A 2021 Mazda CX-30 Joins Our Fleet to See If It Can Hold Our Attention

Ryan White
·5-min read
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

From Car and Driver

Introduction

In 2019, when we took the keys to a CX-5 for a 40,000-mile long-term test, we wrote that "Mazda has few obvious problems." The CX-5 supported that conclusion, proving "easy to love," earning 10Best honors in 2020 and 2021, and exhibiting uncommon excellence despite belonging to a segment we generally greet with a resigned sigh.

We tolerate compact SUVs because they're popular, but we celebrate Mazdas because they're good. The tension between those ideas, plus the rising popularity of small SUVs, makes for interesting work. The CX-5 won us over. So, let's up the degree of difficulty.

The CX-30 is a subcompact SUV, a segment that typically prompts a single frustrated question: Why aren't you a car? Recall, if you will, our review of the 2020 CX-30, which began, "Have you considered the Mazda 3?"

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

The 3 is roughly the same size as the CX-30, give or take a tuck or tweak here and there, and it's available as a hatchback. We like the 3 a lot. Despite already building the 3 and a similarly sized crossover, the CX-3, Mazda introduced the CX-30 for 2020. Why? Because people like to sit a little higher these days, and higher sells.

Any other reasons? We're about to find out over 40,000 miles with a 2021 CX-30. Now in its second production year, Mazda didn't change much from the CX-30's debut run except to add an optional turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that's good for 250 horsepower.

"I heard we got the non-turbo," staff editor Austin Irwin messaged shortly after the CX-30 arrived. To ensure his feelings were clear, he punctuated the sentence with a sad-face emoji.

We did not get the turbo. Sad-face emoji.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Our all-wheel-drive CX-30 came with the standard 2.5-liter inline-four and six-speed automatic transmission. It makes 186 horsepower and ran to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds in our initial testing. It hit the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds at 89 mph and pulled 0.85 g on the skidpad. Those are decent numbers. The Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo we recently tested did zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Just pointing that out.

The CX-30 starts at $23,000, which is $155 less than the "all-wheel drive is standard" base Subaru Crosstrek and $4390 more than the "it's front-drive or no drive" Kia Soul. There's value in the CX-30 in either direction, even when tacking on the $1400 for all-wheel drive.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

We got the Preferred Package, which includes a power driver's seat, memory positioning for the exterior mirrors, heated front seats, a power sliding-glass moonroof, and driver's seat memory. But we stayed light on options for this one. We picked up all-weather floor mats ($150) and a rear bumper guard ($125). That's it. The as-tested price totaled $29,075. We took delivery and promptly set about running SUV-like errands in our SUV-like car (or our carlike SUV).

The first coffee spill came on a run to City Hall to drop off a ballot. The first grownup shunted to the back seat (kids are quick to grab the heated front passenger seat) surveyed her surroundings and said, "They make the most of the space they've got back here." A quick run to the driving range revealed that golf clubs fit in the aft cargo area without folding the rear seats. Barely.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Since we're still working from home, we ran some simulated commutes through town, out on country roads and on the highway. We recommend the country drive, especially in autumn. It's lovely, and there are just enough twists and turns to prove the CX-30 moves like a Mazda. It's playful enough to be fun.

The black on navy interior with leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel makes for high-quality company. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen is fine, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard at the Select Package level. (That's one down from our Preferred.) The Deep Crystal Blue Mica paint job has already earned compliments. If there are quirks to be found, our planned lap and a half or so around the Earth should shake them out.

"Such a comfortable little medium SUV" begins the first entry in the logbook, which brings us back to our 40,000-mile challenge: What exactly is the CX-30, and why does it exist?

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

We had a different CX-30 at this year's 10Best testing and comments ranged from "true to the Mazda ethos" and "much more in the realm of Audi and BMW than Chevy and Toyota" to "just get the Mazda 3."

Have you considered one of those?

Of course, you have. Through October, Mazda sold nearly 28,000 3s in North America in 2020, but that's down almost 37 percent from the same point a year ago. The CX-3's sales numbers this year are also down, by 27.5 percent (7485 sold). The upshot for Mazda is that those declines could be ascribed to the appeal of the CX-30, which moved 31,007 units through October. In the Thunderdome of Mazda dealerships, the CX-30 is thriving, and Mazda buyers appear to (narrowly) prefer it to the 3. We'll let you know if there needs to be a recount.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 3597 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 28 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 12.7 gal Observed Fuel Range: 350 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0

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