2023 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus – Review by David Colman
Performance is in Mazda’s genes
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The perky Mazda3 sedan contributes the gene blueprint for the company's new CX-30 sport utility. Both models share looks, platform layout, and engine/ gearbox choices. Interior space and curb weight differentiate the sedan from the sport utility. Although the 3,025 lb Mazda3 is available in either trunk or hatchback form, its slope-roofed design limits cargo space to 13 cubic feet. The taller and heavier 3,472lb CX-30 offers 21.5 cubic feet of cargo space - provided you fold down the 60/40 split rear seat. However, we discovered that even that flat platform was too short to stow a bicycle inside the CX-30.
Practicality aside, the beauty of the CX-30 lies in its driving chops. It retains the precise handling of the Mazda3, while echoing the responsive purity of Mazda's MX-5 Miata. From the driver's seat of the CX, it's difficult to discern that you're piloting a comparatively tall (62 in high) SUV. Mazda's secret handling sauce lets you tackle twisting backroads with aplomb. This company specializes in getting the suspension/ ride height/ rubber patch equation just right. To that end, the CX-30 mounts grippy tires (215/55R18 Bridgestone Turanza EL440) on fat black alloy rims. That combination supplies confident turn-in and great mid-corner stick. Standard "G-Vectoring Control Plus" allies with standard "I-Active AWD" (all-wheel-drive) to allocate power as needed to each Bridgestone radial.
Judicious application of power is essential because the turbocharged motor fitted to this top echelon CX puts out more than enough horsepower (250hp) and torque (320lb.ft) to make throttle life interesting. Down at the lower end of the CX-30 food chain, Mazda offers an AWD stripper that uses a non-turbo engine (2.5 liter, 186hp) to provide adequate but unexciting acceleration (0-60: 7.6sec). But opt for the 2.5 liter turbo 4 we enjoyed in our test CX. That motor shrinks the 0-60 run by nearly 2 full seconds (to 5.8 seconds), and helps post a quarter mile run of 14.3 seconds @97mph. Mazda fits a Sport Mode to the 6-speed automatic gearbox so you can use the provided shift paddles to maximum effect. They also provide a Sport Mode for the suspension/control system which enables you to stiffen shock absorber valving, tighten steering feedback, and enliven throttle response.
Given the reasonable MSRP of $35,400, Mazda has done a commendable job of packing a high level of fit, finish and gadgets into the "Premium Plus" grade CX-30. This trim level adds parking sensors front and rear, auto-dimming driver side mirror, Homelink, 360-degree view monitor, smart brake support (rear) and rear cross-traffic braking. The latter additions are particularly welcome when parking due to the CX-30's limited rear vision.
The interior is done with tastefully understated chocolate trim harmonizing with black leather seating surfaces. This combination goes a long way to helping the CX-30 Turbo Premium emulate more expensive compact SUV offerings from BMW and Audi. Only a couple of minor irritants detract from the overall upmarket vibe. One is a very un-Mazda-like razor sharp edge that your fingers will discover when resting on the door-mounted passenger armrests. A different sort of disappointment awaits when you attempt to program the baffling infotainment system, which requires endless fiddling to fulfill the simplest requests.
Stuck in an hour-long Interstate 80 traffic jam, we had ample opportunity to assess the chops of Mazda's "Traffic Jam Assist" as it played out on "Mazda Radar Cruise Control." The system worked reputably well at keeping pace with the herky-jerky stop and flow of rush hour, always maintaining a buffer we pre-set at 2 car lengths. We especially appreciated the clarity of the cruise control information displayed by the "active driving display" on the instrument panel. Once we got free of the I-80 snarl, this smallest of all Mazda SUVs gleefully sprinted for the finish line of our trip, unencumbered by the nuisance of stop and go stutters. On the open road, this little SUV really loves to fly.
2023 MAZDA CX-30 2.5 TURBO AWD PREMIUM
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged and inter-cooled, aluminum block and head
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/30MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $37,405
HYPES: Mazda Handling DNA, Upmarket Cabin
GRIPES: Annoying Lane Keep Assist and Infotainment Controls
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman