2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium Package AWD Review by David Colman +VIDEO
It's agile and nimble but it has some quirky features
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
If you want a Japanese built Mazda, the CX-30 crossover, newest addition to the model line, isn't the one to buy. Its engine is constructed in Mexico, its transmission is from Thailand, and final assembly takes place in Salamanca, Mexico. Only 15 percent of the vehicle comes from Japan. So is the build quality of the CX-30 up to Mazda's long standing high level of construction? If the all-wheel-drive CX-30 with Premium Package we tested is any indication, this newest addition to the Mazda family is up to par on all quality fronts.
The exterior design is clearly Mazda, with a gently triangulated snout, long hood, short cab and evocatively sculpted side profile. Mazda designers have a gentler idea about finish and proportions than their flamboyant fellow stylists at Toyota and Nissan. Inside, the cabin layout hits above its price point of $28,200, with welcome gestures of unexpected finery. The black leather interior consists of comfy and supportive front seats with perforated leather seating surfaces. The tiny perforations reveal a brown underlayment that infuses the normally boring black leather with visual excitement. The chocolate motif carries into the rest of the interior panels, with a mocha dash topper, and coffee colored door panel inserts. For a bargain priced mini-SUV, the CX-30 looks decidedly more expensive than it is. Mazda's dedication to artful design exemplifies the company's Kodo design philosophy, which means art in motion.
The 8.8 inch color display screen atop the dash is also artistically configured, with lovely rounded corners and a tilt to the vertical edges that makes the unit look italicized. Too bad that the "Multi-Function Commander Control" for the 12-speaker AM/FM Bose Premium Audio isn't equally lovable. After attempting to program a play list for SiriusXM Satellite Radio (3 month free trial), I gave up in despair as I kept hitting dead ends in the logic sequence. So I turned the effort over to my wife, who is I-Phone savvy and up-to-date on tech matters. She too was unable to discover a workable sequence for establishing favorite channels. Later in the week we finally stumbled on a series of illogical steps that allowed us to accomplish this task, but the whole episode proved so frustrating it clouded our appreciation of Kodo design.
Mazda powers the CX-30 with a 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 186hp and yields 27MPG in overall driving. The AWD CX-30 weighs 3,353 pounds so the power-to-weight ratio of 18lbs/hp indicates that acceleration is adequate rather than invigorating. In practice, that's exactly how the CX-30 behaves. If you just select Drive from the 6-speed automatic transmission, you will quickly discover that you won't be doing much passing on two-lane back roads, because the engine performance is less than scintillating. So let's say you want to improve acceleration by resorting to manually shifting the "Skyactive Drive 6-Speed Sport Mode" automatic by utilizing the tiny paddles affixed to the leather-rimmed steering wheel. That's when you discover that the transmission ratios Mazda has selected are antithetical to improving performance. Second gear is so low as to be virtually useless for overtaking, with a top speed of barely 30mph at 5000rpm. But if you upshift to third gear, you lose all your momentum because engine rpm falls precipitously by 1500rpm. This lets the very peaky, 13.1:1 compression ratio Skyactive motor fall flat on its face, since peak torque is not achieved until 4000rpm and peak horsepower doesn't compute until 6000rpm.
Handling of this newest Mazda keeps alive the company's long tradition of building agile, nimble vehicles with a sporting bent that surprises you. Equipped with artfully constructed 18 inch alloy rims shod with Bridgestone Turanza EL440 radials (215/55R18), the CX-30 is well equipped to carve back road apexes with the kind of finesse you would expect to find in an MX-5 Miata. You can thank standard G-Vectoring Control for the stability, as well as the ability to select sport mode from the available driving choices. If you tackle off road excursions, the CX-30 offers "off-road traction assist" for AWD, available at the flick of a button.
Of course, the full suite of safety insurance measures is standard on this Mazda, with radar cruise control with stop and go, smart brake support, and lane departure warning. Lane Keep Assist, which will fight you at the steering wheel if you make a lane change without signaling first, is also included in the nanny package. Unfortunately, it reasserts itself each time you restart the Mazda, and must be deleted manually if you wish to forego this obnoxious assistance.
2020 MAZDA CX-30 PREMIUM PACKAGE AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 Liter inline 4, DOHC with VVT
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 25MPG City/32MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $29,245
HYPES: Restful, Well Finished Interior
GRIPES: Gearing Splits, Inexplicable Commander Control
STAR RATING: 7 Stars out of 10