- Gorgeous looks
- Capable powertrain
- Better sized for U.S.
- Standard safety suite
- Expensive for its class
- Frustrating options packages
- No touchscreen...
- ...no kidding
features & specs
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 is a right-sized small crossover with good looks that’s the most fun to drive among its competitors.
Despite the same few letters and one digit, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 doesn’t share much with the CX-3 sitting across the showroom floor.
That’s a good thing. The CX-3 may have been the perfect small crossover for overseas, but it was too cramped for American tastes and um, well, waists.
With the 2020 CX-30, Mazda has a crossover designed for the U.S. that should be more competitive among other pint-size ‘utes such as the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek. One demerit: Mazda charges more compared to those other cars. It earns a 6.2 TCC Rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
That score is buoyed partly because of the CX-30’s looks—and it looks great. The CX-30 is mechanically related to the Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback and borrows some of their looks but has better proportions. The rear hatch isn’t as stretched far behind the second row and the CX-30 doesn’t have the taffy-pulled rear roof pillar from the Mazda 3. The CX-30’s stance is a little taller, and so is its ground clearance: about 8.0 inches.
Inside, the CX-30 is covered with better quality materials and is far quieter than most of its competitors and an 8.8-inch center infotainment display is standard on all models. More on that later.
Under the hood is a standard 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 182 horsepower paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Both are borrowed from the Mazda 3 and work just as well in the CX-30. The small crossover revs willingly and keeps pace by majoring in the minors: the transmission is expertly tuned and computer controls keep the CX-30’s weight in the right places to shimmy around turns. Even the available 18-inch tires are right. Mazda’s attention to detail in powertrains pays off.
The CX-30 is equipped as standard with front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive will be a popular upgrade for $1,400. (We wonder: Why would anyone want a Mazda 3 hatchback with all-wheel drive anymore?)
Four adults will fit comfortably in the CX-30 with room for tall legs in back. The cargo area swallows 20 cubic feet of cargo with the seats up, and the rear opening is bigger this year for better use of its available space (although it’s a little too tall).
Every CX-30 gets standard automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors are standard on all but the base model. It earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS and a five-star crash-test rating from the NHTSA.
The base CX-30 with front-wheel drive costs $22,495 and includes 16-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, an 8.8-inch infotainment screen, two USB ports, and handsome looks—no smartphone compatibility, no options from the factory. Our pick, the CX-30 Select, costs $2,000 more and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility on its 8.8-inch display, which probably should be included on the base car because it’s the same screen. Still no heated seats, but the Select gets synthetic leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, rear climate vents, and blind-spot monitors.
Mazda’s insistence on a clickwheel controller instead of a touchscreen gives us fits, especially with smartphone software. It may be a small nitpick, but life goes on without a touchscreen, even if the whole world is using one—probably right now.
2020 Mazda CX-30
A follow-up hit to other follow-up hits, the CX-30 is the latest in a long line of good-looking Mazdas.
Mazda’s CX-30 is based on the Mazda 3 hatchback and features many of the same flowing lines and subtle curves as that the compact car has. It’s attractive inside and out and earns a 7 on our style scale.
The front of the CX-30 speaks to us, just not mad or happy like prior Mazdas. We’ll say it looks irked. An elegant chrome line ducks underneath the headlights, around the bottom of the grille and all the way over to the other side.
Despite the CX-30’s compact footprint, its big personality has curb appeal. Along the body sides, subtle lines rise and fall along to keep the sides from falling into boring slab-sidedness. Two round taillights at the corners are kept company by turn signals and a tailgate bump that looks like a heel on the sporty compact.
There’s a little too much black cladding around the wheel arches for our tastes, but it’s not uncommon among the class of cars that the CX-30 competes with. (The CX-5 also has the same chunky black cladding, by the way.)
Some shades wear best: Mazda’s deeply red premium paint is worth the spend. The premium gray? Well, that’s even grayer.
Inside, the CX-30’s vinyl surfaces, handsome switchgear, and textured plastics are better quality than its affordable price tag would suggest. The dash is covered in soft-touch material and there are more high-quality surfaces to explore. Beware the high-gloss black plastic—even our test cars showed scratches after just a few rides and a few hundred miles.
2020 Mazda CX-30
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 is more fun to drive than cars that cost twice as much.
The 2020 CX-30 subcompact crossover is the wiry raconteur that only Mazda could make.
Equipped with just 186 hp and a 6-speed automatic transmission, the CX-30 isn’t only engaging to drive—it’s the only one in its class that is at all.
It’s no speed demon, but the CX-30 is fun. It’s a 6 for performance.
The small 2.5-liter inline-4 in the Mazda is borrowed from others from the automaker—it’s the same engine found in the related Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback and also in the Mazda 6 sedan and CX-5 crossover.
It’s not particularly efficient, but it willingly build revs toward the 6,000-rpm peak without hesitation.
Same goes for Mazda’s 6-speed automatic, which is the right number of gears for the CX-30’s class. (Others use a belt and pulley continuously variable automatic transmission that’s like cold medicine for budget drivers: some taste better, some taste just bitter.) Mazda’s 6-speed doesn’t have any big gaps, and its action is mostly unobtrusive. Tip it into Sport mode and the CX-30 can hold gears for a few moments too long and push the engine a little higher into the rev range, but that’s Mazda’s MO.
The CX-30 has the same running gear as the Mazda 3 sedan and hatch, which is good. The CX-30 uses shocks and struts up front with a spring and rear torsion beam in back. Even without four-wheel independent suspension, the CX-30 handles much better than the rest of its class—it’s even fun to push around corners.
The CX-30’s steering is accurate and positive, with enough control to bleed into “sporty.” (The paddle-shifters on top models however, don’t inspire much.)
All-wheel-drive CX-30s offer an off-road mode that can help the small ‘ute scramble up tougher tracks. The CX-30’s 7.9 inches of ground clearance aren’t as tall as competitors such as the Subaru Outback or Jeep Renegade, but the plucky Mazda’s likely to conquer just about anything drivers will throw at it.
2020 Mazda CX-30
Comfort & Quality
More space, more comfortable, and more quiet: The 2020 CX-30 rights some of the CX-3’s wrongs.
Mazda finally got your note.
About the only thing that the CX-3 and CX-30 share is alphanumerics in their name—that’s a good thing. The CX-30 is built for Americans and is more spacious than the CX-3. The CX-30 is hardly a super-sized crossover, but it’s bigger than the CX-3 Happy Meal we were offered until now.
Starting from an average score, the CX-30 gets a point above average for its cargo capacity. Unlike the CX-3, 6-footers can sit behind other 6-footers in the CX-30. It’s a 6 for comfort.
Grab the keys to the CX-30 or at least call shotgun. The front seats are bolstered well with a range of adjustability that will suit most body types. The bottom cushions are especially comfortable—we’d call our CX-30 “booty city.”
Another plus: The front seat door armrests curl in with a natural grab handle that other automaker’s haven’t yet offered. It’s like curling our hands around our favorite leather chair armrests.
The back seats are mostly comfortable, with enough room for two average- or larger-size adults—three smalls would work too. The rear seats aren’t as cozy as the front, but there’s enough leg and knee room for a 6-foot-3 editor with a healthy appetite to size behind someone of equal stature.
The CX-30 offers 20.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row, which is not only larger than the CX-3 but also easier to access. The Mazda’s load floor height is still a little higher than other competitors, but the liftgate cutout is wider and more accessible than the CX-3s.
Inside, the CX-30 is serenely quiet—especially compared to others in its class. The engine can buzz a little into the cabin, but only at higher revs. The CX-30 also punches one-half weight class higher with better fit and finish, although the high-gloss black plastics in our test vehicle were already scratched—and the car had only been driven 500 miles before us and only a handful of times.
2020 Mazda CX-30
The 2020 CX-30 has received top crash-test scores and comes with standard active safety tech.
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 scores the trifecta of top safety ratings by acing crash tests conducted by the IIHS and the NHTSA, and coming equipped with standard active safety features. We rate it at 8 out of 10.
In addition to a five-star crash-test rating from the NHTSA, the 2020 CX-30 earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick award when equipped with headlights on all but the top Premium trim. Those headlights caused too much glare for oncoming drivers.
All CX-30s are equipped with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. Blind-spot monitors are standard on Select models and higher.
Outward vision in the CX-30 is mostly good, except for rear roof pillars that obscure the driver’s blind spots, which is typical among crossovers.
We recommend the Select trim level that includes blind-spot monitors for those reasons and others that we outline later.
2020 Mazda CX-30
A few missing small features on the Mazda CX-30 keep it from scoring higher.
The CX-30 costs about as much as many of its competitors, but Mazda doesn’t offer similar equipment as other small crossovers.
Base CX-30s cost $22,495 and include an 8.8-inch infotainment display, 16-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, and active safety features that we cover above. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available on base cars despite sharing the same screen as the rest of the lineup, which has us mixed—more on that later.
Starting from an average score, the CX-30 gets a point above for its screen size but loses one for skipping smartphone software that competitors make standard on all cars. It’s a 5 for features.
The CX-30 is offered in base, Select, Preferred, and Premium. All-wheel drive is optional on all trims and costs $1,400.
One step above the base models are CX-30 Selects that offer more equipment—although not necessarily better value. The CX-30 Select adds better-looking 18-inch wheels, smartphone software for infotainment, blind-spot monitors, synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and rear climate vents. Front-drive CX-30 Selects cost $24,945, including destination.
That’s the right equipment—although synthetic leather may be too much—but the price is high compared to the rest of the class. Heated seats aren’t available on the Select version, which furrows our brows and raises our fists in consternation. Mazda bundles that feature in yet another higher trim level with premium audio and exterior trim accents that costs $3,000 more than the Select model, and yeah we’ve given in too.
All-in, the CX-30 costs more than $30,000 with all-wheel drive, which may be missing the point for a subcompact crossover that’s not from Germany. Mazda’s equipment keeps pace with leather upholstery, a power liftgate, head-up display, paddle shifters, and roof rails—but also the same 8.8-inch display and controller.
About that controller: Mazda’s point that drivers shouldn’t be fidgeting with a touchscreen is well-founded—distracted driving in our cars is less welcome than our in-laws. But Mazda’s infotainment system is still run entirely through a clickwheel controller and can take frustratingly long to learn. Hopelessly addicted to your smartphone and want your car to act like your phone? Skip it. Running Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through a clickwheel stinks.
Our advice? Plug the phone into the 2.1-amp USB plug in the center console and forget about it. Take the time to program shortcuts into the hot keys on the controller, and live with the native Mazda system programmed for the clickwheel.
No, it doesn’t look like your phone. No, it’s not ideal. Yes, it’s safer that way.
We hope more people—including Mazda—get the message: distracted driving is dumb. But not offering a touchscreen may drive more people to distraction than intended.
2020 Mazda CX-30
The 2020 CX-30 manages about 28 mpg combined.
Mazda offers just a single powertrain in the CX-30, with or without all-wheel drive. Top trims offer cylinder deactivation to save sips between stops on long drives, but the EPA’s calculators don’t see much of a difference.
With front-wheel drive, the 2020 CX-30 is rated by the EPA at 25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined. That’s a 5 on our scale.
Opting for all-wheel drive shaves about 1 mpg from each of those figures. Cylinder deactivation, which is standard on CX-30 Premium, doesn’t appreciably improve fuel economy, according to the EPA.
Among rivals, the CX-30 is average or slightly worse. The Subaru Crosstrek rates 30 mpg combined with all-wheel drive and the Honda HR-V rates similarly with front-wheel drive.
All-wheel-drive versions of the Mazda 3 rate about the same as the CX-30.