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2024 Mazda CX-30

Diminutive Mazda crossover offers fun driving dynamics

The highly successful Zoom Zoom tag line best describes Mazda’s success. It’s carved out a neat little niche distinguishing itself from larger Asian Pacific automakers and their American counterparts.

Mazda vehicles build in fun-to-drive characteristics with cornering and handling upgrades a step above similar-sized mainstream competitors.  Our five-door CX-30 tester stands out among its rivals in the subcompact crossover segment with such standard nuances as i-ACTIVE all-wheel drive and G-Vectoring Control Plus technology delivering more pep in its step.

The 2024 Mazda lineup returns with a decent selection of five-door crossovers, the iconic two-door MX-5 Miata and a four-door sedan.  General Motors, Ford and Stellantis abandoned the sedan market, presenting more opportunities for the more-than-competent Mazda3 sedan. The CX-30 crossover bases off this compact platform, a sturdy base from which to build upon.

All vehicles start with lighter-weight, uni-body, car-type underpinnings instead of heavier truck-like body-on-frame structures.  In fact, no pickup trucks or full-size body-on-frame SUVs inhabit the Mazda lineup, just fuel-efficient rides with pricing in reach of the working class.

Arriving as an all-new model in the 2020 model year, the current 2024 CX-30 returns with first-generation underpinnings and minor content changes from a year prior. A new Carbon Turbo trim level joins the club while the Select trim now identifies as the Select Sport.

It’s the smallest crossover Mazda offers (consider it a subcompact) with circular wheel wells and lower extremities covered by a black composite helping eliminate paint dings. Circular taillights include the amber turn signal blinker inside while up front, circular LEDs ensconce inside wrap around housing.

The Mazda CX-30 eventually replaced the similarly spelled CX-3 (minus the end Zero), a slightly smaller crossover arriving in the 2015 model year.  In the 2020 and 2021 model years, dealers sold CX-3 and CX-30 side by side until the CX-3’s quiet and predicted retirement at the end of 2021. Mazda’s CX-30 measures more than four inches longer than a CX-3 with a three-inch longer wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle), noticeably more second row leg room and a higher horsepower base engine. Consider it a large-sized opportunity in the subcompact realm.

Sales of the CX-30 reached 77,075 units in 2023, a staunch 46 percent increase from 2022 and qualifying as Mazda’s second-leading sales go-getter behind the slightly bigger, CX-5 compact crossover.

Our 2024 CX-30 tester is available with the choice of two veteran (been around and tested for a while) internal combustion gas engines: a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four cylinder cranking out 191 horsepower, or a highly regarded and recommended 2.5-liter turbocharged upping horses to 227.  The turbo choice rates as one of the quickest in its class, Both mate to a conventional, six-speed automatic transmission. For the time being, Mazda’s lineup solely promotes internal combustion engine motives with no high-volume Electric Vehicles (EVs) found within the 2024 lineup. In the next few years, Mazda promises an EV choice or two.

The base engine recommends regular, 87-octane fuel.  The turbo selection accepts either 87 or 93 octane fuel with the higher-grade boosting horsepower to 250. The fuel tank holds 12.7 gallons. Mazda introduced the turbo 2.5 liter workhorse in the 2018 model year and rates as the company’s most popular engine offered under hood of all products sans the two-door MX-5 Miata. If the budget allows, opt for the turbo, a top performer within mainstream subcompacts. 

This turbo’s performance numbers plus and high compression ratio work wonders in the CX-30.  It’s relatively light weight compared to heftier CX-50 and CX-90 crossovers adds more zoom per smile while rivals remain enveloped with envy.  The base engine offers 26 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway, the best result of the two; decent, but not class leading for the segment.  The turbo checks in with a 22/30 split.

A wide array of trim levels (eight total) await CX-30 shoppers with standard content levels increasing as one ascends the trim ladder. The base engine offers five trims while the turbo engine boasts three. All things considered, even the base S trim comes relatively well-equipped. Few stand-along options or option packages await helping speed along decision making time at the dealership.

Pricing for our 2.5-liter Turbo tester with Premium Plus Package started at $36,800, the most opulent and priciest 2024 version with comfortable leather-type seating.  The only factory extra included: $450 for upgraded gray metallic exterior paint.  While enticing, there’s more premium paints to ponder.  if spending an extra half-a-grand for pretty paint, opt for Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal Metallic, one of the yummiest and visually gratifying hues available from any manufacturer.  The $450 paint surcharge is downright reasonable as some luxury automakers have upped exotic paint pricing to a $5,000 level with results no better than the Soul selection. 
 
Our bottom line ended at $38,760 with $135 dealer-installed rear bumper guard and $1,376 destination charge.  Equipment solely available in this top trim include automatically dimming rear and driver’s side mirrors, front/rear parking sensors, 360-degree view monitor and much appreciated rear cross traffic alert.  The lowest-priced CX-30 trim; a naturally-aspirated S starts at $24,995.

Since the 2022 model year, all Mazda crossovers come standard with advanced all-wheel drive marketed as i-ACTIV. It’s not full-time all-wheel drive (powering all four wheels whenever the engine hums) but ‘active,’ all-wheel drive, sending power to front tires during normal situations and automatically summoning the rear tires to join when sensing slippage.  This type of “active’ all-wheel drive also conserves fuel better than the full-time structure. 
 
Mazda’s i-ACTIV design addresses this issue by collecting data not only from wheel speed and engine dynamics, but 27 other variables up to 200 times per second.  These variables include G-forces, outside temperature, braking activity and even windshield wiper speeds and help create a precise, seamless, instant shift from front wheel to all-wheel activity. 

Standard G-Vectoring Control Plus delivers a constant steering feel while keeping all onboard planted during spirited turns and lane changes. As driver’s steer out of a corner, GVC Plus applies a light brake force through reduced engine torquing to outer wheels, motivating the vehicle back into to a straight-line motion. This GVC Plus technology also limits slippage during inclement weather. 
 
Most CX-30 interiors come with black hues, the notable outliers being the naturally-aspirated Carbon Edition with an exclusive red interior and the Turbo Carbon Edition featuring terracotta. Both Premium Packages offer a second interior color choice of white. Front bucket seating enjoys an elevated design compared with other subcompacts, a big advantage for shoppers prioritizing hassle-free ingress/egress.

The seven-inch instrument panel presents an old-school format with three circular, chrome-framed dials; the end two featuring bright white illuminated needles moving with analog-like precision detailing easily interpreted fuel, engine temperature and tachometer data.  Information remains available at a glance without overwhelming drivers. The larger, center circle includes three layouts cycled from an ‘info’ steering wheel button. One design promotes a digital speedometer while a second conforms to a gauge-look. Outside temperature and miles to empty remain digitally visible no matter the layout selected.

Look to the upper dash for the flat, multi-function screen residing in a tub-like central scoop.  Turbo models include a larger 10.3-inch rectangular size while base engines supply an 8.8-inch variety. Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration comes standard with wireless charging standard in all turbo and naturally-aspirated Carbon and Premium trims.

The screen sits too far off for convenient touch operation, so Mazda relies upon its ‘Mazda Connect’ interface. A twist/push-down dial (multifunction commander control) between front bucket seats works with the driver’s right hand to move an in-screen highlighter for traveling between tutorials and screens. A second stalk-like dial operates volume/on/off. Quick, short cut push buttons surround the larger dial summoning popular categories including music, home and mapping. It’s relatively easy to master with a little practice and superior to the now retired remote interface design once promoted by luxury automaker Lexus. 
 
Also nearby, a small toggle-like bar for switching between normal and sport driving modes.      Also in the neighborhood, a vertical-shifting mechanical six-speed automatic transmission grab handle and side-by-side beverage holders. The arm rest/storage bin includes a back hinged top that also slides back several inches to access inside USB ports.

Directly above along the lower central dash, a separate region monitoring HVAC controls with dual temperature zone dials flanking a row of push buttons summoning front/rear defrosters, fan speed and fan direction all accompanied by visual cues artfully displayed in the rectangular window above.  Take a bow Mazda, for keeping convenient tactile HVAC controls within easy reach rather than nesting commands inside the multi-function screen.

Row two includes a 60/40 manually folding backrest dropping into a flat format onto seat cushions expanding the cargo area. The back portion of the two front buckets include a scooped portion allowing extra knee room, greatly welcome as both head and leg room speak a cozy language.  The vertical transmission hump down the floor center provides optimal sectioning for two adults. Anymore and the floor incursion comes into play for a tight squeeze.

Lift up the cargo area flooring to find a temporary spare tire standard in all trims.  Many manufacturers have quietly forgone this handy safety orb to save money and weight.

2024 Mazda CX-30

Price as tested: $38,760
Engine: 2.5-liter turbo four cylinder
Horsepower: Up to 250
Wheelbase:  104.4inches
Overall Length: 173 inches
Overall Height:  62.2 inches
Overall Width: 70.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,527 pounds
Fuel Economy:  22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Assembly:  Salamanca, Mexico