Behind the Wheel

2021 Mazda CX-30 — Larger, More Refined

2021 Mazda CX-30Model tested: 2021 Mazda CX-30 AWD Premium Plus

Engine: Skyactive-G 2.5-liter turbo

Transmission: SKYACTIVE-drive 6-speed sport-mode automatic

Horsepower: 227

Torque: 310 lb.-ft.

EPA rating: 22/city, 30/highway, 25/combined

Base price: $33,900

As tested: $35,400

Overview: Consumers who wanted more space than the smaller Mazda CX-3 but not anything as big as the CX-5 got their wish with the Mazda CX-30. It takes the CX-3 blueprint and scales it up a half-size. The slightly larger dimensions allow a more modern interior layout and more.

Walkaround: Even as a tall, nicely proportioned compact hatchback with an 8-inch ground clearance, the CX-30 is handsome and sporty, with touches of elegance that appear to be taken from luxury SUVs. Its serious-looking face and graceful, rearward-sloping roofline sets it apart from competitors like the boxy Kia Seltos and Nissan Kicks.

2021 Mazda CX-30Interior: The instrumentation and ergonomic cockpit of the CX-30 are quiet and sophisticated. Quality materials and excellent fit and finish for this price point give it a competitive edge. Seats are comfortable and supportive, with plenty of adjustability. Rear-seat headroom and legroom are adequate for 6-footers. Three passengers will be cozy. Two will be comfortable. The 8.8-inch infotainment display is only controlled via a rotary dial mounted in the console. We found the system inconvenient to use at best — especially with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. If you get or make a phone call, you have to retune the radio — a trick in itself — which defaults to the phone’s audio setting. The best option is learning the software and programing shortcuts into the dial-mounted hot keys.There’s 20.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and more with them flipped forward. The wide liftgate offers easy access to the cargo space.

Behind the Wheel: Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. The powerplant in our test driver was the available 2.5-liter, four-cylinder turbo, delivering 227 horses and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. The only transmission is a well-mannered six-speed automatic. The CX-30 isn’t the most powerful subcompact crossover out there, but it’s fun to drive, handling with athletic poise and precision that gives it the refined feel and well-damped ride of a larger German crossover.

Bottom Line: With fresher styling, nicer interior and more space than the CX-3, the CX-30 is a competitive subcompact crossover that holds its own in this very crowded market segment.