by Frank A. Aukofer ~

The 2022 Mazda CX-30, which was all-new at its introduction for the 2020 model year, motors on mostly as before but with enhancements to appeal to even more enthusiasts, including a turbocharged engine and standard all-wheel drive.

Its tidy dimensions are unchanged, slotting it in as a small crossover sport utility vehicle competing against the likes of the Nissan Rogue Sport, Hyundai Kona and Venue, Toyota Corolla Cross, Kia Soul and Seltos, Honda HR-V, Mini Cooper Countryman, Subaru Crosstrek, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Buick Encore and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, among others.

It’s tough territory but the CX30 defers to none, with positive plaudits in many places over the last two years. Now it is positioned to enhance its posture, even against near-luxury and luxury marques like the Lexus UX and BMW X1.

In the Mazda crossover lineup, the CX-30 resides between the smaller CX-3 and the slightly larger CX-5. The latter currently is the Japanese company’s best-selling crossover in the U.S. with 81,804 sold in the first six months of 2022. The CX-30 is second with 21,727, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center.

At 14 feet long, the CX-3 is five inches shorter than the CX-30. It has 86 cubic feet for passengers and 10-12 cubic feet for cargo, depending on the trim level. That compares to the CX-30’s 94/20 cubic feet for passengers and cargo, which would place it in the EPA’s midsize class if it were a sedan.

Unless you need the CX-5’s more generous passenger/cargo space of 102/31 cubic feet or the three-row seating of the Mazda CX-9, the tested CX-30 would be the choice of buyers who enjoy driving for its own sake. It is fast, though not overly so, has engaging driving dynamics with secure handling and communicative steering, and cruises serenely at Interstate speeds. Moreover, if you need to haul stuff, drop the rear seatbacks to more than double the cargo area to 45 cubic feet.

The relatively large 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo engine delivers 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on regular gasoline, enough to send the tested 3,505-pound Premium Plus model to 60 miles an hour in the five-second range.

A six-speed automatic transmission is the only choice; if you must shift for yourself, the smaller Mazda 3 hatchback is the only choice. But the CX-30’s six-speed automatic, controlled by a console-mounted shift lever, is a slick, unobtrusive design, and there’s a paddle controlled mode for manual shifting.

The Premium Plus is the top of the CX-30 line and is uncommonly well equipped. It comes with a base price of $34,400, including the destination charge, and a bottom-line sticker of $36,145, well below the current average price of a new car in the U.S. of around $47,000.

Equipment includes automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and a head-up display.

Additional features include leather upholstery, heated front seats and outside mirrors, memory driver’s seat, motorized glass sunroof, SXM satellite radio, high-performance Bose audio, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, 18-inch black alloy wheels, roof rails and a power rear lift gate.

A large center screen, controlled by a rotary knob on the center console, displays infotainment and other functions, including navigation, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It is mounted at eye level. Easy-to-read instruments use white-on-black graphics.

The front seats come with prominent bolsters to hold the torso in place for spirited driving on twisting roads. They also are supportive and comfortable for long-distance cruising. With multiple adjustments for both the driver’s seat and the steering wheel, finding an optimum driving position is a breeze.

In back, the outboard seats are similarly comfortable, though harder to access. With the CX-30’s truncated profile, the rear door openings, especially at foot level, are tight for people with larger shoe sizes to enter and exit without some twisting. Also, as in most vehicles, the fifth seat in the center rear is a punishing place with a hard, high cushion and large, square floor hump that requires splaying of feet on both sides.

Mostly what the CX-30 brings to the pavement is driving enjoyment. Its performance resembles that of a decent sports sedan. The experience is short of, but in the ballpark with, small performance SUVs like the Audi Q3.

The CX-30 is another level in Mazda’s quest to take its vehicles more upscale.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Mazda CX-30 Premium Plus four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 227 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 94/20 cubic feet. (45)
  • Weight: 3,505 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.  Regular gasoline but premium recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,400.
  • Price as tested: $36,145.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review. Photos © BMW