Behind the Wheel
2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo Review: New engine makes this crossover one hot hatch
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.
Each CX-30 2.5 Turbo wears a "Turbo" badge on its back end.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull
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.