CX-30 is the Mazda Subcompact SUV for all Environs

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CHATHAM, Mass. – The 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus Package AWD packs virtually every modern bit of technology the Japanese company could engineer into the very manageable, competitively priced subcompact sport-utility/crossover-utility footprint.

The compressed size coupled with the responsive new turbocharged Skyactiv-G engine allows the CX-30 to carve through crowded urban areas then smoothly take you to the wilderness where the all-wheel drive (AWD) system provides reasonable off-road capabilities.

And the trip will be enjoyable and economical as you relax to your favorite audio entertainment through the 12-speaker Bose premium sound system while traveling about 30 miles on each gallon of gasoline the Mazda consumes.

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Like every Mazda I have experienced, the CX-30 was fun to drive. The feeling begins before you even get behind the wheel – Mazda SUVs have a bit of design flair; they do not look like the cookie-cutter rectangular box-on-wheels as do most of their competitors. They swoop from end to end, sometimes sacrificing pure efficiency for esprit de corps.

The cabin, somewhat thanks to that more stylish design, is a cozy, warm environment, adding to the impetus to spend some time there just enjoying the drive.

In this, the second year of the CX-30’s existence in the U.S. market, Mazda added a number of new features to enhance an already solid offering in one of the hottest automotive segments.

Powerplant with dual personality and a chassis to match

The new for 2021 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo motor allows you to choose just how much horsepower you want: use regular gas and the engine produces a robust 227 hp and 310 pounds-feet of torque, while changing to premium fuel bumps the numbers to 250 and 320 (respectively). Either way, the subcompact SUV really scoots when the accelerator pedal is pushed.

Putting this power to the road is an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission and standard AWD system. The i-Active AWD provides improved traction on all types of road surfaces including those not on the map thanks to Off-Road Traction Assist.

When engaged this system will retune the all-wheel drive and traction control systems to be optimized for off-road and help reduce the chances of wheel slip. With Off-Road Traction Assist engaged, the vehicle will start with maximum rear torque and locked up center coupling. As it starts rolling, the system will immediately loosen the coupling and monitor if the tires begin to slip.

If there is any speed differential between the front and rear, then the system will start to tighten up the coupling. If one or two tires are up in the air, or unloaded, as the CX-30 is attempting to climb up a hill, the system will apply the brakes to the unloaded tires so that the torque will naturally go to across to the other side of the differential to the tire that is on the ground and has the most grip.

This reactive system allows the CX-30 to determine what it needs to do to help support the driver’s intentions, even on uneven pavement.

The chassis pieces are straight forward – MacPherson-type struts up front, torsion beam in the rear – but engineered for both a smooth, controlled ride, and taught handling characteristics, proven on the tight, challenging hilly road from the Atlantic Ocean to the center of Wellfleet, Mass.

The braking hardware brings power-assisted discs on the four corners, ventilated 11.6-inch ones in the front, 11.9-inch solid ones in the rear. An anti-lock system (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist manage these pieces. An electronic parking brake (EPB) completes the braking package.

Technology abounds throughout comprehensively equipped SUV

The Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus Package we sampled included several new for 2021 advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS). The automatic-emergency braking (AEB) system Mazda christened Smart Braking System (SBS) for medium-distance collision avoidance is supplemented by a Smart City Braking System (SCBS) and SCBS Rear which are designed for AEB-aided collision-avoidance in urban, low-speed settings.

Also new for 2021 are Rear Cross-Traffic Braking, which will use the AEB system to help avoid potential collisions detected by the rear cross-traffic monitoring system, and 360° camera monitoring system, which is a great parking aid (including turning on the front-view camera when you switch from reverse to drive while maneuvering at speeds below 10 miles per hour).

The additional comprehensive suite of i-Activsense ADAS includes: Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and High Beam Control.

Luxury-car amenities in the comfortable cabin

The advanced technology features of this CX-30 extend into the amenities provided for the passengers. Heated leather seating (with power assist and two-person memory for the driver) and steering wheel provide comfortable accommodations for front-seat passengers within the cozy cabin (which can be tight in the rear depending upon where the front seats are positioned).

The cabin may be cozy, but it is not claustrophobic thanks to large windows all around and a generous power moonroof with manual shade.

The 8.8-inch color display is the center of the infotainment and navigation systems as well as the means to adjust many of the vehicle settings. These actions can be made by either fingertips on the touch screen or the command dial (with adjacent volume and audio controls) in the center console.

The other controls for systems like the dual-zone climate control, lighting and wipers (with automatic rain-sensing capability) are logically arranged in unique quadrants and ergonomically designed.

Excellent value in the ultra-competitive compact SUV segment

Driving the Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus Package with verve seemingly did little to hurt the vehicle’s fuel economy. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the SUV at 22 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 25 combined; I saw 29+ in my time behind the wheel!

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In addition, the 2021 CX-30 received a five-star (out of five) safety rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as being among the seven Mazda vehicles receiving an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+.

The everything-included nature of this vehicle resulted in an MSRP of $36,995 which included $595 for the Machine Gray Metallic paint and $1,199 for delivery, processing and handling.

Bottom line: a lot of SUV; a lot of fun; a good choice.

Next week TBR Drives the new all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.