If you don’t want a Mazda3 hatchback, then you buy the next best thing, a CX-30 Premium with all-wheel drive.

This review was done during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 global pandemic. The review was as thorough as could be with general lockdown orders. As a member of the media I was exempt from the lockdown when it came to work, but I still took precautions.

Mazda are killing it. Let’s be honest, they’ve been killing it. My personal enjoyment of the brand came when I got a new 2007 Mazda CX-7 Touring that I owned for about seven months. It had a detuned Mazdaspeed6/3 turbocharged 2.3-liter that made 244 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque came in at 2,500 rpm, and trust me when I say, there was no one home until that point. Slamming your foot on the throttle got you a big ol’ bag of nothin’. And then, as if saving up energy, a shit-ton of torque steer would try and yank the steering wheel from your hands, and it would take off. I named my CX-7 Samantha, after the famed Bewitched character. Why? Well, my car was painted in Salsa Red (not the color I wanted), and Samantha was a redhead. Oh, and they were both much crazier than you realized. Samantha was a witch, and the Mazda crossover was a totally different car once you hit 2,500 rpm. After seven full months of ownership, I turned Samantha in for a 2006 Mazda Mazdaspeed6, which was an all-wheel drive monster making 274 horsies and 280 lb-ft of torque. Soon after the purchase of the ‘Speed6 I went became a salesperson at the dealer I traded my CX-7 in on the Mazdaspeed. I genuinely miss my Mazdaspeed6. I don’t know, maybe I’ll buy another one. 

And that brings me to the 2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium All-Wheel Drive. It is nothin like my old CX-7, and that’s a very good thing. It has less power and torque from a 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder, making 186 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 186 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm (all trims have the same power and torque), but feels much, much quicker and doesn’t feel as though you’re waiting ages for something to happen when you press the gas pedal. It gets much better fuel economy at 25 city and 32 highway, respectively, with 27 mpg combined. Compare that to the CX-7’s 19 city and 24 highway, and well, you understand. Then there’s the price. The Mazda CX-30 tester that I had came in at $31,370, and while I don’t remember the exact price of my old CX-7, I do know it was around $25,000. That, in today’s money, equals $32,500.88. And Let me tell you: the CX-30 is a far superior vehicle. Build quality is excellent, comfort is perfect, and so much more that I’ll continue to get to in this review. Granted, the CX-30 Premium weighs in at 3,408 lbs, while my ’07 CX-7 was a little over 3,900 lbs. 

I compare the CX-7 to the CX-30 in my mind because the CX-7 is a much larger looking and feeling SUV from the outside. However, the numbers show that even a smaller crossover, like the CX-30, makes great use of weight and size saving materials.

Like I said earlier, my CX-30 was the Premium trim with all-wheel drive, which is the top level. The base price of said trim with AWD is $29,600 (as a FWD vehicle the price is $28,200), and the optional equipment my vehicle had were a frameless auto-dimming mirror ($275), navigation SD card ($450), and then the Premium package comes with a heads-up display, adaptive front lights, leather seats, front and rear LED signature lighting, power-sliding moonroof, paddle shifters, power rear liftgate, and roof rails. Couple that with a $1,045 delivery fee, and you have a $31,370 car. With the Premium trim some of the features that are on the lower trims are standard here. Such as a 12-speaker Bose sound system, which is quite crisp and clear, something I rarely say about any Bose system, heated front seats, radar-guided cruise control, smart braking, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring, a driver attention alert system, and brake assist, along with auto high beams, featuring a dedicated button. My tester came in Polymetal Gray Metallic with white leather interior and brown trim. 

Exterior styling of the CX-30 proves that Mazda know what the world wants and needs: high-end flavor for a reasonable price. The LED headlights with chrome trim around them and the grille come across as being in-charge of the road. The headlights look serious and attentive. Moving down the sides of the car you see a nice, curved shape with some bulging and plastic fender arches with a little flare that doesn’t look drastic. Instead, it gives the CX-30 hips and curb appeal. Around the back you’re treated to taillights that look like the eyes of an Autobot Transformer. That’s a good thing. 

Inside you are treated to a small, but not cramped-feeling, leather interior. The CX-30 sits low for a crossover, and it offers pretty good visibility, although over your shoulder is hampered. The backseat can feel tight with taller front passengers. But behind my seat I had ample room (I am 5’9.5”). However, with my wife in the passenger seat and it pushed all the way back, the rear passenger’s knees will put an indent in the seat Mazda rates the rear legroom at 36.3 inches, which is a tenth of an inch less than my CX-7. Cargo volume in the rear hatch is a nice 20.2 cubic feet. And with the rear seats folded you will get 45.2 cubic feet. That is .1 better and .9 worse than the Mazda3 hatchback, which this car is basically a crossover version of. If you still care, the CX-7’s hatch space was 29.9 cubic feet, and 58.6 with the rear seats folded. Basically, the interior of the CX-7 and CX-30 are damn near identical when it comes to head, leg , hip, and shoulder room, etc. both front and rear. The only thing that’s bigger is the hatch space. I’ll add a picture to show you the interior dimensions of both. 

I should note that the fuel capacity for the front-wheel drive CX-30s is 13.5 gallons, while the all-wheel drive only has room for 12.7 gallons of gas. Interestingly, the standard front brakes are 11.6 inch ventilated rotors, with 10.4 inches in the rear. But, if you opt for the all-wheel drive in a Select, Preferred, or Premium trim, you get 11.9 inch non-ventilated, solid discs in the rear. And the brakes are damn good. 

Driving the CX-30 makes you think you’re in something much more expensive. Power delivery is effortless and seamless when mashing the throttle. Too many cars the engine, gearbox, and computers all need a second to communicate, and then the car shutters and shakes as it downshifts, picks up the revs, and then goes faster. The Mazda just goes without any of that. At just shy of 32,000 dollars, this drives like something made by Bentley or Rolls-Royce. No fuss, just go. That’s crazy. 

Handling is something that Mazda have always excelled at, and the CX-30 is no different. Whether it be in wet or dry conditions, the all-wheel drive CX-30 feels planted, sure-footed, and eager to be put through its paces. The seats could use a little more bolstering, but as a daily driver, the seats are pretty much perfect as-is. 

Mazda also did the auto-hold braking feature perfectly. It’s genuinely better than many other cars I’ve tested with auto-brake hold. In the 2019 BMW 750i M-Sport and 2019 BMW M850i xDrive that my parents own, when you start to come to a stop the car will automatically hold the brake. Meaning that if you’re making a 3-point turn, or trying to make changes in a parking lot, u-turn, and other slow speed driving maneuvers, the Mazda doesn’t bring you to a sudden halt. No, you have to push the pedal all the way to the floor to engage it in these situations. So you don’t have to keep tapping the throttle, or turning it off, to make the car maneuver. The RAV4 TRD I tested was also like the Mazda in this regard. 

Before I get into more of the goods and the bads of the CX-30, let me first point out that Mazda have finally updated their infotainment system. The knob and buttons are very much second generation iDrive-like, when iDrive was the best out there, and this is a good thing. The screen is good looking at 8.8-inches, with tons of information and settings at your fingertips, and quite possibly the best back-up camera in the business right now. In my review of the 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD I complained about the generic quality of the rear camera. But, for exactly $10,000 less, Mazda have given us a much clearer, higher resolution camera than Toyota. Also, tapping the Home button next to the knob twice will automatically turn the infotainment screen off. You can have it set to be a black screen, or have the time showing. 

Okay, now on to the rest of the interior. Sliding into the CX-30 the leather seats are soft, comfortable, and decently bolstered. Pretty much anywhere you’ll put your fingers is soft-touch, padded, and wonderful to look at. Hell, even the knees and legs of the front passengers will be touched by leather on the side of the center console. The driver and passenger each have two dedicated vents specifically for their own needs. That means you’re not sharing one or two vents in the center of the car. No, you each get your own, plus dual-zone climate control. Sadly you will only find heated seats in the front, no cooled, and only the driver seat is power with memory. That’s one thing that does get on my nerves about some car companies. The passenger seat sits a little too high, and you should be able to put it down to the floor. The steering wheel and shifter, however, are pure luxury and sports car put together. While obviously I would love to have a Premium AWD CX-30 with a manual transmission, the 6-speed automatic does well in this. Couple that with a steering wheel that has a perfect layout of buttons, excellent grip and feel when you’re putting the car through its paces, and paddles that can come in handy, and you have yourself a very German car-like way of doing things for less than the base price of a front-wheel drive BMW X2. 

I love that brown trim on the interior, although I wish the steering wheel and more of the dash were brown. The piano black center trim is nice, but does get lots of fingerprints easily and shows literally everything. I love that Mazda have given us tangible air controls without fooling with the infotainment system. Also, the door trim has this floating-like design. It’s hard to verbalize, but if you go sit in one you’ll see what I mean. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, awarded the Mazda CX-30 a Top Safety Award for the models that have LED projector headlights. Interestingly, the top trim, the Premium that I tested, IIHS gave a Poor low beam headlight score to because of excessive glare. I didn’t have any issues with this, but IIHS tests their vehicles in a much more controlled environment than I can. Overall, for crash safety, the CX-30 scored their top marks of Good and Superior in every test.

In the end, would I buy a Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD? No, I would first go look at a Mazda3 hatchback. But that’s me. However, if you are in the market for a smaller crossover that’s not going to break the bank, easily get good fuel economy, and be a very comfortable place to spend most out of your home, then yes. The CX-30 is a premium vehicle at a modest price. Also, how the hell is it that Mazda are doing a better Hoffmeister Kink than BMW these days? For shame, BMW. All hail Mazda.