By on February 10, 2021

2021 Mazda CX-30 TurboSome cars are segment tweeners. The 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo is one of those.

The raised hatchback is just barely a crossover, but Mazda lists it as such. Whatever it is, it does stay true to Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” marketing, and turbo power helps with that.

That’s the big news for this year – turbo power, just like on its platform-mate, the Mazda 3. And the CX-30 experience is much like what I experienced with the 3, only with more ground clearance.

(Full disclosure: Mazda sent coffee, a COVID mask, and a travel mug to me with the car. The company also wanted to send me Bose headphones, but I declined.)

That means you get tight, nicely-weighted steering that gives the car a performance feel while allowing for quick, sharp turn-in in corners. It means the turbo-four – 2.5 liters, 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (250/320 on premium fuel, which my tester was running) – delivers enough oomph for easy merging and passing, though you won’t be blowing anyone’s doors off.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

The six-speed automatic is generally well-behaved, as well, and offers paddle shifters.

Raised ground clearance does lead to a bit of body roll, though it’s not too offensive. I did manage to encounter understeer and some slipperiness during my test loop, despite the all-wheel-drive system that’s standard on turbo models. Nothing unmanageable, but the CX-30 can only be pushed so hard before the tires lose grip. There may have been extenuating circumstances at play – the Chicago area was deep in the grips of the polar vortex at test time and I’m sure that didn’t help the tires grip the pavement.

I did also nearly slide through a stop sign due to ice. Not sure if the safety nannies were taking the morning off or what, although I do suspect I didn’t apply enough brake-pedal pressure to trigger the ABS, as I felt no pedal pulsation. It’s possible that the tires fitted to my test car just weren’t up for spirited driving in freezing weather, nor for simply stopping on an under-salted side street during relatively gentle urban driving.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

The tires were 18s (Bridgestone Turanza EL 440s), and the suspension underpinning the front is a MacPherson strut setup, with a torsion-beam axle setup in the rear. Unplanned ice slides notwithstanding, the brakes were quite stout during aggressive driving.

Inside, the cabin is quite pleasant, thanks to materials that mostly look and feel upmarket, and the white seats contrasted neatly with the dashboard’s mostly unrelieved black (trimmed with chrome). Mazda’s infotainment system can be confounding when you’re new to it or haven’t used it in a while, but familiarity breeds ease of use. It does work well with Apple CarPlay, and CarPlay also makes the use of certain menus and functions moot.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Mazda seems to think CX-30 buyers are seeking adventure, but really, most are likely seeking slightly more utility than a Mazda 3 hatch, and perhaps a higher ride height. Cargo capacity is slightly more than a 3 Turbo hatchback, though that was still plenty to haul a whole bunch of groceries. Headroom and legroom were adequate upfront, but this long-legged editor felt cramped when hopping in the rear seat for the photoshoot, with the driver’s seat pushed fairly far back.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Standard features included LED daytime running lights and headlights, sunroof, the already mentioned 18-inch wheels, roof rails, power liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive front-lighting system, dual-zone climate control, remote keyless entry, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, power driver seat, connected services, push-button start, Bose audio, satellite radio, heated steering wheel, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, heated front seats, electronic parking brake, navigation, traffic-sign recognition, leather seats, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control with stop and go, rear cross-traffic alert, smart brake support, driver-attention alert, high-beam control, and blind-spot monitoring system.

All that added up to $33,900.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Options included a $160 cargo cover, $125 all-weather floor mats, and the $595 Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, plus a rear bumper guard ($125). My test unit was a Premium Plus trim, which adds traffic-jam assist, Homelink, driver-side auto-dimming exterior mirror, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree monitor, rear cross-traffic braking, and rear smart-city brake support.

All told, the vehicle cost $35,995 including the $1,100 destination fee.

That price is a bit dear for a smallish crossover, but at least the CX-30 feels both sporty and upmarket.

Fuel economy, if you’re wondering, is listed at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

The overall package works well, although I’d opt for the regular 3 Turbo hatch over a CX-30 unless I really, really needed the extra ground clearance.

For the crossover buyer who likes to zoom, the CX-Turbo will fit the bill – assuming you’re willing to part with the Benjamins.

Correction — an earlier version of this post listed the wrong torque figure with premium fuel. The correct version is 320 lb-ft with premium fuel. We have updated this post to reflect the correct spec. We regret the error.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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41 Comments on “2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo First Drive – Turbocharged Tweener...”


  • avatar
    thegamper

    That price seems steep for a slightly raised Mazda3 hatch. I suppose it is class competitive and there is not a lot to complain about in terms of the equipment and powertrain.

    I will just throw this out there though….please Mazda and other manufacturers, lay off the black on black on black interior color palette. The interior might be nice, but my goodness is it boring to look at. I would think that a brand with premium aspirations could spruce it up just a bit with some color. I know that certain exterior colors can be paired with beige leather, but even those are pretty plain.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Exactly. I know Mazda wants to move upmarket. But this is not a $35K car. Maybe $30K at the outside. In fact, buying a non-turbo version for under $25K might be a better idea overall. I’ve driven a CX-5 with the non-turbo powerplant and it wasn’t bad. The CX-30 is quite a bit lighter.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      He should have pulled the camera back a little for that dash pic because he has the white leather seats/door inserts(?) inside so that would have shown a contrast.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      This is one of the few cars where you have options other than black/black, which this does not show in photos. Premium trim (non-Turbo anyway) has brown leather dash top with brown that carries to the door trim and center console. Seats can be either black or white. Lower trims have dark blue accents in place of the brown, some trims have black or “parchment” “leatherette” seats. I’m getting increasingly tempted by a “Polymetal Gray” premium trim near me with white seats. Hesitant about the white (they’re “too white” IMO) but I’m clean and don’t have kids so I could make it work. I don’t want black, but I could settle for it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You can buy a basic version of this car, without the turbo, for around $25,000.

      And, yes, I think $35,000 is a bit steep, but when you think about it, what non-luxury-brand compact CUV offers this level of performance? I can’t think of one. It makes more sense when you think of this as a cheaper Q3.

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        @FreedMike, the base non-turbo FWD models sell for 21.5 around me, base price is lower than a 3 hatch I think, with a wide spread in terms of price and features. So from 21.5k up to turbo and AWD for 30k+. This is part of the problem for Mazda, people still compare offerings against high-volume commodity competitors, so they think anything costing more is too expensive even if it is nicer than run of the mill. Car blog commenters being the most critical of course.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          It takes time, but their stuff IS quite a bit nicer than what you get from, say, Toyota, so if going upscale is the plan, they’re going about it in a way that makes sense. Consider Infiniti, which sells largely uncompetitive stuff and (laughably) tries to sell it for Mercedes/BMW/Audi money.

      • 0 avatar
        toronado

        my non turbo at $25,000 I am pleased with. $35,000 is just too much for the extras IMO, I would go for something else.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    This vehicle packs all the weight of my daily driver into a package which is a full two feet shorter.

    [100 miles less range per fueleconomy.gov comparison tool]

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I was with you until we got to the back seat legroom, the price, and the fuel economy.

    For example, nearly every version of the Hyundai Santa Fe beats this car in those categories.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Perhaps you were referring to a compact CUV, like a Kona? A Santa Fe is a much bigger vehicle – the Mazda equivalent would be the CX-5.

      In any case, comparing it to the Kona, the big advantage here is performance (and, of course, the Kona would be a lot cheaper). In fact, I can’t think of a non-premium-brand vehicle like this that offers similar power and performance. You have to step up to something like a Audi Q3 for that, and similarly equipped, that car is going to be a LOT more expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Yes, my point was that a larger vehicle like the Santa Fe gives you more room and better fuel economy for a lower price. Of course, if a smaller vehicle is the requirement, the Kona or Tucson would compare favorably.

        Naturally, the CX-30 buyer is also looking at things like handling or interior details or paint finish which may mean more to them than rear legroom or fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Meh. Just another anonymous, chopped-back, slightly raised, bunker-windowed, pug-nosed CUV thingy.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Those same tires came on our Pacifica (OEM) and they suck if it is cold or damp and worse if there is snow on the ground. They probably aren’t as bad as the Goodyear Eagle LS in the cold as the Goodyears (OEM) were worse than the summer tires on my other vehicle in the cold.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Mazda – That Red is wonderful.

    But, I rented a CX 5 a while back.
    TV screen / spin wheel controls – Horrible.
    Smart Cruise Control locked on to the car 1 lane over during a slight curve. A car i was passing. Result?
    The car Slammed on the brakes.

    This has never happened in 33,000 miles of driving my Subaru.

    Mazda – Real Hard frigging pass. As much as i want to buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yikes – that incident would make me shudder, too. Don’t blame you for those sentiments.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      I have never had that problem with our CX-5 and Mazda 6. However, their default follow distance is set way to far.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        It is. It took two minutes to change it in the menu on my 6 turbo. I also turned the LKAS system off from day one 18 months ago, which there are two ways to do including a dedicated switch — it feels like a ghost in the works, Cap’n, no thanks. I had the brake-to-a-halt system trigger, but I admit I was cutting it fine with a RAV4 driver turning into a Timmies, and making a meal of it. All makes seem to have this error occur now and then when you read forums, including VW, Honda and Toyota.

    • 0 avatar

      It never happened to me in any car I had a privilege to own, even in my first car Lada Sputnik.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Behold the noname $36,000 subcompact hatch. They’ve got to be kidding.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Still love that Mazda red.

    Side note of looking at cars for many decades. GM makes crap I would not buy (sorry GM- you paid A LOT of money for my BS and MS).

    Your paint is heads above other brands. Size of the metal flake. The perceived depth. Lack of Orange peel. Color variety (#). Colors offered (actual shade).

    Ford? Flake is too small.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Nice enough, but $35K? No thanks

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Needs better tires. Can the nannies (daytime running lights, lane keeping, adaptive cruise, etc.) be turned off?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Nice enough car, but here’s the problem: if you can live without a sunroof, nav (which in my opinion isn’t really necessary with CarPlay/Android Auto), a ton of tech gadgets, or uprated sound, you can get a CX-5 with the same powertrain for the same money as the vehicle in this test. That’s the way I’d go.

    Or if you can live without a hatchback, the 3 turbo sedan comes in at a touch over $30,000, and I think that car is a deal – it compares VERY favorably to entry-lux cars like the A3/A-class/BMW 2-grand-whatever-they-call-it, for a lot less (and, more importantly, probably a lot cheaper to run and maintain).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “All told, the vehicle cost $35,995 including the $1,100 destination fee.”

    For that?

    Lordy. Was there some big raise I missed the memo on?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I agree – it’s overpriced. It makes more sense when you compare it to something like a compact CUV from Ze Germans, but those are GONZO overpriced. Ah well. Such is car buying in 2021.

      If you have to have the more powerful engine, the way to go here is the CX-5 with the same drivetrain, which comes in at the same price point as this car.

      • 0 avatar
        here4aSammich

        Isn’tt Mazda supposed to making some move to a “Japanese BMW” model? Maybe this pricing is a sign of things to come. Overpriced when compared to a Hyundai, but to the person cross shopping a BWM? Hey, it’s a value play! They’ll just need to figure out how to pump up the residuals in order to keep the monthly lease payments low as well, since Ze Germans heavily rely on leasing to move metal…..

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          That’s about the size of it, but Ze Germans still move the metal, whether their pricing makes sense or not. And I think anyone who cross-shops this with something like a $40,000 Audi Q3 is going to be tempted, at a minimum.

          I also think there is room for a manufacturer that sells premium-ish stuff at a lower price. Think modern-day Olds. And d if this is Mazda’s plan, they’re executing it nicely (better than Infiniti, God knows – their pricing is delusional). My big concern with Mazda isn’t their product – it’s their sometimes-shabby-looking dealers. It takes time but I’ll be interested in seeing how this plays out for them.

          I’ll be interested to see how this plays for them.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Do people who buy BMWs want second tier Japanese for a “bargain”? Strikes me people who lease new BMWs are not value shoppers in the first place.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Those tires are the same ones I immediately replaced after our first snow/ice storm in Minnesota. The consumer reviews are terrible with those in the southern states being the only buyers who find them remotely acceptable.

    I won’t pretend that I know a lot about tires, but I can tell when they’re crap.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      They are pretty decent in the summer time when it isn’t raining, but they had us looking at Blizzaks for the winter here. I would put them above the Goodyear Eagle LS which were the absolute worst tire I have ever had. An off ramp I can take at 75 in the 2000 Durango I had to take at less than 45 in the sedan with the Eagles if it were damp at all and below 50*. With the Pacifica and the tires on the tester here I can still go 55 in the damp and cold, but if I roll on the throttle it will start to wash out. Both tires are worthless if there is snow.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    The turbo can be had for ~30K. I honestly would get the Turbo Premium model which excludes that 360 camera and rear braking assist for ~32K.

    The top trim subcompact SUVs are going for 27-30K. It really just boils down to if AWD and the 2.5T are priorities.

  • avatar
    stuki

    It’ll be a tough sell. Like most non-cheap cars nominally targeting “the young,” it’s really targeting those who are only young by Japanese standards: Downsizers, who have enough money not to fret too much about “overpaying” for a bit of added niceness. Yet who wants a smaller, easier to live with, vehicle. Problem is, those guys are at an age where opinions and reputations are a bit set. So they tend to still think of the aspirational brands from their youth as what’s premium.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Compared to an Audi Q3, this little bucket is barrel chested. Once that turbo engine runs in, and mine took more than 3,000 miles and using only 91 octane on my 6, I’d have to say the engine flings it around with some authority. The CX-30 AWD is a couple hundred pounds lighter.

    Price in Canada for the GT Turbo is Canuck (78 cent dollar) $38K incl shipping. Mazda seems to dislike Americans with their pricing.

    As for Bridgestone Turanza tires, there’s a business here buying them up to fit on custom electric wheelbarrows. Snow and ice are not on their menu, and there’s some speculation they’re best suited to Tokyo traffic jams. Fully 20 years behind the times.

  • avatar

    Why Mazda competes with BMW/Audi and not with Lexus/Acura/Infiniti or Lincoln/Cadillac (which itself competes with BMW)?

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