The subcompact crossover utility market is flooded with models with every manufacturer participating. At present, Mazda is represented by one entry, the CX-30, retiring the CX-3 last year. The duo was based on separate platforms with the latter offering a more polished look and standard all-wheel drive. The CX-30 is the focus of this review, so we’ll concentrate on this model primarily, with an occasional mention of other Mazda products when suitable.
2022 Mazda CX-30 Overview
The 2022 Mazda CX-30 is a subcompact SUV with room for five. It rides on a front-wheel-drive platform, but unlike nearly every competitor, this one comes with standard all-wheel drive.
Mazda prices the 2022 CX-30 from $22,200, plus a $1,225 destination charge ($1,270 in Alaska). That’s a solid starting price for a small model with standard all-wheel drive. From there, Mazda offers eight additional trim and package upgrades, with the range-topping 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus retailing for an eyebrow-raising $34,400. That seems high and it is…but it is largely justified by the premium thrust of this model. Yes, we feel comfortable comparing this Mazda to certain luxury models, including the Audi Q3.
Mazda Versus the Competition
There are a dizzying number of models in the subcompact segment. Some are not fully crossover utility vehicles, but they are worth comparing. The Kia Soul is one model that comes to mind.
Otherwise, the list includes the Kia Seltos and the electric Niro. The Toyota C-HR and Corolla Cross also do battle. From Chevrolet, you have the Trax and TrailBlazer, while Buick serves up the Encore and Encore GT. The Honda HR-V, Volkswagen Taos, Subaru Crosstrek, and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, are also competitors. Incidentally, the Subaru is the only other model in this segment with standard all-wheel drive. Moreover, some models such as the Seltos and C-HR do not offer all-wheel drive.
We are not done yet looking at the competitors. Ford, Dodge, GMC, and Fiat are absent, having recently canceled models or are simply absent, as in the case of Dodge. The Hyundai Kona and Venue, MINI Cooper, and Jeep Renegade are also worth a mention.
What helps the CX-30 stand out is its exquisite styling. It rivals the look of other Mazda models, such as the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback and the larger CX-50 crossover. It has all the right curves without looking overwrought. Carefully placed body sculpting imparts elegance and refinement. Beautiful lighting elements, sophisticated wheel choices, and lovely color options clinch it.
We do not know of any other mainstream model with as much attention to detail as the CX-30. That is why luxury models come into play when considering the Mazda.
Inside, the cabin is comfortable but small. It may seat five on paper, but it is ideal for four. Even so, we think that this model appeals best to single people or couples. Fold down the rear seat and there is sufficient room for a week’s worth of luggage.
The cabin, though, is luxuriously appointed with leather seats, a leather-wrapped dashboard, and other leather touches. Real metal trims, an uncluttered interface, and a subdued vibe accompany this model. The front seats are very comfortable and supportive, ideally designed for long trips.
Safety and Technology
The list of standard driver-assist technologies under the brand’s i-Activesense umbrella includes automatic high beam headlights. Adaptive cruise control with full stop and go, automatic braking, and lane departure warning and control are all standard.
Other available features include adaptive headlights, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and road sign recognition. Mazda also makes available reverse automatic emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, and a head-up display.
On the tech front, we admittedly are not a fan of the Mazda interface. Indeed, the standard 8.8-inch display is attractive, but it lacks a touchscreen element. Otherwise, a knob or voice control makes access possible. Other features included range from an 8-speaker audio system with HD Radio to two USB ports. A Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are standard.
Move up the package and trim range and a 12-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio is included. Navigation and a 7-inch digital instrument panel are also available.
If it is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, that is what you will find underneath the hood of every 2022 CX-30. It has a larger displacement than most competitors and it comes in two forms: naturally aspirated and turbocharged.
The standard version makes an even 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Although not the engine powering our Premium Turbo model it delivers ample power. Both engines work with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Upgrading to the turbo brings this model to another level. Indeed, the performance output is outstanding, reaching 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque with regular grade unleaded gasoline. But if optimum performance is something you desire, then 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque follow when fueling with premium-grade gasoline is within reach.
What’s incredible about these numbers is that they are not only the best in class but beat not a few larger models with V6 engines.
On the Road
Is the CX-30 just another SUV? Happily, it is not. What it does on the road sets it apart from the competition, especially with the optional turbo engine. We think the standard engine is sufficient for the typical buyer, but for the customer desiring performance chops, the turbo rocks.
Indeed, that same turbo was previously offered in the now discontinued Mazda6 and also powers the full-size Mazda CX-9. Mazda makes it available in other products, including the Mazda3 and CX-50. The engine gets around and it moves the CX-30 forward with authority.
Our experience and the comments of people who have driven the CX-30 note just how fun to drive it is. The base engine scoots with ease, but the turbo delivers strong low-end power and excellent passing performance. With its standard all-wheel-drive, the CX-30 also corners like a car. It reminds us of the MX-5 Miata in that regard, despite its higher profile. Weighted steering and wonderful feedback belie what a crossover should deliver and to the cheers of all. Somehow, this little crossover pretends it’s a pocket rocket with its elevated ground clearance and added weight.
One of the biggest surprises is the 6-speed automatic transmission. Where most competitors utilize at least two additional cogs, the Mazda manages well with its half-dozen. We do not think the gear difference is much of an issue. Besides, there is much to be said for transmission dependability.
The CX-30 amazes and for most of the right reasons. We give it props for style, performance, and class. Truly, Mazda could have aimed straight for the mainstream market and called it a day, but it is clear the brand is headed upmarket.
On the flip side, the high-end cost of the CX-30 at the top end will give some people pause. Especially when they see competing models and the standard trim costing far less. Again, comparing this “cute ute” with other luxury models makes sense, thereby largely justifying its cost without the naming cachet.
All in all, we cannot think of a reason not to consider the CX-30. The standard all-wheel drive is a difference-maker that places the Mazda firmly in rare company and giving it an edge in an oversaturated segment.
Photos courtesy of Mazda North American Operations.