ROAD TEST: 2020 Mazda CX-30 GS AWD

By Shari Prymak

Mazda is a company which has long based its reputation around sporty, fun to drive cars that are well-made and affordable to purchase. Like many automakers, however, Mazda’s focus has shifted away from cars towards high-demand crossovers and SUVs. As a result, the company now has a crossover-heavy lineup with models that span from the tiny CX-3 all the way up to the three-row CX-9.  Somewhere in the middle sits the CX-30, which is a subcompact crossover for Mazda fans seeking a small, affordable package.

The CX-30 sits between CX-3 and CX-5 in terms of size and price point. It is essentially a Mazda3 Sport hatchback in crossover form with the same basic design elements and overall look. Mazda achieved the cliché crossover look by essentially adding chunky plastic wheel cladding and extra ground clearance to the hatchback body style. In terms of utility, the CX-30 has roughly the same amount of interior space as the Mazda3 Sport, making it reasonably practical. Although not as useful as the CX-5, it is far more spacious than the extremely tight CX-3.

Like the exterior, the interior largely mimics the Mazda3 with an attractive design, premium finishes, and an upscale feel that boarders on entry-level luxury. All of the controls have a precise expensive feel to them, and the surfaces within eyesight are covered in quality materials. Although the steering wheel and climate controls are easy to use, the infotainment system takes time to master and makes simple tasks such as changing radio stations a bit cumbersome. The 8.8 inch display is controlled using a rotary dial and buttons on the centre console which Mazda claims helps keep eyes on the road. Although the native interface is a bit confusing, the system is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

Unsurprisingly, the CX-30 feels like a slightly lifted Mazda3 from behind the wheel. The same crisp handling and sporty feel for which the 3 are well known remain intact. Although the base GX model comes equipped with a modest 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, all other models receive a brawnier 2.5L engine which produces a class-leading 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. The engine offers an adequate amount of power with a reasonable fuel economy rating of about 8.5L/100km in mixed city and highway driving. Buyers looking for longevity and ease of ownership should appreciate the simplicity of the smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission in place of a CVT, lack of complicated turbochargers, and the lack of an annoying engine start-stop system.

The CX-30 starts at $23,950 in GX front-wheel drive form, and climbs as high as $33,850 for the GT model with all-wheel drive. The pricing for the CX-30 represents roughly a $1,500 to $2,300 price premium over the equivalent Mazda3 Sport model which also comes in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive. The sweet spot in the range seems to be the mid-level GS with all-wheel drive and the available Luxury Package for $31,000. The only notable omission is smart keyless entry which Mazda annoyingly reserves for the top GT model. The GT also adds a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system, head up display, parking sensors, and a class-exclusive power liftgate.  

Compared to established rivals such as the Honda HR-V, Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Kona, and Nissan Qashqai, the Mazda CX-30 stands out as an attractive option. It doesn’t have the best infotainment system and it isn’t the most spacious vehicle in its class, but it does offer a sporty feel, the most power, and what is arguably the most luxury-leaning package. Mazda’s reputation for reliability, high resale value, and an unlimited mileage warranty help add to its appeal as well. Those keen on having a small Mazda crossover but find the CX-3 to be just too small should be quiet satisfied with the CX-30. It may not offer much over a Mazda3 besides the trendy look and a higher ride height, but it does the small crossover thing well and that’s what matters.