Off-Roading

2020 Mazda CX-30's all-wheel drive makes confident off-road adventuring possible

Mazda has employed an all-wheel drive system in the CX-30 that makes off-roading possible.

Photo courtesy of Mazda

At first glance, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 doesn't look like a vehicle you'd take off the beaten path. Its features are that of a city-focused crossover designed for strong fuel economy and chic style, not a vehicle that an owner would take it camping or fishing. Yet, the 2020 CX-30 is designed to do just that, thanks to a new setup for the vehicle's all-wheel drive system.

Under normal situations, the all-wheel drive system works as you'd expect it to. Power is shifted to the front or rear of the vehicle depending on conditions and driver input. Traction control maintains full alert, and the driver's aids are on standby in case they need to intervene. It's pretty normal stuff.

When the driver activates the off-road setting from the dash, the computer changes the parameters of the vehicle to make better use of the all-wheel drive for the non-road conditions.

To begin, the computer automatically sends 90-percent of power to the rear wheels. From there, it'll shift power forward if necessary. Additionally, the all-wheel drive system has a brake-based torque vectoring system that can apply the brakes to a spinning wheel to send power to the wheel that has traction. This prevents freewheeling off road.

Additionally, when on two wheels, power ends up going to the two wheels without traction – often the opposite corner of one wheel without traction – so the system will grab the brakes on those wheels to help regain power.

The traction control system stays active in the off-road setting, but the system doesn't intervene is quickly as it would on normal pavement. In sand and mud, a little traction is actually desired in order to keep the vehicle's momentum up. Understanding this, the engineers programmed in some slip to compensate.

While it's not as sophisticated as the all-wheel drive systems on some dedicated off-roaders, the system is there to make sure that the driver doesn't get stuck on the way to a campsite or can't get back up a hill that they found themselves down.

This is important because Mazda expects buyers of the CX-30 to be folks who want to go kayaking or mountain biking on the weekends. They may have a favorite campsite they want to visit. Because off road conditions can change, they want a vehicle that can adapt with it.

It's not a dedicated off-roader, like a Jeep Wrangler, but it should be able to handle most of what the typical customer will throw at it.

The Mazda CX-3 faces fresh competition from its crossover counterpart, the CX-30.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Mazda is trimming the fat in its CX-3 lineup and delivering a single grade for the 2020 model year and giving the subcompact crossover some tech updates.

The exterior of the CX-3 features standard LED lighting including automatic headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights. The headlights are self-leveling. Rain-sensing wipers are also newly standard. The SUV rides on 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, has a roof spoiler and dual stainless-steel exhaust outlets, and features a black grille up front.

The 2020 Mazda CX-3 Sport is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated to deliver 148 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Japanese automaker is selling the CX-3 with standard front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available.

Mazda has given the SUV standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Active Driving Display, and automatic climate control for the new model year. It also has a 7-inch infotainment touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker audio system, auto-hold, push button sport, remote keyless entry, and one-touch automatic up/down features. Cloth seats are standard as well.

Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go functionality is now standard in the CX-3. The SUV also comes standard with Advanced Smart City Brake Support with Pedestrian Detection, Smart Brake Support with Collision Warning, lane departure warning, automatic high beams all join blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and a rearview camera as standard safety features.

The 2020 Mazda CX-3 Sport starts at $20,640. The all-wheel drive model starts at $22,040.

Mazda is stocking U.S. dealerships with the model now.

Mazda has introduced the CX-30 for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Mazda

Fresh off the launch of the redesigned Mazda3 last year as the first model in the Japanese automaker's seventh generation of design, Mazda has introduced the 2020 Mazda CX-30. The model is a crossover, or a high-riding hatchback (six of one, half a dozen of the other), that resides adjacent to the Mazda CX-3 in the stable.

On the outside, the Mazda CX-30 features similar design characteristics of the Mazda3 including rounded styling that grabs the light and moves it along its body without the aid of creases. Sharp angles reappear at the very front and back where the CX-30 sports very Mazda-like design including neat rounded taillight housings and metal accents at the front that jut out abruptly from the car.

2020 Mazda CX-30 The front of the CX-30 is more rounded than many other models in its class.Photo courtesy of Mazda

Every CX-30 is powered by Mazda's 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine that has class-leading 186-horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Front wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are also standard. All-wheel drive is available.

The spirit of Mazda DNA lives in this crossover. While its competitors are often knocked for delivering numb steering and a disconnected drive experience, the CX-30 has none of that. Especially when equipped with all-wheel drive, the model takes to winding roads with ease allowing for a drive experience that doesn't feel like a compromise.

The car's interior is plush for its segment and right in line with recent offerings from Hyundai, Nissan, and Kia. Still, there are some questionable materials choices like the sticky faux leather dashboard covering and flimsy speaker housings on the doors. The overall aesthetic is simple and straightforward allowing for the driver to focus on the purity of a driving experience. How very on-brand.

2020 Mazda CX-30 The back side of the Mazda CX-30 is more interesting than the front.Photo courtesy of Mazda

Mazda's proud of the new seat engineering in the Mazda3 and CX-30, and they should be. The front seats are comfortable, even for long spells, and easy to get into position. Rear seat passengers have a very limited amount of legroom to work with making this crossover best for empty nesters or young professionals.

Despite lacking active noise control technology, the CX-30 delivers a fantastically quiet ride. When you want to turn up the volume on the available 12-speaker Bose audio system, you'll be thoroughly impressed. The engineers have a true winner with this system, which excelled in enveloping the passengers with pure sound.

As tested, the car came with heated front seats, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-inch digital gauge display, 8.8-inch infotainment screen, and head-up display. The screen is nestled in the same style dashboard cubby that it is in the Mazda3, which meant that the bottom of the screen may be unviewable depending on your height and seating position.

The current version of the car's infotainment system is easier to use than the last and the resolution of the screen is greatly improved over the last-gen.

It has a reasonable amount of cargo capacity for its class, with a number of suitcases easily able to fit in the back.

The car's safety technology is unobtrusive and its adaptative cruise control was quick to respond to changing conditions.

2020 Mazda CX-30 The interior of the CX-30 features premium materials that would be at home in much more expensive models.Photo courtesy of Mazda

Mazda is billing this crossover as being for activity-focused individuals. That includes an Off-Road Traction Assist button that performs many of the typical light off-roading duties crossovers need assistance with, including traction control and hill descent control. Its functionality is not unlike similar system that are found in the Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Outback.

The 2020 Mazda CX-30 has a value-focused starting point of $21,900. Its most premium model, which fits in with the Acuras and Infinitis of the world, comes in around $28,000. That's right in line with many of the less well-appointed and less engaging crossovers and SUVs currently on the market.

Buyers looking at the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, and Buick Encore, among others, owe it to themselves to cross-shop the CX-30. It's really a job well done.