Driven

Tough Fit: 2020 Mazda CX-30

We’ll get right down to it; this CX-30 was a tough one to really get a handle on. Looking just at the spec sheet, you realize that you’re gaining next to nothing compared to the Mazda 3 hatchback. And after our winter test not that long ago, you really struggle to fall in love with the CX-30. We also like the CX-3, the CX-5 and CX-9 very much, but this CX-30 doesn’t fit in name or likability. Why is that?

2020 Mazda CX-30 4

The CX-30 is based on the aforementioned Mazda 3, and that’s a good thing. The cabin has great materials, the seating position is perfect, and the ride and handling are Mazda sharp. But unlike the 3, this CX-30 is pretending to be something that it isn’t. The CX-3 is not a small crossover, it’s a hatchback. The CX-5 is a CUV and is the dynamic star of the segment. Splitting the minute distance, the CX-30 seems to be in a place in Mazda’s lineup that has no real need. If you’re going to raise the ride height on a Mazda 3, try to make it something memorable rather than a name that doesn’t actually fit in your nomenclature.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, lets actually talk about what’s good with the CX-30. The cabin, and all touchpoints have that over-the-top feel of luxury that Mazda affords you for a reasonable price. At a touch over $31,000 this CX-30 is cheaper than the last Mazda 3 that we drove by a not insignificant $700. The interior infotainment is the same as the new Mazda 3 as well, with its new touchscreen and knob format. It is definitely easier to use than Mazda’s old system, but it is by no means intuitive. I had the car for a week, and I still wasn’t really sure how to use much more than the basic radio controls, Bluetooth pairing and simple navigation options.

The dynamics still aren’t quite there with this CX-30 due to it’s elevated positioning. We found the current generation Mazda 3 a bit soft compared to something like the Hyundai Elantra GT, and this CX-30 is a bit of the same. The Hyundai Kona Ultimate that we just tested was definitely more fun with its dual-clutch transmission and peppy 1.6L turbocharged engine. Mazda is throwing a turbocharged engine in the 3, and we hope that makes its way to the CX-30 because this car really needs to rev to get moving. It’s certainly not as slow as the Toyota C-HR , but it isn’t exactly up on the pace of the Kona. The saving grace here is that Mazda does not use a CVT like many others in the segment (we’re looking at you Honda, Nissan and Subaru). It provides actual shift points, and when in sport mode the shifts are prompt and don’t disturb the actual drive. The steering is still the highlight here, with the CX-30 being far more precise than even the Kona in terms of ability to gauge the relationship of your inputs to actual maneuvers on the road. We praised Mazda for its steering in every one of their cars, and this is no different.

2020 Mazda CX-30 2

On the outside, this looks much like the new 3 in shape and size. The plastic cladding on the sides was hidden due to our dark blue hue, but it doesn’t look great with lighter colors. We wish Mazda would keep the cladding along the wheel wells smaller like they do on the CX-3 and CX-5. The fact that it carries all the way around to the entire back bumper also cheapens the up-scale vibe Mazda is pushing for the CX-30.

2020 Mazda CX-30 8

This probably sounded a little on the harsh side, but that’s because we’re huge fans of Mazda and the brand itself. The CX-3 is my favorite in their “SUV” lineup, and I had really high hopes for this CX-30. With the bar set so high, I came away slightly underwhelmed. But maybe it isn’t so much a problem with the CX-30 as it was with the perception Mazda tried to create. I think Mazda should have called it a “3 X” or something that allowed it to have a unique identity rather try to fit it between the CX-3 and CX-5.

-Scott Villeneuve

2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium Package AWD
$29,600
Audio Plus $275
Two-Tone Paint $450
Destination Charges $1,045
As Tested MSRP $31,370

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Practical Elegance: 2020 Mazda 6 Signature

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