2020 Mazda CX30 Review

2020 Mazda CX30 - Mazda adds a 'tweener' crossover


Mazda North American Operations forges forward as the little car company that can.  It's not the largest Pacific Rim automaker, not by a long shot, but its nimble size creates an environment rewarding innovative ideas with considerably less corporate red tape to slice through.

Instead of spotlighting pickup trucks with dozens of variants and bulky, body-on-frame sport utility vehicles, Mazda provides a smaller, simpler lineup of sedans, five-door uni-body (car based) crossovers and its notable halo vehicle.

Mazda flips the automotive script by redefining and rewriting what a 'flagship' or 'halo' vehicle constitutes.  These aspirational, dream machines drive foot traffic into dealerships; often times showboating eye-candy outside the financial frame of most families.

Mazda's halo choice since 1989 remains the two-seat MX-5 Miata, an affordable open top gem "making driving fun again." The MX-5 Miata's DNA runs through company's entire line of fun-to-drive, competitively-priced products.

Adding to Mazda's growing five-door crossover stable is the impressive, all-new 2020 CX-30.  The CX prefix represents Mazda's five-door crossover clan already boasting the subcompact CX-3, compact CX-5 and mid-size, three-row CX-9.  From Mazda's marketing standpoint CX-30 slides between CX-3 and CX-5, call it a comfy sub tweener.

Which leads to an obvious question; "Why not just slap a consistent numerical suffix on this newbie and call it CX-4?"  The short answer; Mazda already markets a CX-4 in China with a completely different structure than this new 2020 CX-30, which crafts from the company's newest crossover platform.

In 2019, Mazda fitted its frisky compact Mazda 3 sedan with a new, fourth-generation platform. The CX-30 borrows these same underpinnings and plops a diminutive five-door body style atop providing pilots and passengers with a slightly higher driving/sitting positions and greater cargo capacity. Attractive, flowing "Kodo" exterior design cues found in the current Mazda 3 sedan carry forward to the sculpted CX-30.

Mazda's not the first automaker squeezing a smallish crossover in between already existing subcompacts and compacts.  South Korean auto mates Hyundai and Kia recently added diminutive tweens of their own (Venue and Seltos respectively). Expect additional crossover tweeners in the not so distant future as traditional sedans fade in favor of five-door selections.

Four CX-30 trim levels include Base, Select, Preferred and Premium, all available with front-wheel drive or Mazda's i-Activ branded all-wheel drive ($1,400 extra) with ultra-quick response time.  In normal operation, CX-30 operates with a majority of torque sent to the front wheels (98 percent), but if conditions change, proactive monitoring sensors send torque early and seamlessly to rear wheels for added grip early before slippage could become an issue.

Pricing starts at a comparatively attainable $21,900 for a base, front drive CX-30 with an impressive standard content level including numerous radar-enhanced safety features. Stand alone and packaged options remain minimal as each trim level builds upon the rung below, with top-dog Premium filled with the most bells and whistles.

Our glistening Soul Red Premium Crystal Metallic all-wheel drive Premium checked in at $29,600, ending at $31,965 including a $1,100 destination ding. The only stand-alone options were the premium exterior color ($595), frameless rear-view mirror ($275) and navigation SD card ($450).

Premium trims exclusively feature exterior roof rails, power lift gate, power-sliding moon roof, very comfy leather seating, windshield digital speedometer projection display and LED front and rear signature lighting.

One well-executed engine also simplifies the purchase process. Mazda's naturally aspirated (non-turbo charged) 2.5-liter, four-cylinder produces an impressive and class-leading 186 horsepower and connects to a conventional, six-speed automatic transmission. By contrast the Hyundai Venue pumps out 121 horsepower while Kia's Seltos provides 175.

The CX-30's inline four digests regular, 87-octane fuel and also powers the Mazda 3 sedan and larger CX-5 crossover. Fuel economy rates as average. Available in all CX-30 trims; a 'sport mode toggle tab' adjacent to the vertically sliding transmission shifter between front bucket seats, holding engine revs for a longer period.

Currently no gas-electric hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles dot dealerships, but Mazda set a goal to partially electrify all vehicles by this decade's end.

All CX-30 trims include Mazda's second-generation of G-Vectoring Control (GVC) introduced in the 2019 Mazda 3, providing an extra layer of stability during spirited turns, emergency maneuvers or tight lane changes. GVC's Generation One stabilized vehicles by reducing engine torque ever-so-slightly when executing a high-speed turn.  Lowering engine torque helps increase tire grip and responsiveness.

G-Vectoring Control 'Plus' builds upon Mazda's engine torque modulation by enhancing brake action when exiting out of a turn as driver's return the steering wheel to its home center positon.  The system lightly taps the outside front brake helping restore straight line stability.  Boiling it down; responsive steering rates high on CX-30's key attributes.

The CX-30's interior ambiance surpasses entry-level expectations.  The dashboard welcomes a pleasant, minimalist design (sans an overabundance of knobs and dials) replete with a mix of upscale surface material choices and a mid-size 8.8-inch multi-function flat screen protruding atop the midpoint and gently skewing toward the pilot.

A large, round, brushed aluminum tactile twist orb runs through the non-touch screen options. Just press down to select the screen curser selection.  An adjacent, smaller knob controls on/off and volume. Four quick-select buttons surround the larger dial summoning the home position and back-one option.  This 'Mazda Connect' infotainment system overcomplicates pre-setting radio stations and available navigation commands. Utilizing secondary steering wheel audio functions often times makes some jobs easier. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone compatibility comes standard in all trims sans Base.

The easily-digested, three-circle instrument panel mixes together analog and digital nuances with the large center orb offering a trio of digital window screens summoned by a steering wheel button. Two good-sized analog dials flank the center circle with sizable fuel-tank and oil temperature info (right side) and tachometer readout (left).

Leather seating in Premier trims offers a high degree of comfort thanks in part to welcome lumbar support. Second row seat backrests fold with a 60/40 split, expanding cargo carrying capacity into row two.  When prone, two adults fit with optimal comfort; threes not happening.

The 2020 CX-30 began arriving at dealerships towards the tail end of the 2019 calendar year with 899 units sold primarily in December, soon after the vehicle's U.S. debut at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in early November of 2019.

2020 Mazda CX-30

Price as tested: $31,965

Engine: 2.5-liter four cylinder

Horsepower:  186

Wheelbase: 104.5 inches

Overall Length:  173 inches

Overall Width:  70.7 inches

Overall Height:  61.7 inches

Fuel Economy:  25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway

Curb weight:  3,408 pounds

Powertrain warranty: five years/60,000 miles

Assembly:  Salamanca, Mexico

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.