By on January 29, 2020

There are many things difficult to fathom in the automotive industry, with the story of Carlos Ghosn exiting Japan in a musical instrument case being but one of them. Another is Mazda’s seemingly perpetual streak of diminutive (compared to other brands) sales numbers. When someone asks your author for a recommendation, be it compact car or crossover, the zoom-zoom brand is invariably on the list. They’ve also been enjoying success in endurance racing, taking a podium at this year’s Daytona soirée. Go figure.

But I digress. The mystifyingly named CX-30, apparently picking up an errant “0” on its way to America, is fresh off the boat for 2020. Does it stack up in terms of feature content like other offerings in the showroom?

Starting at $21,900 -— just $150 more than a Civic hatchback, by the way ⁠— the CX-30 is equipped with a familiar 2.5-liter four banger making 185 horsepower and near-as-makes-no-difference equal amount of torque. Front wheels are driven at this price, though all-wheel drive is available for $1,400. A six-speed automatic stirs the gears rather than a wretched CVT.

All manner of LED lighting peppers the exterior, with front peepers and tails shunning the low rent incandescent bulbs for such brightwork. Those side mirrors are power and color-keyed, with Mazda applying a matte finish to the grille and installing 16-inch aluminium alloys at all four corners. Deep Crystal Blue Mica, shown here, is the only non-greyscale shade available on the base model.

It never ceases to entertain your author that such affordable machinery now comes standard with driving aids only seen on S-Class sedans not that long ago. This near-$20k Mazda has lane departure warnings, lane keep assist, and radar cruise control capable of stop & go action. The expected yaffle of airbags turns the interior into a pillow in the event of calamity.

Inside, expect a 8.8-inch jumbotron of an infotainment system even on this base model, but it does seem that Apple CarPlay is reserved for the next rung on the CX-30 ladder. Air conditioning, power accessories, keyless entry, and push button start are all but expected these days, though some companies bin the latter on base cars to save a few shillings.

With a cleanly styled interior and a hint of personality to their products, there’s a good chance Mazda will remain on the recommended list when advice is solicited. We’ll steer away from suggesting one take up residence in a musical instrument case, though.

[Image: Mazda]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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41 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2020 Mazda CX-30...”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    For the money, that’s a good amount of power, equipment and styling.

    Competitors seem to shortchange you in one way or another.

    • 0 avatar

      One of the reasons I bought my Mazda6 (base model) in 2015 was that the Accord and Optima couldn’t give me a standard backup camera, adjustable lumbar, 6-speaker stereo, and a leather steering wheel. The fact that it was relatively quick and stylish were bonuses.

      I tend to switch up brands when I buy new cars, but this CX-30 is making a case for my next car. I just hope the cargo area isn’t as small as I assume it will be.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        I cross-shopped Accord in 2015 too. I found the driver seat less comfortable for my posterior compared to Mazda, and the backseat did not have a 60/40 fold down seat back–it was 100% fold down. Given that my son has long hockey sticks, and that we carpool with other hockey players, I needed to put the long sticks in the trunk, extending into the back seat, while still needing room for 1 backseat passenger. Sometimes, car buying decisions are based on the most personal of needs!

        • 0 avatar

          Hey, I had forgotten about the backseat! That was another deal breaker! Sometimes it’s the little things, especially for those of us that actually notice little things.

  • avatar

    Pearl white is $200 extra and Soul Red isn’t even an option on the base trim, too bad. I guess dull shades are what you get if you go cheap, assuming you can find a base front drive CX-30 on a lot.

    Other than the lack of color, it seems like a pretty good value for the price.

    • 0 avatar

      I saw a Soul Red Mazda up close recently. that has to be a fairly expensive paint option, relatively speaking. looks like a special base coat silver with tinted clear, or a tri-coat.

      • 0 avatar

        Hit that tri-coat with some tru-coat!

      • 0 avatar

        Some time back I finally landed on a Mazda page where they explained how that paint is applied. It’s a very complicated multi-step process that’s also hard to do. The Soul Red is a stunning color when the sun hits it right. I was looking in case I choose to repair the pick-up but it’s crazy overkill for an old work truck. And as you mused, is probably relatively (if not very) expensive to do, and limited to a number of the more-sophisticated shops. I’d also wonder about matching a panel respray to the rest of it after a few years of sun fading.

        Stuck in moderation……again. This site really wants me to leave!

      • 0 avatar

        IIRC, it is a black base coat. That’s what provides the darkness of the color in shadow. Then, they apply an aluminum flake layer which gives it the metallic, high-shine in direct light. (Looking closely, you can see the black around the shiny flecks in the paint.) Then, they have a red, transparent layer which gives it the color while allowing the light effects of the lower layers through. I think their machine gray uses the same process.

        It has a great look to it, and I wish they did it with more colors.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “Mazda’s seemingly perpetual streak of diminutive (compared to other brands) sales numbers.”

    I daily drive a 2015 6 Touring with manual, and my wife has a 2011 CX-9 GT. Previously, she drove a 2001 MPV ES. We like Mazdas.

    That said, our experience with the brand is pretty consistent. Each of the Mazda’s we have owned have one or two significant negative attributes which knocks it out of contention from its mass-market rivals.

    Both my 6 and the CX-9 require an awkward head-bow and torso twist to gain entry to the driver seat. Both have a ride more firm than any of its rivals. The MPV had a weak engine (Duratec 2.5 V6) and a very poorly matched 4sp automatic transmission. Soundproofing in the MPV was poor–it was a noisy roadtripper.

    Mazda seems to get their products about 80% correct for the North American market. The missing 20% of correct content/design sends many potential buyers to the competition.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a 14 Mazda6touring 6MT. Great value and level of equipment for the money. I really didnt understand everyone’s issue with ingress and egress. Seemed like most of it was directed toward the back seat however. No problem getting in and out of the driver’s seat and I am not particularly limber.

      For me, the ingress and egress thing is just a non issue. I am not buying a truck or SUV because i have to stand from a below-hip-level sitting position several times per day. That is just plain lazy and a ridiculous reason for not buying anything unless you have serious musculoskeletal problems. Never once did I or any passengers hit their head in 5 years of ownership.

      I have owned a few Mazda’s and my main gripe would be NVH at highway speeds with all of them. I know more recent models have addressed this to a large extent.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @thegamper: Your personal anecdote is not evidence.

        And your generalization is incorrect.

        There are a great many people who have legitimate ingress/egress issues with sedans/coupes. Particularly with modern models whose rooflines are more sloped than at any time in auto history and which are generally lower to the ground.

        There may not have been many entry/egress issues with mid 1950’s Chevs or 1970′ Fords but there are now.

        I can provide many personal examples, including my mother who can no longer get into either of our sedans.

        On average I get into and out of my vehicle about 14 times per day. More often than I change the radio/sound, the temperature, adjust the steering wheel or seat, change the mirrors, ‘roll down’ the windows or unlock the doors from inside, or many of the other functions that we see/read/hear commentators complain about. Are they just being lazy.

        So based on your comments asking for auto temp control, cruise, power windows/door locks/mirrors, power seats, etc is just someone ‘being lazy’.

        Go to any retirement community and watch what they drive and how they get into and out of cars.

        Plus humans are generally larger than they were even 30 years ago.

        • 0 avatar

          Agreed. If you’re old and/or fat, some Mazda models may not be for you. I guess many people aren’t as limber as my 96 year old dad who could get into a Hyundai Accent!

      • 0 avatar

        @ gamper.
        Bought my 2019 Mazda6 specifically because I have no trouble geting in or out, and I have a dicky right knee that flares up when asked to assume unnatural positions like getting out of a Golf. My 6 foot 4 ex-RCMP friend, retired early because of a ruined back and hip (due to action) which is getting replaced soon, finds my 6 easier to get in and out of than the Fusion Sport he owns. And much comfier once inside.

        @ R Henry. You continually mention this “fault” of the Mazda6, but it seems to be a problem unique to you. Are you really tall or something?

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        Ingress/Egress issues are likely very closely related to physical stature and how each of us has different ranges of motion. I am 6ft, 230, with most of my length in my torso. Others have their height in the legs. My hat size is extra large (big head, small brain sadly) and my level of physical fitness an is slightly above average for my age. This issue is about as individualized as could be.

  • avatar

    CX-30 needs an optional engine with some more power. If the skyactiv x is not coming to the US, needs a smaller turbo powerplant to fill the gap.

    • 0 avatar

      Do any non-luxury compact crossovers break the 200hp barrier? When a bunch of the CX-30’s competition struggle to hit 150, 185 seems plenty adequate.

    • 0 avatar

      People buy subcompact SUVs because they are cheap & efficient. An upgrade engine increases price, and if consumers are going to pay more, odds are they will simply opt for a bigger vehicle–at least in the US.

      The CX-30 appears to be ‘right sized’ for the European market. There, they benefit from multiple engines, i.e., the 2.0L base and 2.0L Sky-X as an upgrade. In the US, the CX-5 is ‘right sized,’ so if they increase the price of the CX-30, people will just slide into the CX-5.

      IMO, the reason the Sky-X isn’t coming to the US any time soon is because there’s no market for an ‘upgrade’ engine that has similar power & less torque than their 2.5L engine (which is the base in many of their cars in the US). But if they made a 2.5L Sky-X which got ~220 hp & ~200 lb-ft AND ~15% better mpg than the base 2.5L, then they would see a 45% to 60% take rate in the US like they do in other markets. They might even see conquest sales because it is such a compelling product.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in a minority I’m sure, but I’d be fine with the 2.0 if it were offered. I place more value on handling, ride, steering, and interior appointments. I had a 2.3 Mazda3 in the past and thought it somewhat thirsty at the time. I’ll probably be checking this car out, but I’m not exactly rushing. To me it seems unfortunate that you have to go up 2 trim levels to get heated seats, and it seems that a lot of car makers are only bundling moonroofs with their highest trims. I don’t need every bell and whistle, but when I was looking on the Mazda website I wasn’t finding the configuration, color combo, and price that really floated my boat.

  • avatar

    The CX3 is not long for the US market with the intro of this model. And, anyone who wants a Mazda3 hatch but hates the current styling will buy this car.

  • avatar

    Not bad, but I’d gladly trade push button start and keyless entry for some real paint choices.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but unfortunately, the manufacturer may have reduced cost by eliminating the tooling for the ignition lock. So giving you back the old tech might cost them more.

      Paint pigment, on the other hand, costs money. (Apparently, some carmakers have been known to skimp on paint thickness to save a few bucks.)

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    This article got me thinking, and checking and pricing the CX-30 on the Mazda Canada site.

    Just how small/cramped is the back seat? Can it hold 3 ‘in a pinch’?
    How does the back seat and hatch/cargo room compare to a Honda HR-V or a Nissan Qashqai (Rogue Sport) or a Kia Soul?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      While Mazda’s design language does look pretty, there is a heavy price to pay for it. They are able to make a FWD car look like it has a RWD dash-to-axle ratio, but the price comes at the back end. The rear seats are Dinklage-sized, and the trunk is only useful for trips to the Kwickie-Mart.

      • 0 avatar

        My Mazda6 has fine rear seats. In fact, I measured front seats 1.5 inch longer than in the bigger Outback. But this goes further into Subaru. Crosstrek does not have Mazda “RWD” proportions and yet, its seat cushions are super short, especially in the rear.

    • 0 avatar

      I had my car in for service yesterday, and the dealer had a CX-30 in the showroom. Trunk space is pretty comparable to the Soul, maybe a little more area but not quite as tall. Headroom in the back seat is a little compromised, I’d expect 3 smaller people in a pinch, but it’s really meant for two. Couldn’t get a proper feel for the front seat though, as they had it jacked up about as far as it would go, and the battery disconnected. The Soul is still the packaging champ for that price range, although I expect the HR-V excel at that too.

  • avatar

    I like the Mazda3 , but I’m having a hard time with all the plastic cladding on the CX-30.

  • avatar

    How can it be that the CX-30 seems to actually be a lot of car for the price, but the Mazda3 ends up vastly overpriced?

    I don’t get it. I do agree with this call, however, lot of engine and equipment for a nice MSRP.

  • avatar

    This should do well against the competition in the segment. The only true contenders are the Kicks and the Kona. Both of them are slower in base trims than the CX-30. Agreed that the body molding looks ugly unless you get a dark colored paint. Go with the black.

    For a basic ride this looks like a win.

  • avatar

    Look at the tiny rear wheel, bobbing afraid and alone in a pitch-black sea of fender gap and plastic cladding.

    This is the ugliest vehicle Mazda has ever produced. The foot-high expanse of cladding is unforgivable.

  • avatar

    A little different than the Canadian model, ours has the smaller 2.0 as the base engine. Funny enough, the mid-trim gets the 2.5, and the top trim get the same 2.5 but with cylinder deactivation. At steady highway speeds it can turn into a two cylinder. I’m honestly curious as to what the exhaust will sound like when it kicks in.

  • avatar

    Just yesterday watched Doug Demuro review on this. The discussion on the numeric nomenclature vs Naming the cars. Then I thought, Mazda always had 323, 626, 929, MPV. Yea, there was once Protege and Tribute, Miata even.

    The hardest of them all were Lincoln and Cadillac. I could not differentiate their one 3-letter configuration vs another.

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