When my wife first spotted the Mazda CX-30 Turbo, she asked whether we had had it already. Her confusion was understandable; Mazda incorporates the same exquisite Kodo design language throughout its lineup, particularly on SUVs I had driven before like the CX-5 and the CX-9 (both even wore the same Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint). The CX-30 brings that same style and luxury feel to the sprightly subcompact crossover segment — and, for 2021, Mazda even added the same turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four engine those cars use, as well.
The Mazda CX-30 was a hit with reviewers (us included) from the get-go. It feels like a premium car, if not quite a luxury one; plus, it has design-award-level looks (if you don’t stare too hard at the nearly Isuzu VehiCross-level cladding). It mostly carries over most of the driving dynamics from the excellent Mazda 3 with a bit (and we mean just a bit) more practicality. It’s hard to find a better all-around subcompact crossover.The one thing the CX-30 always lacked was oomph. The CX-30 Turbo provides that missing element, leveling the subcompact crossover up to 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque with the turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four. The car straddling the line between mass-market and luxury crossover now straddles the line between crossover and performance car.
The CX-30 Turbo sounds better on paper than it is in practice. It’s without question quicker when you punch it — Car and Driver testing shaved nearly two seconds off the 0-60 mph time — and it has substantially more in the can when you want to pass on the highway. The steering and handling remain a cut above the typical subcompact crossover, as well.
Still, it’s not particularly sporty. The added power highlights the limitations of Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission, and while it performed fine hurtled it down some curvy backroads, it wasn’t particularly zesty or fun. I cut short a vigorous drive to get back and catch up on some work — something that would never happen in, say, a Miata.
Like the rest of the Mazda lineup, the CX-30 Turbo feels more expensive than many competitors. Mazda does a better job emulating the look of a luxury cockpit at a reasonable price than any other manufacturer.
But when you get a family involved, the CX-30 is tiny. My wife and I had to sit basically up against the dash to accommodate our two kids in car seats. Plus, Mazda’s infotainment setup can be flagrantly annoying to navigate.
The Mazda CX-30 Turbo starts at $30,050; my Premium Plus w/AWD test car came out to $35,995. The price point is a tricky one. The performance justifies the CX-30 Turbo costing more than, say, a Kia Seltos. And it is a strong value play compared to luxury sub-compact crossovers.
Then again...anyone who's actually in a Mazda dealership to look at this car in person will notice you can buy a loaded-up CX-5 that offers pretty much everything you like about the CX-3o (including the engine) with more space for almost the same price.
Powertrain: turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four; 6-speed automatic; AWD
Horsepower: 227 (250 hp with 93 octane)
Torque: 310 lb-ft (320 lb-ft with 93 octane)
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Seats: 5, albeit tightly
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