June 8, 2023


Creative living

2020 Mazda CX-30 Channels the Mazda 3 to Good Effect

5 min read

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

2/24/20 UPDATE: This review has been updated with test results.

Have you considered the Mazda 3? That’s the first question we have for anyone interested in the 2020 Mazda CX-30. The CX-30 has barely more interior room and no more cargo space than a Mazda 3 hatchback, and it can’t match the fuel economy of the 3. But, we get it. The CX-30 starts at $23K in base front-drive form, or $1645 less than the entry 3 hatch, and the CX-30 has the shape and the raised seating position that buyers want.

HIGHS: Clean design inside and out, pleasing material quality, it’s a lifted Mazda 3.

Look, we’ve got no beef with the CX-30, it’s just that we love the 3 more. It’s won multiple 10Best awards over the years, and it treads the line between sportiness and refinement in a way few others in the compact-car space can match. The good news is that the CX-30 is, at its core, a lifted 3.

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

Familiarly Focused

Driving the CX-30 made us feel better about the shrinking car market, however, because the 3’s secure handling, firm ride, solid structure, and trusty engine are all present. While the extra height dulls responses, the CX-30 isn’t far off the mark. Whether you’re trundling down a freeway or cutting up a mountain, the CX-30 leaves the impression that someone within Mazda liked the 3 enough to make this SUV version act like one. On the skidpad, there’s 0.84 g of grip, which is enough to have fun on a great road or provide the security to take evasive action in an emergency. Still, a 3 hangs on even more tenaciously with 0.87 g of grip.

Turbocharged engines are the norm in the CX-30’s burgeoning segment, and as a result we’ve become accustomed to having a low-rpm rush of power. Maybe rush is the wrong word, but some thrust down low is the norm in this segment. That’s not the case here. While the four-cylinder under the CX-30’s hood is relatively large, without the aid of a turbo it has to spin past 4000 rpm to find meaningful torque. The CX-30’s zero-to-60-mph time of 7.5 seconds is good but not great for the class. That time is only a little bit slower than a 3 hatchback’s 7.3-second measurement.

LOWS: Acceleration requires the engine to work rather hard, small rear seat, still not as good as a Mazda 3.

Aside from the handling, its six-speed automatic further distinguishes the CX-30 from all the anonymous potato-shaped crossovers. Bless Mazda for not putting an annoying continuously variable automatic transmission in any of their cars. There’s also no zillion-speed automatic that can’t settle on a gear. We’re talking to you, Jeep Cherokee. The Mazda’s transmission helps keep the engine’s power on tap, yet it features a tall enough top gear to keep things hushed inside at 80 mph. Our all-wheel-drive test car’s 28-mpg average fuel economy with us is 1 mpg better than its EPA combined estimate.

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

Polished yet Compact

The CX-30 looks like everything else in Mazda’s showroom—clean, elegant, nicely proportioned (not a potato) with just the right amount of brightwork. The side cladding is a bit much, though, straying too far toward the hiking-boot side of the spectrum, but we could live with it. A quick word on Mazda’s paint. On vehicles with metallic paint, Mazda chooses small metal flakes that give the car a glow rather than the bass-boat sparkle so popular with their competitors. It’s a nice upmarket touch.

Mazda’s interior design is as clean as the exterior’s. There’s an elegant simplicity, and the materials in the places you look and interact with are excellent for the class. Instead of trying to be clever, the climate controls all have buttons and knobs that work the way you’d expect. Instead of throwing out what works, Mazda concentrated on making the myriad controls feel precise and expensive. Controlling the radio, settings, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions all falls to the knob between the seats. An 8.8-inch screen sits atop the instrument panel. It’s not a touchscreen, so don’t try reaching for it.

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

It’s pretty quiet inside the CX-30, too. The CX-30 registered 65 decibels while cruising at 70 mph. Rear-seat occupants will have to be pretty familiar with each other because there’s not a lot of space back there. At 104.5 inches, the wheelbase is nearly three inches shorter than the 3’s. According to the specifications, the CX-30 has 1.2 more inches of rear-seat legroom, but even if it does, it’s seriously tight back there. Overall, the high-roof CX-30 has one additional cubic foot of interior volume versus the 3. There’s 20 cubic feet of cargo area, which is the same as the 3 hatchback but more than the CX-3. That pint-sized option will continue to be sold but is certainly less likely to be considered now that the CX-30 is here.

Double Play

Given the existence of the smaller CX-3, perhaps you’re wondering why the CX-30 isn’t called the CX-4. We asked. Mazda told us that there’s a different vehicle in the Chinese market called the CX-4. Since that wouldn’t affect anyone outside of China, we can’t imagine anyone would care, and the logic of going from 3 to 4 needs no explanation. The need for two vehicles in what’s arguably the same segment also needs no explanation after you learn that the CX-3 and CX-30’s segment has gone from selling 200,000 units in 2014 to just shy of 800,000 last year. Mazda sees this mushrooming segment as having enough space for two small SUVs. Pricing for the CX-30 opens at $23,000 and creeps past $30K if, like with our test car, you hit every option box on a top-level Premium model with all-wheel drive.

Jessica Lynn WalkerCar and Driver

What we like about the CX-30 is that Mazda has made conscious decisions to avoid design for the sake of design. They’ve chosen tried and true solutions rather than reinventing what doesn’t need to be reinvented. That’s why there’s a real shifter, gauges that look like gauges, and switchgear that’s lovely to touch and easy to use. For a segment full of annoying mishegoss that gets in the way of driving, we find precious little to complain about here. Consider that a major win for the segment.



2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD


front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon


$31,370 (base price: $30,645)


DOHC inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection

152 in3, 2488 cm3

186 hp @ 6000 rpm

186 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm


6-speed automatic


Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink

Brakes (F/R): 11.6-in vented disc/10.4-in disc

Tires: Bridgestone Turanza EL440, 215/55R18 95H M+S


Wheelbase: 104.5 in

Length: 173.0 in

Width: 70.7 in

Height: 61.7 in

Passenger volume: 94 ft3

Cargo volume: 20 ft3

Curb weight: 3391 lb


Rollout, 1 ft: 0.3 sec

60 mph: 7.5 sec

100 mph: 20.7 sec

120 mph: 38.8 sec

Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.9 sec

Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec

Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.1 sec

¼-mile: 15.8 sec @ 89 mph

Top speed (mfr’s claim): 126 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 177 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.84 g


Observed: 28 mpg


Combined/city/highway: 27/25/32 mpg

More Specs and Features