Proffit at the Wheel: Mazda CX-30

One of the most enticing introductions at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show was Mazda’s unveiling of its new subcompact crossover, the CX-30. A wee bit larger than its CX-3 (likely leaving the market soon) and a smidgen smaller than the CX-5, the CX-30 then evoked style and power certain to advance the cause of the small Japanese manufacturer.

Mazda’s dedication to making interesting vehicles that stand apart from the crowd – with style, content and value – continues with the CX-30. The 2020 AWD Mazda CX-30 with premium package awaited us at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for a trip to Indianapolis to work the 66th Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, thankfully held per tradition over the Labor Day weekend.

Dressed in a luscious polymetal gray metallic (no up-charge for the paint job) over a business black leather-seated interior with brown accents, the CX-30 has an approachable and purposeful demeanor. Its exterior is sleek, with a jutting jawline that leads into a flowing hood, a light accent line along the sides and a curvy rear with eyelid tail lamps accented by neatly rounded beams at the edges that sweep into the rear quarters. All seams and closures are excellent on this crossover. All lighting is LED and even the daytime running lights are sleek.

Like so many modern mechanical creatures, Mazda’s CX-30 has keyless entry and exit, a power liftgate and amenities every buyer appears to demand of a crossover vehicle. It sits tall but not too tall, has an excellent ride and performs all activities with verve. All Mazda vehicles are fun to drive and this new CX-30 is no different. While it doesn’t handle like the low-slung MX-5 Miata, it still performs very well around corners and over the road.

Mazda has a new 2.5-liter directly-injected Skyactiv inline four-cylinder engine to power the CX-30. Compared to the CX-5 (148 horsepower), it’s got a lot more under the (rather heavy) hood, packing 186 usable horsepower at 6000 rpm and 186 lb-ft of torque at 4000; redline is 6500. Mazda gives the CX-30 a real six-speed automatic transmission that’s shiftable on the floor or through paddles attached to the leather-wrapped steering wheel.

MacPherson struts and torsion beams provide well-damped and balanced suspension, while the rack and pinion electric power steering has very little on-center slop. Braking is excellent and the choice of P215/55 Bridgestone Turanza rubber riding on twinned, five-spot 18-inch wheels hits the aesthetics spot. The weight of this all-wheel-drive version of CX-30 is doable at 3,408 pounds.

Driving from Chicago to a wooded area outside Indianapolis where we stay with good friends, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 AWD performed admirably on the highway, its stated fuel economy of 25/32/27 mpg spot on from the small 12.7-gallon tank as we used regular fuel to keep it going. With all traffic riding well over the 70mph speed limit, which is cited on the gauge cluster, we were able to maneuver nicely and quickly over the interstate. Mazda does note – in red – on the speedometer how far over the limit you’re traveling, as a tell-tale.

The driver’s seat, for which there are two memories, is exceptionally comfortable and very supportive, important for a long drive. There’s power for the driver, manual seating for the passenger; both front seats are heated and rear passengers do have air flow. The office includes a tachometer, speedometer, temperature gauge (not all Mazda vehicles have this info) and fuel gauge. The display can be changed to show the speedo digitally. A head-up display gives speed and the limit. It wasn’t easy to see or adjust.

A multimedia rotary knob behind the shifter operates much of the infotainment. Syncing the phone took seconds, so installing Apple CarPlay was easy and useful. Mazda’s infotainment system requires a bit more attention than necessary and oftentimes requires a look off the road. While a navigation system is fitted, it’s just as easy to use the phone to access maps. Using both I discovered that Mazda’s software is compatible with Apple’s. It’s not always that way. Mazda’s use of Bose audio is delightful and the premium system with 12 speakers makes this CX-30 a delightful sound theater. SiriusXM is fitted as well with three months of trial.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel handles many functions with audio controls, phone and trip info on the left, while cruise takes up the right side of the wheel. There’s a push/pull center armrest for storage and phone charging, with a 12-volt, USB tilting upwards, while a second USB lives at the base of the central stack. There are plenty of soft plastics about the cabin, adding to the premium feel of this new subcompact crossover.

The starting price for this 2020 Mazda CX-30 AWD with the premium package is $30,645 including transportation. Mazda charges $275 for the frameless auto-dim mirror and $450 for the navigation card that makes the 8.8-inch color display even more useful. The premium package itself carries no extra fee, but includes the active driving display, adaptive front lighting system (great for the back roads), leather seats, front and rear LED signature illuminate, the small power sliding glass moonroof, paddle shifters and roof rails, giving this vehicle a list price of $31,370.

The only drawbacks this writer has been able to find are the electronic parking brake that must be turned off at ignition, the necessity to unlock all doors in order to open a passenger’s door, the small fuel tank and only 20.2 cubic feet under the rear hatch, which has no cover. Of course, one can fold the rear seatbacks down to get more cargo space.

The polymetal gray metallic example of the Mazda CX-30 AWD we drove had just over 9,000 miles on pickup and was tight as a newborn vehicle. After nearly 1,000 miles, it’s easy to see why this crossover is a winner: it’s easy and fun to drive well, fitted with all the passive and active safety features one would want and has the high quality one expects from Mazda.

Engine with cover removed

Does being parked at a chocolate shop make my ass look big?

review and photos by Anne Proffit