The 2021 Mazda CX-30 is great-looking, spacious, and more polished and fun-to-drive than other compact competitors, but it’s a step behind in value and features. The CX-30 is just one digit away from the CX-3, but it’s a completely different vehicle. As a compact crossover, the CX-30 offers an unexpectedly ample amount of space in a compact-car footprint, and rivals other pint-sized utility vehicles like the Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks, and Hyundai Venue.
Value factors aside, the CX-30 is a great fit for Americans who want roominess and refinement but only have a compact-car parking space. It’s the best-driving model in its cohort when you consider the level of polish in the whole driving experience, and the lack of any rough edges that give away its relatively reasonable price. But its features and pricing don’t add up at face value compared to rival models, and that can be a hangup.
For the 2021 model year, the big news is the addition of a new CX-30 2.5 Turbo model. It uses the same 2.5-liter turbo-4 found in the Mazda 3 Turbo that adds a new performance dimension to the CX-30. Models with the non-turbo engine have been rebadged the CX-30 2.5 S, while all Turbo versions come with all-wheel drive. Otherwise, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are now included, and the 8.8-inch infotainment screen comes standard on the entire model lineup, including a three-year trial to connected services and six months of car-based wi-fi.
Although mechanically related to the latest Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, the CX-30 takes virtually everything we’re not so fond about in the 3 hatchback and fixes it—and we see no reason why it won’t be much more popular. The CX-30 is a nicely proportioned tall hatchback, with a roofline that bows gracefully enough toward the rear as the greenhouse tapers inward. The stance is a little taller than low-set passenger cars like the Mazda 3, and so is its ground clearance of about 8.0 inches.
The CX-30’s interior feels high-quality but not flamboyant, and its cabin is far quieter than most of its competitors. The dash wraps around in more of a cockpit layout compared to other crossovers, and there’s an 8.8-inch center infotainment display atop the dash—although it’s not a touchscreen. Four adults will fit comfortably in the CX-30 with room for tall legs in back, and there’s 20 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up.
Every CX-30 gets standard automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors are standard on all but the base model. It earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS and a five-star crash-test rating from the federal government.
The base CX-30 2.5 S, in front-wheel-drive form, costs $23,000, including the $1,100 destination fee, and ranges up to a starting price of $29,650 for the top-trim Premium model. The top Turbo model exceeds $35,000. Our favorite would be the Select model, which starts at $25,000 and adds to the base model synthetic leather upholstery, rear climate vents, larger 18-inch wheels, and blind-spot monitors. Across the lineup, adding all-wheel drive costs $1,400 extra.
Mazda’s 2021 CX-30 remains what it always has been; a great handling SUV with killer looks and Mazda’s great reliability. It’s the smart small crossover that we’d want to be driving on a daily basis since it can put joy into any drive. Which one is right for you really comes down to what kind of driver you are. If you’re more concerned about fuel economy pick the base engine with its cost savings, but if you’re more power hungry choose the Turbo for the miles of smiles; regardless you can rest assured knowing you’ve picked a great small SUV.