2024 Mazda CX-30 Review: Stylish and fun alternative to small luxury SUVs


Pros: Best-in-class to drive; best-in-class interior quality; best-in-class turbo power; standard all-wheel drive; strong safety ratings

Cons: Worst-in-class passenger space; cargo space isn’t much better; average fuel economy from base engine; expensive relative to mainstream competitors

Not everybody needs a big, family-ready SUV. That could be why the subcompact SUV class gained popularity, as they combine the sensible size of a sedan with the added utility and height of an SUV. Among these pint-sized utes, the 2024 Mazda CX-30 remains a favorite, if not one we’d recommend to everyone. As is the case with other Mazda vehicles, the CX-30 distinguishes itself from the rest with sleek styling, an interior that can easily be mistaken for an entry-level luxury car and more lively performance than rivals. In fact, those attributes make it a genuine alternative to luxury models like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, especially the Turbo trim levels.

The trouble is, the non-luxury subcompact segment has expanded and evolved substantially since the CX-30 was first introduced. Choices like the Chevrolet Trax, Buick Envista, Kia Seltos and Volkswagen Taos are similarly well-suited to those with less substantial space needs than the “compact” size above provides, but they also provide a lot more space and versatility than the rather cramped CX-30. Even if they aren’t family oriented, they could be a viable family vehicle, opening the door to a lot more buyers. The CX-30? No way. There’s also the matter of subpar fuel economy from its base engine, the drawback for its better-than-average performance. The interior is also a bit behind the times, with unimpressive storage and some missing features. At least Mazda finally allows the infotainment system to be controlled via touchscreen when using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but then only those functions. We don’t hate controlling everything else with the old-school knob-and-screen setup as it keeps your eyes on the road, but we’re probably in the minority there. 

In the end, we still really like the CX-30 as we’re in the niche of people who’d happily prioritize getting a small SUV that looks great and drives even better. That’s admittedly a small niche, though. For the average shopper, there are more rounded choices available. 

 Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2024?

A new Carbon Turbo trim has been added, making it the least expensive model to have the more powerful engine. These turbo models come with a larger 10.25-inch infotainment display that now has touchscreen functionality, but only when using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. USB-C ports have also been swapped in to replace the old USB-As. Last year’s blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert are now standard on all CX-30s along with a new rear-seat passenger reminder.

What are the CX-30 interior and in-car technology like?

Like the Mazda3 with which it shares so much, the CX-30’s cabin makes you go “wow” considering its price and the vehicles with which it competes. Whatever trim level you’re considering, the key to this wow factor is how Mazda’s current interior design scheme removes visual clutter by reducing switchgear and effectively hiding air vents and door handles. Lower trim levels are sadly no longer available with two-tone color treatments (we suppose most people just want plain-old black), but upper trims can still get red, white or reddish brown simulated leather trim. No matter the trim level, though, for a car in the $20,000-$35,000 range, CX-30 interior looks and feels special.

Functionality is a mixed bag. Storage is lacking compared to what you can get elsewhere. The cupholders and door bins don’t hold bottles very well, the forward bin is of questionable use, and the sliding/flip-up center armrest covers a space that’s just not as versatile as it might initially seem. Mazda’s tech interface is also a bit love-it-or-hate-it. The dashtop screen is large and easy to see. The knob that controls it is large, not unlike BMW’s old iDrive, and ergonomically placed on the center console. It’s not always a touchscreen, though, as Mazda engineers determined that hunting for touch-operating icons can be distracting. They’re not wrong, and the higher-mounted screen is certainly easier to read at a glance. That said, there are a lot of people who don’t not care for this setup and specifically prefer a touchscreen like the ones offered in all of Mazda’s competitors.

For 2024, touchscreen functionality has been added, but only when Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are in use. This is a big improvement even though you still have to use the dial controller for Mazda’s native infotainment system. 

How big is the CX-30?

Although it was originally an unusual size that bridged the gap between subcompact and compact SUVs, the rest of the subcompact segment has mostly been enlarged enough to not only join it but surpass it considerably. Among this grown-up subcompact field, the CX-30 is one of the smallest and the least family-friendly. Two tall passengers will be able to sit front-to-back on the passenger side, but not on the driver side. Fitting a rear-facing child seat will be quite difficult without nearly eliminating the front passenger seat as a viable seating location. You even have to scoot the passenger seat far forward to provide enough space for kids’ legs in forward-facing seats. Its competitors are much better in this regard. They also tend to feel more airy and spacious. 

Cargo space with the rear seat raised is 20.2 cubic feet, which is lower than average for the segment. That number is virtually identical to the Mazda3 hatchback, but in our testing, we found the CX-30’s extra height allowed it to swallow an additional suitcase (surprisingly, the Mazda3 sedan can carry more than them both). Although its suitcase count trailed its mainstream brand competitors, it was superior to a pair of small luxury models, the BMW X2 and Audi Q3. We could also fit a golf bag diagonally across the cargo area.

What are the CX-30 fuel economy and performance specs?

Every CX-30 comes with all-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic and the choice of two engines. Cars dubbed CX-30 2.5 S have a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four that produces 191 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than the base engines of most competitors, plus some of their engine upgrades. Fuel economy estimates for 2024 are 26 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. Those figures remain low compared to other base engines, but again, the competition generally has less power.

As for the CX-30’s upgraded engine, nothing in the segment can touch it. The turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four produces 227 hp and 310 lb-ft on regular gas. It’ll do 250 hp and 320 lb-ft if you feel like filling it with 93 octane. Fuel economy is basically the same as the base engine at 22/30/25 mpg.

What’s the CX-30 like to drive?

If you want to feel what a car is doing through the steering wheel, throttle pedal and through the seat of your pants, the Mazda CX-30 is exactly the type of small crossover you’re looking for. Its taller stature means it loses some of the agility provided by the lower Mazda3, but the primary control efforts and feedback are just as exceptional. When it comes to providing an engaging driving experience, no SUV comes remotely close in the CX-30’s price range. There’s even a case to be made that it provides more driving fun than a BMW X2.

Along those lines, the available turbo engine is there to make the CX-30 feel luxurious and effortless, rather than burn rubber and set lap times like some turbocharged Mazdaspeed of old. On paper and in practice, none of its non-luxury competitors can touch it in a straight line – it obviously costs more, but it’s the engine we’d certainly want.

Nevertheless, the base engine is still a peach. It’s more powerful than most competitors, boasts terrific throttle response and is paired with one of the smartest transmissions around. It always knows exactly which of its six gears to select at any given time, and when Sport mode is selected, it quickly downshifts when braking into a corner like the sport-tuned transmissions of luxury brands do. It also doesn’t clumsily hang onto revs when accelerating thereafter. As a bonus, the Premium trim adds paddle shifters then lets you have some extra fun if you’re so inclined.

What other Mazda CX-30 reviews can I read?

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo First Drive | A lifted, almost-hot hatch

The turbo engine was a new addition last year. It makes an already fun little SUV, even better, though certainly not to hot hatch levels.

 

2020 Mazda CX-30 Luggage Test | Can it fit more than the Mazda3?

Taking an in-depth look at the CX-30’s cargo capacity to see how much luggage it can fit inside and how that compares to the Mazda3 as well as other small crossovers. We also compared it to both the Mazda3 hatch and sedan with surprising results. 

 

2020 Mazda CX-30 First Drive | The middle way

Our first taste of the CX-30 features more in-depth information about its design and engineering. 

What is the 2024 CX-30 price?

The base CX-30 2.5 S comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers, adaptive cruise control, a full suite of accident avoidance tech (see Safety section below), cloth upholstery, two USB ports, an eight-speaker sound system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the Mazda Connect interface that includes an 8.8-inch display and center console controller.

From there, you have a choice of three “packages” that are pretty much what other brands refer to as trim levels. We think the Select Sport is best place to start your CX-30 shopping as for an extra $1,505 you gain 18-inch wheels, proximity entry, dual-zone climate control, rear air vents, a rear armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leatherette upholstery versus the standard cloth. The Preferred, Carbon Edition and Premium packages add further luxuries, most notably a heated power driver seat with memory (Preferred) and leather upholstery (Premium).

All new prices are below and include the $1,375 destination charge (add another $45 if you’re shopping in Alaska).

S: $26,370
S Select Sport: $27,875
S Preferred: $30,165
S Carbon Edition: $31,165
S Premium: $33,365
Carbon Turbo: $34,165
Turbo Premium: $36,365
Turbo Premium Plus: $38,175

What are the CX-30 safety ratings and driver assistance features?

Every CX-30 comes with a comprehensive array of standard safety features beyond the usual airbags and stability aids. These include forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (Smart Brake Support), lane-departure warning, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, lane-keeping assist, a rear-seat passenger reminder and a driver inattention warning system. The top Turbo Premium Plus trim also gains a traffic jam assist called Cruising and Traffic Support that combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping steering assistance to reduce driver fatigue. Many car brands offer this on lower trim levels and allow it to operate at higher speeds.

The government awarded the CX-30 a perfect five stars in overall, frontal and side crash tests, and four stars in rollover evaluations. The Institute for Highway Safety named the 2023 CX-30 a Top Safety Pick (the 2024 should at least get the same scores that result in that pick), the Institute’s second-highest honor. It received the best-possible ratings in all crash tests and for its front-crash prevention system (both for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian accidents). The one hang-up was a “Poor” rating for some headlights, but that was no longer shown on the IIHS website at the time of this writing. Theoretically, that would mean it should get a Top Safety Pick+ rating, but we’ll leave that to the IIHS to identify and announce. In short, the CX-30 has great safety ratings.



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