2022 Mazda CX-30 Turbo Review - The Crossover for Drivers

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2022 Mazda CX-30 Turbo Premium Plus AWD

2.5-liter turbocharged four (227 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm, 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
22 city / 30 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
10.5 city / 7.9 highway / 9.3 combined. (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$35,625 US / $41,076 CAN
As Tested
$35,750 US / $41,222 CAN
Prices include $1,225 destination charge in the United States and $2,126 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Yeah, I know. That title is clickbait. Especially as we’ve told you time and again that there are no self-driving cars, and there likely will not be any self-driving cars for quite some time. Every vehicle on our roads today needs a driver.

But not all of them want to be driven.

Many a car merely trudges along, asking little of the occupant of the leftmost seat other than to turn a wheel or press some pedals. Little, then, is returned - no enjoyment, simply motion. I’ve spent far too many miles behind the wheel of cars that make me want to get out from behind the wheel and forget about driving for a while. Perhaps that’s why the autonomous dream appeals to so many - they’ve never experienced satisfaction, or even fun, whilst operating a motorcar.

Maybe I’ve fallen for the marketing a bit too much, but Mazda does seem to infuse the spirit of their iconic Miata into the driving dynamics of just about everything they build. This 2022 Mazda CX-30 Turbo, for example, can certainly handle the drudgery of the daily commute with aplomb but can make a detour on a twisty two-lane a bit more enjoyable.

Yes, functionally this is the same basic beast as the Mazda 3 hatch - but with a 2.5-inch lift kit fitted. That’s a good thing, as the 3 is a well-rounded compact that is quite pleasant to drive. I was a bit surprised at the quoted 8.0-inch ground clearance listed for the CX-30 - it’s not a tall vehicle, nor does it have any off-road pretense save for an off-road mode for the i-Activ AWD system. This is a crossover for tarmac, gravel, and snow - that extra ground clearance will be welcome should you need to venture onto an unplowed snow-covered cul-de-sac in mid-February, where a lower-slung car might start acting like a snowplow.

Much has been made of the dual ratings for engine performance on Mazda’s 2.5-liter turbo four seen here. I’ve made the non-executive decision to list the lower horsepower rating of 227 horsepower in the FastFacts data panel above as I have no earthly idea if the CX-30 was filled with premium fuel upon delivery to me, so I can’t tell you if my drive impressions were influenced by original recipe gasoline or if extra-crispy premium fuel bumped the performance with the maximum 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of herbs and spices. Either way, this Mazda can comfortably scoot.

It rides beautifully, too, with well-controlled body motions and a minimum of harshness over potholes. The steering shines, direct and quick without being twitchy. Road noise is minimal - mostly mild tire noise once you get to highway speeds.

Interestingly, upon introduction in late 2019, the CX-30 was offered with front-wheel drive as well as optional all-wheel drive. No longer - every CX-30 has all four wheels driven. Pricing has accordingly driven forward with ample traction - a loaded model at that first drive stickered at just over $30K, where my tester walks into the F&I office with a Monroney around five thousand steeper. The newly-available turbocharged engine is certainly a big part of that change, while much of the rest can be adequately explained by reading a few newspaper headlines from the past few years.

Unchanged is the overall style of the CX-30. It remains quite handsome, with beautifully sculpted lines. I love how the light plays with the reflections on the door panels. This deep blue paint is a bit drab compared to, for example, Mazda’s signature Soul Red, but it’s still a damned fine-looking runabout.

The interior is a pleasant space, though I’d think twice about using the CX-30 to haul four linebackers across the country. Small families will be happy with the car, however - rear headroom is decent but not stellar should your rear seat meat cargo stretch beyond six feet tall. The leather and plastics found on this top-trim Premium Plus package are fitting with Mazda’s push into the entry-luxury market - plush, well-finished, and as good as you’ll find in the premium marques they’re targeting.

Nobody buys a crossover to go corner carving. But neither do they buy one to go off-roading each weekend. Mazda’s leaning hard on the sport/comfort side of the crossover ledger, rather than the “ooh there’s a sale at REI” side of the market. If you’re spending your weekends with Gore-Tex and a camp stove, there may be better choices - but if your weekends are more buttoned down, it’s hard to ignore the 2022 Mazda CX-30.

[Images: © 2022 Chris Tonn]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

More by Chris Tonn

Join the conversation
2 of 25 comments
  • Stuart de Baker Stuart de Baker on Dec 17, 2022

    It's not plug ugly, but it's not good looking. I'd call it "inoffensive" or maybe even "decent looking".

  • Theflyersfan Theflyersfan on Aug 24, 2023

    Old thread but I'll add some new stuff.

    The MX-5 RF is in the shop due to a highway mishap between my front tire/wheel and a chunk of concrete that fell out of a truck, in the dark, and I had nowhere to go. WHAM! Flat tire, damaged wheel, 3.5 hours for a tow and rest of the day sucked.

    I got this exact model in Soul Red as a loaner. Of course I love the color - have the same on my Mazda. It stands out. Not a fan of the black wheel trend, but everyone's doing it so just have to get used to it. The interior is a mixed bag. The dash is extremely attractive with the saddle leather-substance and black leather-substance combining to make all touchpoints and easily visible dash areas soft touch and quality feeling. The wide screen is far better than what Mazda used before, and Android Auto loads in less than 5 seconds, compared to the 30-60 it takes in my Mazda. The Bose stereo is better than other Mazdas - maybe it's of higher quality. 12 speakers fills the small cabin with decent sound. Seats are good for all around cruising, pretty quiet, very comfortable little CUV. Controls are dirt easy to use, the menus are logical, buttons are well labelled, and the frequently used items are buttons, and not buried in a submenu.

    So, any demerits? First the minor stuff. White leather. Who thinks this is a good idea? After 10,000 miles, bet on a pattern of ground in grime and scuffs that ruin the looks. Just not a good idea. But the terra cotta leather is not offered. Some don't like the half digital, half analog instrument panel. I don't mind it - it isn't distracting and I get what I need without being overwhelmed with irrelevant info. And some of the center console seemed flimsy.

    And now to the major stuff. First, for the money, you don't get much size. I'm 5'10" and keep the driver's seat back a bit. There's no way I could fit behind myself in the back seat. There is less than a foot of space for legs and feet. The head restraints in the rear almost scrape the headliner. The rear seats don't fold flat with the front seats in my driving position. The seat backs rest up against the front seats. And the cargo area is fairly small as well.

    I'm also underwhelmed at the fuel economy. I am not flogging this CUV at all - easy on the throttle, 70-ish using cruise on the highway, and most of my driving is highway. I can't get above 28.5 mpg. For something so small, I expected better, given that larger Audi CUVs in the family have no problem getting 32-35 on the highway. I think Mazda's decision of only using a 6-speed automatic is coming into play, because at 70, the tach is showing close to 2,500 rpm. That's a little high for a turbo engine on the highway and is probably keeping it at a little bit of boost most of the time. It's long past time for Mazda to invest in an 8-speed automatic, or change the gearing in 6th gear to drop the revs a bit. There's more than enough torque at hand - even using 87 octane, power is not lacking.

    Not much steering feel - Mazda things adding steering weight equals sports steering. And flipping the sport mode switch to sport mode adds a lot of revs, but not much else. And I'm finding the brakes, at least compared to the MX-5, take a LONG push before they fully kick in. The first few times scared the crap out of me! And the lane keeping is HYPER! I had to turn it off. I was nowhere near the lines, but I kept getting a wrist massage. Other Mazdas are like that as well - time for VW to tone it down a bit.

    Would I buy one to replace the MX-5? I'm not sure. I think the CX-50 would be the better buy with the extra back seat space, and even nicer interior. But I wouldn't talk anyone out of getting a CX-30.

  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.
  • El scotto Chip it, NOS it, Wrap it, go buy hipster jeans.
  • El scotto Bah to the lot of you! Now 8500$ is way too much; 5000$ would be much more reasonable. You see, every once in a while GM does something right. The two Saturns I owned were slow, I mean bog slow, poorly maintained VW bug slow. Then some GM engineers ran some sort of tippy-top secret project and put a supercharger on a 4-cylinder. Will this redline beat a Porsche? Please. Would this be worth thrashing on your daily commute? Of course. Imagine racing the GTI guys for lattes or IPAs. Those kind roll that way.