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 Bronze Edition model builds on the XLE trim.


The Toyota Highlander entered its fourth generation for the 2020 model year, which brought sleek style, updated tech, and a premium-look interior. A new XSE trim joined the lineup for 2021, and for 2022, Toyota is adding a new hybrid-only Bronze Edition trim.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition adds useful features, such as a hands-free power

The new Bronze Edition Highlander builds on the XLE trim with:

  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Digital rearview mirror
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Memory driver's seat with 10-way power adjustments
  • Hands-free power liftgate

Toyota notes that the Bronze Edition previews features that will show up with the greater 2022 Highlander release. Among them are the new Wind Chill Pearl color, which replaces Blizzard Pearl from the previous model, and height/tilt passenger seat adjustments.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Highlander is a supremely comfortable SUV with room for the family.Toyota

The Highlander carries on into 2022 with a standard 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. A Highlander Hybrid is available, which mates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. Combined system output is 243 horsepower. With the V6 on board, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition is available for Highlander Hybrid models.Toyota

All 2022 Highlander models get Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, road sign assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts, lane tracing assist, a sway warning system, and automatic high beams. Those features and the Highlander's excellent crash testing scores were good enough for the SUV to earn a Top Safety Pick + designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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The Corolla Cross hits a sweet spot in terms of size and price.


Smart move! Every automaker is trying to grow their lineups. Toyota is no exception, and has now filled the white space between the C-HR subcompact utility vehicle and the compact RAV4 with the 2022 Corolla Cross, an entry-level offering that marries the Corolla sedan to an all-new model with crossover styling and utility. The venerable Corolla isn't simply well-known -- it's the best-selling nameplate of all time and is marketed in 150 countries with over 50 million in sales to date. And, even though the segment that Corolla Cross will join is filled with close to two-dozen offerings, it's attracting more buyers than ever as consumers choose crossovers over sedans.

A Sweet Spot in a Crowded Segment

Toyota's goal was to seek a sweet spot in the value-priced small crossover market, marrying engaging driving features with cargo-carrying functionality, and to endow the 2022 Corolla Cross with a long list of technology, infotainment and safety features. On sale in October, starting at $22,195 for the front-drive base model (an all-wheel drive version adds $1300) and up to $27, 625 for a top-of-the-line AWD (delivery and handling adds $1,215). Grades include L, LE and XLE; all can pull up to 1,500 pounds. This weight will accommodate personal watercraft on a trailer. Fuel economy is estimated to be 32mpg on the FWD and up to 30 on the AWD. Wheel options include 17-inch steel on L and 18-inch alloy on XLE. It will be built at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant, in Huntsville, Alabama on Toyota's high-strength TNGA-C platform.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Corolla Cross brings an impressive list of standard features.Toyota

Look to the compact RAV4 and even the midsize Highlander for some of the Corolla Cross' styling cues. This is especially from the back end, where Toyota has installed an integrated spoiler and LED lighting. This new stretched crossover/hatchback has a high belt line and strong arching shoulders above the wheel wells, and starts with a chiseled front grille with LEDs. It's 5 inches shorter than the RAV4 and 3 inches longer than the C-HR. The idea was to attract young, diverse, multicultural buyers who are smart and tech savvy, so designers penned looks meant to catch their eye in a way that is "refined with an urban edge". Hence, our drive to test the new model took place in the hip environs of Austin, TX. I drove both the FWD base model and the top-level AWD and liked each, with the biggest differences found the in distinguishing trim elements outside and, as expected, a more upscale interior on the XLE.

Strong List of Standard Features

There are a number of impressive features on this 5-passenger runabout with 60/40 folding rear seats include standard heating and air conditioning vents for rear passengers. Up-level models and options include SoftTex-trimmed 10-way power seats, a power moonroof, as well as either single- or dual-zone automatic climate control, a power lift gate with height adjustability, and a host of available accessories such as a roof rack with crossbars, an activity mount for carrying sporting goods such as bicycles, a tow hitch and all-weather floormats. Cargo Capacity with the 2nd Row in place is 26.5 cu.ft. for FWD/ 25.2 for the AWD; with the second row folded, it expands to 66.8/65.5 (slightly less for each for models with the moonroof).

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Corolla Cross sits between the C-HR and RAV4 in the Toyota lineup.Toyota

Fuel Economy Over Power

Power comes from Toyota's sophisticated Dynamic Force 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) that makes 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque and is shifted through a CVT. During my 100-mile-long drive, I found this powerplant has ample horsepower and torque to motivate it around town and on the highway; I found the AWD XLE a bit quieter overall and especially on hard throttle. A physical first gear provides a more punchy and better fuel economy. Also aiding in fuel economy is Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control system that directs up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels when it's needed – and disengages completely when not. The suspension for AWDs is a fully independent set-up while, while FWDs feature a brand-new torsion beam system in the rear. Impressive is the 8 inches of ground clearance, close to that of the RAV4, that will allow some backcountry and dirt road travel.

The interior will remind consumers of the Corolla sedan and hatch in looks and layout, with quality materials, good visibility and sensibly-placed controls. A 7-inch multimedia touchscreen comes on the L and LE, while XLE features an 8-inch touchscreen. There is a long list of in-car entertainment and connected functionalities, including standard compatibility for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross Styling is somewhere between a RAV4 and a Highlander.Toyota

Wireless charging is standard on LE and XLE, and all trims have conveniently-located USB media ports. The LE and XLE grades bring two USB charging ports for rear seat passengers. Also onboard are Audio Plus multimedia with Remote Connect and a nine-speaker JBL sound system as well as Amazon Alexa connectivity. Standard is a three-month SiriusXM Platinum subscription. Of note, XLE owners can get key info at a glance, courtesy of an available 7-inch Multi-Information Display with various vehicle and systems info to choose from.

All grades come standard with nine airbags and both the Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced active safety systems, as well as Toyota's STAR Safety System. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert come standard on LE and XLE, while Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking is standard on XLE. Other top features in the safety bundle include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, and Traction Control.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Alabama-built Corolla Cross goes on sale in October.Toyota

The 2022 Corolla Cross also comes standard with complimentary ToyotaCare that covers normal factory-scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, and two years of Roadside Assistance, regardless of mileage.

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