission downshifts quickly, and it includes a “Sport” mode for different shift behavior. Alert handling—with light but responsive steering—nicely contained body lean, and a stable ride round out the little ute’s driving-dynamics profile.
CX-30 ups the ante of interior room for people and things. There’s fine stretch-out space in the front seats, and plenty of headroom, too. The rear seat has space for two adults. Tall folks may find themselves pinched for legroom, but a good many builds will fit without cramping. Driver sightlines aren’t bad, save for the rear corners.
The Premium cabin welcomes passengers with lots of attractive soft-touch material and that roster of amenities we mentioned previously. They may find themselves a little short of room to stash the personal items they bring along, however. There’s a modestly sized glove box, and limited space in the sliding-top console box. (Device inputs are housed within the latter.) There is a storage pocket in each door, but just a single seat-back pouch for the benefit of rear-seat occupants. Paired cup holders reside in the console and pull-down center armrest.
While it presents an improvement over the cargo capacity of the CX-3, the CX-30’s cargo hold (20.2 cubic feet behind the second-row seats) is hardly cavernous. The 60/40-split rear seats fold at a bit of an angle, and at a slight offset above the cargo floor, but a filler panel smooths out the transition.
In a crossover-SUV market that seems to abhor a vacuum, the CX-30 gives Mazda the vehicle it needed to suck up customers it was missing.
Enjoy episode 8 of the Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast in which the CG crew discusses the all-new Mazda CX-30.
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