2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD new car reviews

If the introduction of the CX-30 to the lineup has you a little confused about where it fits into the whole lineup, let us help. The new-for-2020 CX-30 slots right in between the CX-3 and CX-5 (why they didn't settle on CX-4 is beyond us) and is based on the same underpinnings as the current Mazda3.

That means a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated for 186 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of torque that sends power to either the front or all four wheels depending on customer preference through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Why pick this over a Mazda3? Ride height, if that's a requirement in your life—though you'd have to stick with the Mazda3 if you are looking for a manual. Besides that, comparing the spec sheets shows us that really isn’t much of a difference, especially when it comes to the cargo capacity and passenger space.

At any rate, keep reading to read what we thought the CX-30 was like to drive.

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Mazda is just nailing it in the looks department, both inside and out–and things feel as premium as they look.

This steering wheel should be standard in all cars. It has the right heft, the right feel.

Know what was even better than the steering wheel, though? The headlights. You can read up about Mazda’s Adaptive LED Headlights on its site, but here’s the TL;DR: They’re the best that I can remember experiencing, and that goes for both the low- and high-beams–something that I can’t say for every new car out there.

I admit, my eyes aren’t what they once were. And the days (and nights) have been a bit long and stressful lately. The Mazda headlights were a welcome relief: crisp, white light plus great optics for both low- and high-beams. Then add in the ability to re-aim the headlights as the vehicle is turning. So, 10/10 on the headlights.

If only the gearbox felt so stellar, as the entire drivetrain felt a little ho-hum. Around town, the Sport mode felt too aggressive, simply leaving the transmission in a lower gear–and that engine felt a bit buzzy when hanging up at higher revs.

The Sport mode, though, worked perfectly on twisty roads, so I’d just toggle between the modes depending on conditions. Is that the perfect solution? I dunno.

Otherwise, the CX-30 looks great, delivers a quiet ride, and pretty much does everything that you’d ask of a little SUV.

J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

I hate to be one of those people who proclaim that a single flaw can “ruin” an otherwise good car. But, in the case of the Mazda CX30, I may have to break that rule.

Put simply, the transmission hooked to the CX30’s Skyactiv four-cylinder is lousy. Maybe there was some magic switch marked “don’t suck” that I forgot to flip, or couldn’t find, but the transmission never seemed to be in the correct gear for the situation and took forever to find the correct gear when the throttle was depressed. It wasn’t just disappointing, it bordered on downright frustrating to drive.

And that’s a bummer because the CX-30 is a downright nice mini-crossover ruined by a completely unusable transmission. Just when you’re thinking “Hey, the driving position in this thing is super, and the car feels tidy and nimble, while still having a lot of room inside” the transmission lugs the engine to too-high a gear and drags you back to reality. Or just when you’re thinking “Wow, this thing has an extremely premium interior, considering it’s based on the Mazda3 platform” the transmission jumps up then back down a gear like it has restless leg syndrome and the fling is over.

Hey Mazda, this is almost an amazing little UTE, save for one giant mistake that starts with T and ends with N and rhymes with “fransmission.” Fix that and you have a serious hit.

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Comments
Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
11/25/20 10:24 a.m.

My wife is jonesing for one of these to replace her CX-7. The transmission is electronically controlled, right? Can the issues that you describe be addressed with a simple software upgrade?

I've experienced a bit of similar action with my sons new Sonata. The transmission's fine in light driving, but when you push it, it can get flustered.  

Vajingo
Vajingo Reader
11/25/20 10:26 a.m.

Mazda likely made this to compete with the crosstrek sport (I own a 2021). The sport comes with 2.5 L 180 hp engine. 

NickD
NickD UltimaDork
11/25/20 10:28 a.m.

That they named it the CX-30 pisses me off. By their own naming convention, it should be called a CX-4. If it was truly a CX-30, it should be a bus. Why do manufacturers spend all this time developing naming systems and then just randomly say "berkeley it, never mind"?

Vajingo
Vajingo Reader
11/25/20 10:57 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

Yeah I agree. Also, the numbering system is dumb. May as well make it a barcode that's only used by technicians to designate. give the freaking car a NAME. Something to personally invest in. It's hard to connect with a number. "I own a cx-30!"- said no one ever. 
"I own a camaro!"- every cramit owner ever. 

mainlandboy
mainlandboy Reader
11/25/20 11:12 a.m.
NickD said:

That they named it the CX-30 pisses me off. By their own naming convention, it should be called a CX-4. If it was truly a CX-30, it should be a bus. Why do manufacturers spend all this time developing naming systems and then just randomly say "berkeley it, never mind"?

From Wikipedia:

According to Naohito Saga, the CX-30's program manager, the new model is targeted to drivers who are still single or are married and starting a family in the United States. Mazda chief designer Ryo Yanagisawa said that it will be more acceptable as a family car in Europe and Japan.[5] Saga also noted that Mazda named the vehicle CX-30, to avoid confusion with the China-only CX-4.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
11/25/20 11:42 a.m.
NickD said:

Why do manufacturers spend all this time developing naming systems and then just randomly say "berkeley it, never mind"?

I don't know. Let me look it up on my I-phone SE.

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/25/20 12:24 p.m.

In reply to Vajingo :

I'm with you on the naming thing. Yes, some number/letter names envoke passion: 911, M3, XKE. But almost everyone knows Camaro, Mustang, Thunderbird, Miata. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/25/20 12:25 p.m.
Kreb (Forum Supporter) said:

My wife is jonesing for one of these to replace her CX-7. The transmission is electronically controlled, right? Can the issues that you describe be addressed with a simple software upgrade?

I've experienced a bit of similar action with my sons new Sonata. The transmission's fine in light driving, but when you push it, it gets all flustered.  

Not sure about transmission upgrades. Up until today we had a CX-9 (spoiler alert) and I found that transmission to be dead-on, even in just the default mode. 

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
11/25/20 1:53 p.m.

I too find the auto trans in these Mazdas to be lovely. Maybe the CX-30 has a different unit, but I doubt it as Mazda basically makes one trans and engine for its entire non-Miata lineup.

It’s not as fast to up shift as a DCT, but it doesn’t feel as sloppy on tip-in as the (limited number) DCTs I’ve driven.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
11/25/20 6:36 p.m.

When I was recently car shopping, I found myself in a Mazda showroom. In the showroom was a CX-3, CX-30, CX-5, and CX-9 (I was shopping the new 3 and 6). I'm intimately familiar with the CX-5; we have a 2018 that has been fantastic in every way. The CX-30 is a weird addition to the lineup. It looks great, but looks like all the others, but a model generation newer. And that's basically what it is; it's a 9/10's next gen CX-5. It costs nearly the same as the CX-5, so it's competing in-house with its own stablemates. Since it's based on the redesigned 3, it has a slightly newer version of the CX-5's drivetrain with different programming, which may account for the transmission issues when comparing to other Mazda products. That's not a good sign. 

And yes, the name is confusing and dumb. 

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