Home Reviews 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo: Hot…Crossover?

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo: Hot…Crossover?

Mazda cx30

cx30-35.jpgThe CX-30 strikes an interesting balance between two of the best selling types of cars on the market: a crossover and a hatchback. Now in its second year, Mazda brings a huge improvement: a turbo option. So, is it a hot hatchback? Or is it a CUV? This is what I set out to determine while reviewing my time with this curious new addition to Mazda’s immense lineup of capable people-carriers.
Out of Spec Score: 79/100
Styling  8/10cx30-36.jpgKodo – Soul of Motion, is Mazda’s design ethos introduced at the 2010 LA Motor Show with the Shinari concept car. Since then, Kodo design has been central to most of the Mazda lineup. The Mazda3 was the first to take Mazda truly into the “new generation” of their Kodo design language. The CX-30 is based on the Mazda3 platform, so it only makes sense that it brings in some familiar elements. Overall, it’s an interesting conglomerate of elegance and ruggedness. The thick plastic cladding along the sides and wheel arches is the most distinct feature, a dead giveaway to separate CX-30 from the rest of Mazda’s vehicles. It’s understandable that they used cladding, as it is functional for protecting lower paint from kicked-up rocks, but I do find it a bit too thick for its own good. Another use for cladding is to give the impression of being “slender”- deceivingly so. But the extra lifted nature of the CX-30 almost counteracts the effect. cx30-31.jpgHeadlights and taillights are beautiful and distinctly Mazda, with the taillights having a torpedo-like appearance. The grill has a chrome surround on the lower part, leading over below the headlights as well, though it sticks out a bit and looks, and feels, like a slight afterthought. I go back and forth on the chrome. The CX-30 otherwise has an aggressive rugged appearance, but it is disrupted by the chrome on the front fascia as well as chrome around part of the side windows. Though on the other hand, it breaks up the otherwise monotonous black accenting. This particular color is the Polymetal Grey Metallic, and paired with the unique Mazda split-5 spoke wheels in black, it makes a good, sleek styling for 8 out of 10.
Interior 8.5/10cx30-24.jpgMazda excels with interior design. It’s truly understated elegance, though somewhat to a fault. We’ll get to more of my thoughts on the technology limitation in that section, but design-wise, the interior is quite good. For the price, I am not sure it can be beat. The leather is real, and in this color scheme it is actually two-toned. You’ll find a mix of a dark brown with black, which is often considered a faux pas in fashion, but it somehow works here. Contrast stitching finishes it out nicely. Most of the interior is a sleek black color, with occasional brushed aluminum parts accenting it nicely. Everything is laid out where you would expect it, which means you won’t need to spend much time hunting for settings or features. cx30-13.jpgThe steering wheel feels excellent to the touch, with the soft-touch leather wrapping it gracefully, though the paddles are a miss in my opinion. They’re so small and out-of-the-way, which may be a benefit in some regard, but Mazda could have leaned into the sporty nature, especially with the turbo power plant supporting it. I think slightly larger, aluminum paddles would have been an excellent touch, but the wheel overall is beautiful and nice to use. Just behind it are equally nice stalks, and Mazda did what few dare to do: the rain sensing wiper setting is the symmetrical setting. It’s subtle, but as someone with a bit of OCD, I value that choice. cx30-04.jpg

The center console opens a bit awkwardly, needing to first slide back to open, but it hosts another good soft-touch point, and the gear selector is simple but effective. Climate control is floating above, with a simple and intuitive interface and the knobs I value so much. Far above it is the screen, floating above the dashboard with its thick black bezels. The screen itself is nice, but bezels and user input are a downside… more on that in the tech section. The rear does not feature a third climate zone, nor does it have heated seats, a few more things to separate it from its bigger, more luxurious CX-brothers. Rear leg room is also compromised a bit, due to the slightly shorter chassis from the Mazda3 on which it’s based. But overall, a stunning interior at 8.5 out of 10.
Performance 8.5/10


This is where the “heat” comes in. I would have never questioned a CUV being a hot hatchback, nor even most hatchbacks in general. It’s a specific class of car in my opinion, and not many truly take the title. It was a question worth asking though, given the numbers and powertrain. 250hp and 320 lb-ft of torque are fantastic figures, albeit requiring premium fuel. Those drop just a bit on normal unleaded but still remain respectable. This is provided by a 2.3L turbo-charged inline-4, mated to Mazda’s bulletproof 6-speed automatic transmission.



My thoughts on the transmission are mixed, as it is a solid piece of engineering, but it’s also amidst a market of 8, 9, and even 10 speed automatics. If they added a couple more gears, it could improve fuel economy, but that doesn’t seem to be their obsession. The AWD system handles the terrain well, whether paved twisty roads or dirt trails. Placing it into off-road mode helps the system send more power where it needs traction, though you would hope it does this regardless. When pushed hard in canyon roads, there was a bit of differential noise, as though it just wasn’t made to push that hard. In its defense, we probably drove harder than 98% of the general public.

The 0-60 time is an impressive stated 5.8 seconds, putting it right on part with Mazda’s sports car, the MX-5 Miata. Granted, up at altitude it’s a touch slower, but it still sits you back in your seat on launch. Acceleration never felt lacking, with the only waiting time a combination of the transmission finding gear and turbo spooling up. But it was about as immediate as it can be given the parameters. I enjoyed every moment of driving the CX-30. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s one of the most engaging CUVs I’ve encountered, influencing the score of 8.5 out of 10.

Practicality 8/10


In many ways, simply being a CUV gives it an air of practicality. Though interestingly enough, there is slightly less space than the Mazda3 hatchback in nearly every regard. The storage capacity behind the second row is about the same, at 20 cubic feet. But rear passenger room is slightly constrained compared to the Mazda3. That being said, it’s certainly passible for adults. Sitting behind myself (driver side front and rear) gave me enough knee and head room, though at 6 feet tall, it wasn’t exactly spacious. Rear seats folded down gives you a full 45 cubic feet of space, only two cubic feet short of the Mazda3’s slightly longer platform.


Practicality also encompasses fuel economy, and it’s certainly decent as far as turbocharged internal combustion CUVs go. Mazda advertises 22 in the city, 30 on the highway, though admittedly less if you drive it like a hot hatch. Even so, compared to the rest of the cars on the road as a whole, it is a good amount of space and fairly good fuel economy, granting it an 8 out of 10.

Comfort 8/10


Given the beauty of the interior, I hoped for comfort to be a 9, but there were just a few ways it could have been improved, especially with Mazda going after the luxury segment. The seats were nice to the touch, but not my favorite to sit in. Granted, that’s a relatively subjective view given the variety of passengers it could embrace. The steering wheel was very nice to use, and heated as well. You’ll also find the heated front seats, but no ventilated option or heated rear seats. Those could have given it the extra mile in cabin comfort, but understandably reserved for the larger CX-5 and CX-9. That being said, I wish they would offer these things on any of their models, as some people genuinely want something smaller, not just less-featured. But all things considered, it’s a well-optioned, comfortable CUV at 8 out of 10.

Tech 7/10


Mazda was an early adopter of the user-input-by-dial interface, and it is very intuitive and easy to learn. However, their interface isn’t exactly pretty, nor super functional. There are many times I wish I could just touch the screen, but brings me to a significant downside: the screen has no touch functionality. You are required to use the dial for all input. Again, it’s intuitive and their logic is relatively sound, wanting the driver to have fewer distractions. But I’d rather have the option, then maybe automatic disabling of the screen during driving, but I suppose it’s not my problem to solve.


There is a lack of wireless CarPlay, though that is still not entirely widespread in the industry yet. However, it would have been a nice addition and a step towards the higher-end cars that Mazda aims to compete with. But the screen is nice quality, the heads up display is well-executed, and the technology overall is enjoyable to use. The heads up display even features the same blind-spot monitoring in its own visual cues, a welcome and unique trait I have never seen before. A fully digital gauge cluster and a few more options would be a further step towards luxury, but overall 7 out of 10 in technology.

Connected Services 8/10


Mazda didn’t slack, and nor did they go above and beyond. But they gave you everything you arguably need in a connected world. You’ll find Apple CarPlay, albeit not wireless like I mentioned. There’s also Android Auto, Sirius XM, and Mazda’s app for remote start, unlock, and tracking maintenance. You most likely won’t find yourself missing anything other than the lack of wireless CarPlay, especially in the luxury segment Mazda is aiming for. 8 out of 10 in connectivity.

Active Safety 7/10


The CX-30 is fairly run-of-the-mill for active safety features. You’ll find a typical suite within their i-ACTIVSENSE system, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise, smart brake support, and lane-keep assist, although that is only applicable at 40 mph and faster. The lane-keep assist was fairly useful, but not entirely trustworthy. Most new cars on the road are quite safe, especially compared to decades past, but there are again a few ways Mazda could have improved and provided in an effort to give it a more premium safety experience, resulting in 7 out of 10.

Value 8/10


There were a few things I would have liked to see improved, but I have to weigh everything when gauging value. Mazda is aiming at two very different crowds with their vehicles, those who appreciate luxury and those who appreciate driving dynamics. Paired with their attainable price tag, it gives great value to the equation. The CX-30 Turbo Premium Plus that I was able to spend time with was right about $35,000 and left me overall impressed. I do wish there were just a few things they had added, especially given this top-of-the-line spec of the CX-30. I feel confident in the value of 8 out of 10.

Editors Influence 8/10


I have enjoyed watching Mazda progress as a brand, and I appreciate their take of all-in-one branding. There is no premium or base sub-brands to separate in the lineup, but rather one line of well-executed cars that retain a good driving feel. I enjoyed my time with the CX-30, and it continued to grow the more I drove it. My only complaints would theoretically be solved with the Mazda3 hatchback, and unless you absolutely need the added ground clearance or love the mass amount of black plastic cladding, the Mazda3 is a winning choice. But in its defense, I did take it on an off-road excursion and the ground clearance and off-road mode were welcome features. It may not be my first pick for most of my driving, but it’s still a favorite, with an 8 out of 10.


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I love the trajectory of transportation. It's always fascinating to see the emergence of technology within vehicles, and how they compete. I have a tremendous appreciation for EVs and old British all-mechanical roadsters alike. My personal daily driver is a NC Miata, but hoping to add an EV to the mix soon.