The first-ever Mazda CX-30 pushes the affordable luxury envelope

2020 Mazda CX-30 AWD with Premium Package
MSRP: $29,600 ($31,670 as tested)
2.5L 4CYL, 186HP, 186PF, AWD

Editor’s note: We tested this vehicle in April 2020. We initially delayed publishing the review due to issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, but we hope you enjoy it now.

We were privileged to be one of the first media groups to review the first-ever Mazda CX-30. This 2020 model went on the market in the UK in December 2019, and in North America in January 2020. Three months later, Toyota loaned us a copy for a week, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ours was the all-wheel-drive with Premium Package, featuring a 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder engine that produces 186 horsepower. It’s not as powerful as the little-bit-bigger and more-expensive CX-5, but we thought it was every bit as luxurious on the interior and just as beautiful on the exterior. You’ll give up a little bit of headroom, but not much. You’ll notice the cargo difference, but being smaller has its advantages, too, especially if you’re a city mouse.

As you may have guessed by now, the CX-30 slots into a space between the CX-3 and the CX-5. Apparently, there is a China-only CX-4, so that’s why this one is called the CX-30.

The CX-30 is only available as an inline four-cylinder, but options range from a 1.8-liter diesel to the 2.5-liter gasoline engine.

Travel opportunities were limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we did take the CX-30 down to Atlanta Motor Speedway during our week. No, not around the legendary, 1.5-mile tri-oval track, but rather around the 2.1-mile perimeter road. This for us is the ultimate road test for a daily driver, because it has just enough dips, tips, twists and straights to simulate the best daily commute backroads.

If you take the AMS perimeter road clockwise, which is counterintuitive for NASCAR fans, you get the better experience, because you’re in the snugger inside lane. We did that a couple of times, then we wrapped up our experience with the all-lefts lap for kicks.

Most surprising is how much this “crossover”, which is definitely all-SUV, handles like a car around the turns. The seats aren’t particularly huggy like you’ll find in sportier vehicles, but you’re not being thrown from your seat. And the acceleration is great, especially considering you’re in a naturally-aspirated four-banger.

We would have been surprised by how luxurious the CX-30 felt on the inside, but we had reviewed the CX-5 just weeks earlier, and that was a beauty. As the 2020 is the first-ever CX-30, and as we’re learning that Mazda is creeping into the luxury space, it made sense to us that the CX-30 might be dressed to impress. It was.

Keep in mind, we had the Premium Package trim, which starts just south of $30K (our was just north), but the basic-level CX-30, otherwise known as the plain-ol’ CX-30, starts around $22K for the front-wheel-drive. You can have the basic all-wheel-drive for about a grand more. There are two other trim levels in between: The Select and the Preferred, stickered at $24K and $26K, respectively. Again, you’re paying about a grand more for each if you want all-wheel-drive.

The Premium Package includes a 12-speaker Bose stereo system that sounds great, but what impressed us just as much as the simulated manual radio dial. Just above the center console armrest is a round dial that interacts with the eight-inch, touchscreen information system monitor. You can set the AM/FM control screen to look like the old-fashioned round radio dial, and the round controller at your fingertips becomes the old-fashioned radio knob. You may need to see it to fully appreciate it, but we loved it.

Across the four trim levels, you have your choices of cloth seats, faux leather and the real deal. You have seven exterior colors, and three interior colors, including “greige”.

One last note is that the CX-30 was generously roomy for such a small vehicle. That’s a nice combination for taller people (like me), who appreciate an SUV that’s easy to maneuver in urban spaces.

Click the link below to watch our review on YouTube.

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