Behind the Wheel

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo Review: New engine makes this crossover one hot hatch

Mazda has given the CX-30 a new turbo-four option for 2021.

Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Mazda is doing hot hatch things with its subcompact crossover. The 2021 Mazda CX-30 has been bulked up for the new model year with a new, turbo engine, bringing with it suspension and braking changes. It's a Mazda CX-30speed-ish.

Mazda differentiates between the two models like it does in the Mazda3, by labeling the original 2.5 and the turbo the 2.5 Turbo. Easy enough. The exterior of the CX-30 is not exceptionally different in its 2.5 grades from those powered by the 2.5-liter turbo. When looking for one in the wild keep an eye peeled for 18-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, that's the telltale turbo sign.

There's also larger tailpipes, gloss black heated door mirrors, a "turbo" badge on the trunk and engine cover, LED daytime running lights, automatic LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a shark fin antenna.

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus Each CX-30 2.5 Turbo wears a "Turbo" badge on its back end.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus

Every Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that yields 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque when running on 93 octane fuel. Those numbers slump to 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque when 87 octane is employed. Its highest ratings are 64 more horsepower than the standard CX-30 engine and 134 more pound-feet of torque. Mazda only pairs the engine with an automatic transmission, just as in the Mazda3.

The Mazda is about the same size as the BMW X2, which has a standard 2.0-liter turbo-four mill that achieves 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The similarly positioned Audi Q3 gets the same numbers from the same size engine.

Mazda has calibrated its turbo engine to be driving enthusiast-friendly. Putting the accelerator down brings on the power delivery without hesitation. It's downright zippy.

The CX-30's dimensions and ride height, when paired with the powertrain and suspension enhancements in the new variant, and standard all-wheel drive makes it capable of doing things described as "scooting", "flinging", and "pushing". The crossover's sporty suspension makes the ride stiffer than is optimal on the highway, but when it comes to carving rural roads, you'll be thankful it's like that. Braking isn't as strong as an enthusiast may like though the pedal is plenty stiff.

The face of the CX-30 is familiar, similar to all the others in the Mazda lineup.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Mazda hasn't just equipped the model with a good power and drive setup. It is also filled with a good amount of desirable features. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped shift knob, aluminum speaker grilles, and Mazda Connect Services are standard. A Wi-Fi hot spot is also standard and comes with a trial period. Buyers can upgrade to a 12-speaker Bose premium audio, 8.8-inch large center display with Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, two front USB ports, and keyless entry. Leather seats and navigation with HomeLink are available.

The looks of the interior of the CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus, as tested, were appropriate for its price point and positing in the segment. Sure, there's plenty of gloss black plastic and the steering wheel isn't as soft as one might prefer, but those are minor quibbles in the long run. For every plastic surface there's at least one well-upholstered seat or well-stylized center console.

A more significant quibble has to do with Mazda's infotainment system, which remains a pain to navigate through. Aside from the scrolling through the channels and stations issue most reviewers have, the Mazda's interface is clean yet unattractive and menus are difficult to navigate without an enhanced level of frustration. If you're vertically challenged, the screen might not be well-positioned, disallowing you from seeing the full height of the its display.

The interior of the CX-30 is appointed like it's a premium product.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Mazda's i-Activesense suite of safety technology is standard on 2.5 Turbo models and includes adaptive cruise control, Smart Brake Support, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention alert, adaptive front headlights, and automatic high beams. Rear braking support with cross traffic functionality and traffic jam assist are available.

Mazda sells the new engine in three trim levels: 2.5 Turbo, 2.5T Turbo Premium, and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus. For more premium features you'll want the 2.5T Premium and for the highest amount of safety features, you'll want the top-tier Premium Plus.

The traditional CX-30 starts at $22,050. The lowest-priced CX-30 2.5 Turbo has a starting MSRP of $30,050. The CX-30 2.5T Premium comes in at $32,450 and the CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus has an asking price of $34,050. Those numbers are right in line with the competition's sweet spot with the CX-30 2.5 Turbo being solidly in the premium vehicle category thanks to its performance chops and refined interior.

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The Nissan Ariya has wind glide over it in the testing tunnel.

Photo courtesy of Nisan Motor Company

Nissan is targeting a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.297 for the Ariya all-electric crossover. If it can make that number, it will be the company's most aerodynamic crossover to date. What does that mean? Let's take a closer look.

What is drag?

Simply put, drag is an aerodynamic force. It's mechanical in nature, so it is the result of the interaction of a solid body and a liquid. In the case of a car, this liquid is air. (Yes, air is a liquid.) It only occurs when one part of the equation (the solid body or the liquid) is in motion. If there is no motion, there is no drag.

Drag only occurs in the opposite direction of the object's movement. Think of a car cutting through the air as it drives down a north-south road. As the car heads north, the air it passes through is pushed south. The car is in motion; there is drag.

2022 Nissan Ariya

Photo courtesy of Nisan Motor Company

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What is coefficient of drag?

The coefficient of drag, also called a drag coefficient, is a number that aerodynamics professions (aerodynamicists) use to determine the shape, inclination, and flow conditions on a vehicle's drag. The shape of an object (bullet vs. square vs prism, etc.) has a large impact on the amount of drag created by airflow surrounding a vehicle. Objects with narrower front ends tend to have a lower coefficient.

Scientists and vehicle designers want to keep air moving around the car for maximum efficiency. The inclination of the airflow to either move in a smooth, connected pattern, or to be broken up with air sitting, stalling in one particular part of the vehicle, lessening airflow and making the vehicle less aerodynamic.

A vehicle's Cd is determined by plugging various measurements into an equation. Cd is equal to drag (D) divided by the quantity of density (r) multiplied by half the velocity (V) squared multiple by the reference area (A). As an equation, it looks like this: Cd = D / (A * .5 * r * V^2).

The smaller the Cd, the more aerodynamic a vehicle is.

2022 Nissan Ariya

The Nissan Ariya employs aerodynamic wheel design, made to help it cut though the air with greater ease.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

What is the coefficient of drag of the Nissan Ariya?

"With the growing shift towards electric mobility, aerodynamic testing is becoming increasingly important. The aerodynamics of electric vehicles are directly linked to how efficiently the vehicle moves – less drag and better stability allows the customer to drive longer distances before having to recharge," said Sarwar Ahmed, Aerodynamics and Aeroacoustics Engineer at Nissan Technical Centre Europe.

Nissan is targeting a 0.297 coefficient of drag for the Ariya. How will it achieve that number? By utilizing precisely shaped body lines and strategically placed air ducts, among other components. There's a bonus to better aerodynamics when it comes to EVs.

"Following official homologation of the Nissan Ariya later this year, we anticipate the range to improve compared to the 310 mile figure shared in 2020 during the World Premiere. This will give drivers more efficiency and confidence to go even further on a single charge," said Marco Fioravanti, VP Product Planning, Nissan Europe.

How does the Ariya's coefficient of drag compare to other Nissans?

The newest Nissans, the Kicks, Pathfinder, and Frontier, don't have their Cd publicly available yet, but other models have their results. The targeted 0.297 Cd in the Ariya is less than that in the 2021 Armada, Murano, and Rogue. But, it's higher than the Nissan Leaf.

The fact that it's higher than the Leaf is not surprising. Shorter cars tend to be more aerodynamic because they sit lower to the ground and have a smaller profile. That also explains why Nissan's largest and boxiest SUV, the Armada, has the highest number on the list.

How does the Ariya's coefficient of drag compare to numbers from other EVs?

The Nissan Ariya's coefficient of drag is higher than that of most other electric cars, crossovers, and SUVs sold in the U.S. Here's where the others measure up:

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The Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group offers factory-backed half-door comfort, style, and safety.
Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Jeep Wrangler owners who want an open-air experience but don't want the complete doors-off look have a new from-the-factory option. Jeep Performance Parts and Mopar have worked together to create new half-doors for the iconic SUV.

The new Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group features two factory engineered, tested, and backed half-door options that offer owners the option to have production-level styling, security, and occupancy protection in addition to improved visibility.

Available for both two- and four-door Jeep Wrangler models through the Mopar Custom Shop, as part of an original new-vehicle purchase in the U.S. and Canada, the new Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group includes both full and half doors. Full-steel production doors are installed on the vehicle while matching body-color half doors are packaged within the vehicle.

    Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group

    Photo courtesy of Stellantis

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    With production-level materials and build quality, new half doors are designed to work when equipped with any of the following features: power mirrors, blind-spot detection, passive and non-passive entry handles, and power locks. A quick and easy swap from full doors to half doors can be accomplished within minutes using the existing hinge locations and the exact same wiring connections.

    The newly developed upper-window assemblies are designed to have a weather-tight sealant feature zippered plastic windows. Two materials are offered for the assemblies: base-model vinyl that matches the production soft-top roof or premium acrylic that matches the premium soft-top roof.

    Each upper-door frame section uses an easy, tool-free, dual-guide post feature for easy installation and removal.

    The Dual-Door Group is now available on two- and four-door Jeep Wrangler Sport, Rubicon; Sahara, Rubicon 392, and 4xe models. Factory-option pricing for the U.S.s tarts at $2,350 for the two-door's Dual-Door Group with base-model upper-window assembles while the four-door costs $3,995. Checking the box for the more premium version of the upper-window assemblies moves the price tag up to $2,550 for the two-door and $4,395 for the four-door.

    Warranty coverage for each Dual-Door Group option is included as part of the new-vehicle warranty of three years/36,000 miles.

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