Tall car or short crossover, take your pick
Mazda CX-30 nicely straddles line between station wagon and SUV
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/12/2021 (364 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I have to start this review with some full disclosure: I own two Mazdas and previously owned a third. The first is a 2018 CX-5 my wife and I got to replace our totalled Toyota Sienna. The second is a 2020 Mazda3 Sport that’s my daily driver. The third is no longer on this Earth: it, a 2001 MPV minivan, met its maker about 15 years ago.
I do not, unless it’s buried deep within a mutual fund I have no direct control over, own any financial position in the company. I just like their cars.
So if you want to take this all with a few grains of sodium chloride, I won’t hold it against you.
In a world where buyers are clamouring for the biggest, baddest SUVs they can find, the 2021 Mazda CX-30 is a pleasant surprise.
It’s a crossover, so it’s a bit bigger than a car, but not by much. It’s tall enough that you have almost the kind of slide-in seating that’s demanded by our aging joints, but small enough that it’s still pretty efficient.
It drives exceedingly well: another reviewer said, “This is the car the Germans wish they’d built.”
I have trouble disagreeing with the sentiment. Handling is first-rate, acceleration from the 2.5-litre dynamic-pressure turbo four-cylinder engine — in the top trim level — is excellent and the fit and finish inside and out is superb. It’s nearly as luxurious as a luxury brand.
If there are a few things to change in the CX-30, one of them is something I wish Mazda hadn’t changed. In the 2018 CX-5 that’s our family vehicle, heated seats remember where you left them. If you got out in -30C and the seats were on full blast, they’re on full blast when you next start the vehicle.
In the CX-30, and in the Mazda3 Sport that’s our other car, the seats are off when you fire up the engine, regardless of which setting was on when you shut it off.
In the 3, which is a stick, the parking brake engages automatically when you shut it off and disengages automatically when you start to drive (assuming you’re buckled up). It’s smooth.
In the CX-30, the parking brake behaves the same way, but you really have to drive against it to get it to release. It’s kind of disconcerting, not the kind of thing you’d expect from something intended as a convenience feature.
The CX-30, it should be said, should really be called the CX-4. It’s bigger than the CX-3 and smaller than the CX-5, but CX-4 was already taken, by Mazda China.
The CX-30 starts about $3K more than the CX-3. It’s worth the money. The CX-3, based on the not-sold-here Mazda2, is tiny. Claustrophobically so. The CX-30 is almost CX-5-like in its inside dimensions, which makes it well worth the extra.
The CX-30 has a choice of three engines: a 2.0-litre for the base model, a 2.5-litre for the mid-grade model and the 2.5-litre turbo in GT trim. My money would be on the 2.5, which has 31 more horsepower and 36 more pound-feet of torque. The turbo ups the power and torque considerably, though one might wonder about reliability of the turbo.
The CX-30 also comes standard with G-Vectoring Control Plus, which lowers engine output imperceptibly when you start turning the steering wheel — to transfer weight to the front and improve grip — and brakes the outside front wheel slightly when you start to straighten the wheel.
The combination makes for an improved ride, as it helps smooth out G-forces on turn-in and turn-out.
The CX-30 does not have nearly the cargo space of the CX-5, with 572 litres of space behind the rear seat to 875 litres in the CX-5. So keep that in mind. The upcharge to a CX-5 is $4,350, base model to base model. For that, you get extra cargo space plus the base model motor in the CX-5 is a 2.5-litre motor with 32 more horsepower.
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter
Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.