Mazda has some of the most talented designers on the planet. Based on the brand’s Kodo “Soul of Motion” design philosophy, its cars appear taut and sculpted, expressing exactly what they’re like to drive. The Mazda3 hatch is one of my favorite cars at any price, so a crossover based on it must be good. Placed between the sub-compact CX-3 and mid-size CX-5 is the all-new CX-30.
A walk around the CX-30 is a visual delight, starting with the brand’s large grille flanked by squinty adaptive LED headlamps and chrome detailing. The hood seems to fold over the top. It seems impossible the fender curvature could have been stamped by machine instead of carved by human hand. Splashes of gray moldings over the wheelwells and along the bottom break up what is a pretty tall car. Placed over 18” wheels, it looks like a gazelle ready to sprint and looks radiant in Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint.
The sporty allure continues inside where an understated style packs all the latest electronics. Rich padded coverings are a cradle for the slick screen atop the dash. Below that, are the climate controls. Audio and navigation are via console joywheel and screen. Eliminating the radio and minimizing buttons creates a very clean look that’s refreshing in an age of technology overload. Everything you need is available, but never detracts from the driving experience. A sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel and head-up display entice enthusiasts.
There’s plenty more luxury too. Mazda seats are perfectly bolstered to hold you in during backroad flings, but are also heated up front for comfort. Dual-zone automatic climate control, power moonroof, and 12-speaker Bose audio add enjoyment. Plug in your devices with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Safety is enhanced with adaptive cruise, forward crash mitigation, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection.
Designs this good should hang in an art gallery, but we’ll hang this one on the road. The drive starts with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 186 horsepower. It feel plentiful, especially when routed to the all-wheel-drive system through a six-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are crisp, even more so when commanded by paddles. Click into Sport mode for an even more responsive throttle. Fuel economy is rated 25/32-MPG city/highway.
Driving a Mazda is about more than a peppy powertrain. The suspension is near magical in its ability to soak up rough city streets, then sachet through curvy backroads like it was a born athlete. Steering is quick, but not tiring. Nothing squeaks, creaks or rattles – even when trying to find bumps and bruises to upset it. It’s as if Alfa Romeo hired a team of Toyota quality engineers and this was their offspring. I suspect if you stripped the body away, you’d find a little Miata in there somewhere.
Mazda is not a large automaker, but it survives by making high-quality cars that are beautiful to view…and to drive. Even in smaller forms like the CX-30, they build cars that are comfortable on thousand-mile journeys or just to a wind down a narrow curvy lane. Excellent fuel economy even keeps some money in your pocket. A base price of $21,900, or $31,295 as tested, puts it against the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Crosstrek, Chevy Equinox, and Toyota RAV4.
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