2021 Mazda CX-30

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
March 29, 2021

Buying tip

Don’t need all-wheel drive? Take a look at the Mazda 3 hatchback.

features & specs

2.5 S AWD
2.5 S FWD
Preferred AWD
24 city / 31 hwy
25 city / 33 hwy
24 city / 31 hwy

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 is great-looking, spacious, and more polished and fun-to-drive than other compact competitors, but it’s a step behind in value and features.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Mazda CX-30? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 is just one digit away from the CX-3, but it’s a completely different vehicle. As a compact crossover, the CX-30 offers an unexpectedly ample amount of space in a compact-car footprint, and rivals other pint-sized utility vehicles like the Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks, and Hyundai Venue. 

Is the 2021 Mazda CX-30 a good car?

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Value factors aside, the CX-30 is a great fit for Americans who want roominess and refinement but only have a compact-car parking space. It’s the best-driving model in its cohort when you consider the level of polish in the whole driving experience, and the lack of any rough edges that give away its relatively reasonable price. But its features and pricing don’t add up at face value compared to rival models, and that can be a hangup.

As such, the 2021 Mazda CX-30 earns a TCC Rating of 6.0 out of 10, for its better than average performance, comfort, and quality, and a big boost for cohesive styling and details that help make it feel like an effort from a premium brand. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Mazda CX-30?

For the 2021 model year, the big news is the addition of a new CX-30 2.5 Turbo model. It uses the same 2.5-liter turbo-4 found in the Mazda 3 Turbo that adds a new performance dimension to the CX-30. Models with the non-turbo engine have been rebadged the CX-30 2.5 S, while all Turbo versions come with all-wheel drive. Otherwise, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are now included, and the 8.8-inch infotainment screen comes standard on the entire model lineup, including a three-year trial to connected services and six months of car-based wi-fi.

Although mechanically related to the latest Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, the CX-30 takes virtually everything we’re not so fond about in the 3 hatchback and fixes it—and we see no reason why it won’t be much more popular. The CX-30 is a nicely proportioned tall hatchback, with a roofline that bows gracefully enough toward the rear as the greenhouse tapers inward. The stance is a little taller than low-set passenger cars like the Mazda 3, and so is its ground clearance of about 8.0 inches. 

The CX-30’s interior feels high-quality but not flamboyant, and its cabin is far quieter than most of its competitors. The dash wraps around in more of a cockpit layout compared to other crossovers, and there’s an 8.8-inch center infotainment display atop the dash—although it’s not a touchscreen. Four adults will fit comfortably in the CX-30 with room for tall legs in back, and there’s 20 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up. 

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 federal government. 

How much does the 2021 Mazda CX-30 cost?

The base CX-30 2.5 S, in front-wheel-drive form, costs $23,000, including the $1,100 destination fee, and ranges up to a starting price of $29,650 for the top-trim Premium model. The top Turbo model exceeds $35,000. Our favorite would be the Select model, which starts at $25,000 and adds to the base model synthetic leather upholstery, rear climate vents, larger 18-inch wheels, and blind-spot monitors. Across the lineup, adding all-wheel drive costs $1,400 extra. 

Where is the 2021 Mazda CX-30 made?

Salamanca, Mexico.


2021 Mazda CX-30


The 2021 Mazda CX-30 is one of the most refined-looking vehicles in its class, and it fits right into a long line of tidy-looking Mazda small cars.

Is the 2021 Mazda CX-30 a good-looking car?

Most definitely. The CX-30 manages to grow a handsome, sporty, and nicely proportioned vehicle up from its compact small-car footprint. There’s a lot of personality and curb appeal in this vehicle, from the tight creasing and serious look in front to the elegance and sporty cues that combine hot-hatch cues with those from luxury SUVs. There’s no slab-sidedness here, and the smooth sheet metal below the beltline is complemented by a small amount of weekend-adventure cladding at the bottom—the same cladding you’ll find in the larger CX-5.

Surfaces and interior trims in the CX-30 are better and more handsome than the affordable price tag will otherwise suggest. The dash is covered in plenty of soft-touch material and there are more quality-feeling touchpoints around controls and storage. Overall, the layout feels simple and uncluttered, although beware of the high-gloss black plastic. Call it piano black or not; it can show scratches and smudges very easily.

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2021 Mazda CX-30


The Mazda CX-30 was already more fun to drive than cars costing much more; and for 2021 there’s a quicker turbo model.

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 is one of the strongest examples in today’s vehicle markets for how vehicles can be far better than the sum of their parts. 

How fast is the Mazda CX-30?

In its base form, with a 186-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-4 and a 6-speed automatic transmission, the CX-30 2.5 S is fast enough for the purpose—around 8 seconds to 60 mph—but not blisteringly quick by any means. 

Stopwatch numbers aren’t what matters here. The CX-30 is the most engaging vehicle in its class, and the way it accelerates, steers, rides, and handles just fits together as a cohesive whole. For those who enjoy to drive, it’s the most precise-responding and fun-to-drive entry in the compact crossover field, without exhibiting any of the harshness and lack of polish in some areas that can often sour the experience for daily drivers.

Driver's seeking the best experience in a CX-30 would do well to consider the 2.5 Turbo model and its 2.5-liter turbo-4 that makes 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on regular-grade gas or 250 hp and 320 lb-ft on 93 octane. The standard engine feels bogged down at low rpm, but the Turbo's solid low-end torque makes the CX-30 more exciting to drive. 

Even though the transmission has fewer gears than competitors, its bigger gaps won’t be any issue as shifts are so nicely timed. Sport mode holds them a little longer and steering-wheel paddle shifters give the driver more control.

The CX-30 is built on the same platform and running gear as the new Mazda 3 hatchback and sedan, and that’s a good thing. With shocks and struts up front and a spring and rear torsion beam setup in back, the CX-30 handles much better than the rest of its class. Steering is also among the best; it’s accurate and positive, quick yet rather light, without the need to make small adjustments. 

Is the Mazda CX-30 4WD?

The entire lineup of CX-30 models is available with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, at a premium of $1,400, but the CX-30 2.5 Turbo will come only in AWD form. There are 7.9 inches of ground clearance plus an off-road mode that can help scramble up tougher tracks, but it’s not the main mission here.

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2021 Mazda CX-30

Comfort & Quality

The CX-30 makes good use of space, and in all the little details it escapes cheap-small-car stigma.

If the somewhat smaller CX-3 and soured over its curb appeal for its lack of space and general refinement, keep in mind that the CX-30 adds one digit to its badge but is very, very different. 

Don’t just the CX-30 by its measurements and specs, which don’t stand out as anything particularly special over rivals. Inside, for comfort, space, and general refinement, it’s fantastic and makes most other models in this class look like Happy Meals. 

We give the CX-30 a bonus point for its use of interior space, as six-footers in back can fit behind six-footers in front. It’s a 6 for comfort, but there’s a more nuanced story that deserves some off-protocol bonus points. 

The CX-30’s front seats are bolstered well, with a range of adjustability that will suit most body types. The bottom cushions are especially comfortable, and we think that the big and/or tall are going to be happy here with the lower cushions. In back, there’s room for two—or maybe three—but there’s something about the way the back seats are contoured that allows decent space for lankier adults. 

Cargo space is ample, at 20.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and the rear seatbacks flip forward to a surprisingly wide, low load floor. 

The nuance isn’t lost here, and it’s the key to what makes the CX-30 so appealing. It’s serenely quiet versus others in this class, it rides with the well-damped sophistication of larger German rivals, and it’s a class above in fit and finish, with the tactile experience not forgotten in everything from switchgear to surfaces. About the only exception is the glossy-black surface that’s used on some models and overly smudgy and scratch-prone—seemingly out of place in a model that’s going to be popular with city-dwellers with kids and/or dogs.

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2021 Mazda CX-30


Excellent crash-test scores and standard active safety tech give the CX-30 sound safety credentials..

How safe is the Mazda CX-30?

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 aces crash tests from the IIHS and NHTSA, and it has all the requisite active-safety features. Here, that’s an 8 out of 10.

Automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control are included on all versions. Blind-spot monitors are standard on Select models (the model we’d recommend) and higher.

Outward vision in the CX-30 is good ahead and to the side, although the rear roof pillars can obscure the driver’s blind spots—a typical issue in this type of vehicle. 

Although the CX-30 achieved top five-star crash-test results from the NHTSA and an IIHS Top Safety Pick award, the IIHS notes that the headlights included in the top Premium trim caused too much glare. 

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2021 Mazda CX-30


A few missing small features on the Mazda CX-30 keep it from scoring higher.

Feature by feature, the 2021 Mazda CX-30 is priced somewhat higher than some of its rivals, and it simply doesn’t offer as much for the money. 

Base CX-30 2.5 S models cost $23,000 and include an 8.8-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 16-inch wheels, and cloth upholstery. 

Starting from an average score, the CX-30 gets a point above for its screen size but loses one for the lack of simple touchscreen control for the smartphone interface, which most of our staff finds kludgy. It’s a 5 for features. 

Which CX-30 should I buy?

Our favorite would be the Select model, which starts at $25,000 and adds to the base model synthetic leather upholstery, rear climate vents, larger 18-inch wheels, and blind-spot monitors. 

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. And to get heated seats and premium audio you’ll need to step up to the Preferred level. 

Mazda’s infotainment system revolves around a clickwheel controller, not a touchscreen. While there’s a frustrating learning curve to this, you will learn them and become comfortable with where things are without taking your eyes off the road as much—which is Mazda’s goal. What they’ve forgotten about, however, is that drivers aren’t going to forget about their phones, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto operate in a touchscreen-friendly world. Cranking through icons using a rotary controller just doesn’t work. 

The CX-30 includes Mazda’s 3-year/36,000-mile vehicle warranty and 5-year/60,000 powertrain warranty, plus 3-year/36,000 roadside assistance coverage. That’s about par for a non-luxury brand today. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Mazda CX-30?

The Turbo models are the most expensive in the lineup, with standard all-wheel drive and the more powerful engine. Those start at $31,000, but jump up to $35,000 for the Premium Plus Package and push up to near $36,000 if you add more options on top of that.

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2021 Mazda CX-30

Fuel Economy

The 2021 CX-30 is rated no better than 28 mpg combined.

Is the 2021 Mazda CX-30 good on gas?

Premium versions of the 2021 CX-30 come with cylinder deactivation, but it doesn’t make enough of a difference in the EPA cycle to warrant different ratings. And overall, considering the compact size, those ratings aren’t so impressive. 

The 2021 CX-30 is rated by the EPA at 25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined. That’s the most fuel-efficient model in the lineup—the front-wheel-drive version—and it’s a 5 on our scale. All-wheel-drive versions of the shave 1 or 2 mpg from each of those figures, and the Turbo nets 22/30/25 mpg. 

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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MSRP based on 2.5 S FWD
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Expert Rating
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Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 8
Features 5
Fuel Economy 5
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