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2021 Mazda CX-30: 4 Things We Like and 4 Things We Don’t

2021 Mazda CX-30 2021 Mazda CX-30 | Cars.com photo by Kelsey Mays

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 improves on the things we already like most about this small five-occupant SUV and rival to popular models like the Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek. Namely, a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine gives the CX-30 added power, which is great considering the fun-to-drive nature of this Mazda.

Related: 2021 Mazda CX-30 Review: More Fun, Still Flawed

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Premium Package
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Plus, thanks to its small proportions and sharp steering, the CX-30 shines in crowded city traffic and on backroads filled with winding curves. Combined with a cabin that looks a cut above more mainstream competitors, the CX-30 has a lot to offer SUV shoppers. Problem is, the punchier turbo engine doesn’t address issues that surface with all CX-30s, regardless of engine or whether you prefer front- or all-wheel drive.

You can find our complete review of the new 2021 Mazda CX-30 by following the related link above. Alternatively, keep scrolling for a quick recap of the things we like most about this peppy SUV, along with areas that still need improvement.

Things We Like

1. Turbocharged Engine

2021 Mazda CX-30 engine 2021 Mazda CX-30 | Cars.com photo by Kelsey Mays

The big update for the 2021 Mazda CX-30 is the availability of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This is generally the same 2.5-liter four found in the standard CX-30, except the turbo boosts output from 186 horsepower to 227 hp when running on regular gas; pony up for premium fuel and this engine produces a total of 250 hp and 320 pounds-feet of torque. Working with the same six-speed automatic used with the standard power plant, the turbo engine provides the CX-30 with strong acceleration in every type of driving scenario.

2. Playful Handling

One area where the CX-30 has always shined is how this subcompact SUV lives for getting around corners quickly. Credit the sharp steering and a taut suspension that keeps the CX-30 level even while powering around the tightest curves. When shopping for a budget-friendly SUV, most car shoppers aren’t expecting a vehicle that will put a smile on their face — yet the eager nature of the CX-30 does exactly that when you’re behind the wheel. 

3. Premium Interior

2021 Mazda CX-30 dashboard 2021 Mazda CX-30 | Cars.com photo by Kelsey Mays

Not only is the CX-30 more fun to drive than most of its closest rivals, the interior looks like it belongs to a vehicle costing thousands more, too. A well-designed dashboard, soft-touch surfaces and low-gloss plastics contribute to the premium look and feel. At a glance, with the Mazda badges covered, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a small SUV from a dedicated luxury brand.

4. Standard Safety Features

Having plenty of horsepower and sharp steering is all well and good, but SUV shoppers are also looking for safety. In this regard, the CX-30 also performs admirably: The 2021 CX-30 earns a Top Safety Pick Plus award, the highest score possible, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety equipment includes items including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers.

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Things We Don’t

1. Snug Cabin and Cargo Area

2021 Mazda CX-30 backseat 2021 Mazda CX-30 | Cars.com photo by Kelsey Mays

The new turbo engine gives the CX-30 extra acceleration, but it doesn’t improve this SUV’s cozy cabin and limited cargo area. Tall adults could find life in the second row to be confining, especially if the person sitting up front is stingy about moving their seat forward. Trunk volume with the rear seats upright measures in at 13.7 cubic feet by our independent accounting. That’s OK for this class of SUV, though only just.

2. Poor Visibility

The CX-30’s undersized rear window and tapering roofline aren’t as bad as in the related Mazda3 hatchback, whose over-the-shoulder blind spots are a significant problem, but that’s a low bar. In our Affordable Small SUV Challenge, the CX-30 scored last among four SUVs for overall visibility.

3. No Touchscreen for Infotainment System

2021 Mazda CX-30 center stack display screen 2021 Mazda CX-30 | Cars.com photo by Kelsey Mays

The 8.8-inch infotainment screen is controlled via a dial between the front seats. The system is generally easy to use, though the lack of a touchscreen interface is a strange omission. This proves cumbersome when trying to operate Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The controller is simply ill-adapted to seamlessly operate with either system.

4. Firm Ride

Not every vehicle that handles well exacts a trade-off in ride quality, but the CX-30 feels a little one-dimensional in this regard. The CX-30’s suspension maintains good overall body control, but many shoppers will find its ride too firm — especially versus softer-riding alternatives like the Nissan Rogue Sport and Subaru Crosstrek.

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