2023 Mazda CX-30
This Little Mazda Keeps The Zoom Going
A solid compact SUV/crossover with fun driving characteristics and a great set of features
By J-F Wright
Thu, Aug 17, 2023 10:37 PM PST
Images by author J-F Wright
I’m always exited when I have a Mazda planned on my review schedule. They are fun to drive and pretty much within reach financially - not just for me, but for many of the new car-buying folks. Some (other) vehicles that I get the pleasure of spending a week in are ridiculously awesome, but they are so far from my reality that I can’t let myself get too attached. With a Mazda, however, I can show my wife around the car as if she was a potential buyer - because in the mid $30,000s she could very well be.
A while ago I wrote a review of the Mazda CX-50. During the week I spent in that car I kept thinking about - and feeling - the “Zoom Zoom” found in a (any) Mazda. That review turned out to be Zoom-heavy, and I could easily focus on the Zoominess of the Mazda CX-30 as well, but let’s not (at least not too much).
Crap, I’m doing it again… I just can’t help myself… Even after twenty years Mazda is still “Zoom Zoom” to me - and for good reason. Not just because of a great ad campaign - although that was a really great ad campaign - but because the (fun!) driving characteristics of a Mazda have yet to disappoint. The CX-30 is no different - the Zoom-heritage shines through throughout.
Handling & Comfort
Is it mind-numbingly fast? No, but it’s plenty fast for the average driver who wants to add a hint of fun to their daily routine. Will it knock your socks off? No, but it will whip around corners like nobody’s business (much thanks to the I-ACTIV AWD system).
The 2023 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo AWD has enough power (227hp and 310 lb-ft of torque) to make any drive enjoyable and - at least for me - help in reliving memories of busting around cones in the tight corners of small parking lot autocross courses.
There is a bit of a lag before the turbo kicks in - as is expected from a turbo engine. As you get used to it it’s fairly easy to adjust your foot-down technique (foot down on the accelerator, that is) and timing - hit the accelerator just a tad earlier when coming out of a corner, for example, so that the turbo spools up just in time for when you straighten out your wheels.
A Mazda has a special feeling to it, the CX-30 is no different. Sure, it’s comfortable to drive and ride in, but there are other cars in the same price range where you’ll feel more pampered. What sets a Mazda apart is the feeling of a “tight” drive. And by “tight” I don’t necessarily mean that it’s a small car or that the seats are cramped. No, I’m talking about how the car handles - how stable it feels when an overly ambitious driver whips around a corner. For this level or stability - aka “tightness” - the suspension needs to be relatively stiff and the wheels need to respond to the slightest steering input. And that’s what Mazda is all about - it’s really fun to drive a Mazda CX-30.
The CX-30 is a compact SUV or crossover - some might even call it a sub-compact. It’s not large, and the exterior has more of a hatchback look to it than a traditional SUV/crossover. The sharp lines we’ve come to know as Mazdaian are especially prominent on the front of the CX-30 where the top of the hood extends out over and in front of the headlights, giving the car a forward-leaning ready-to-go poise. The rear end is more rounded, but still keeping with the smaller, sharper, light fixtures. Dual exhaust pipes are a nice touch.
Our specific review vehicle came in what Mazda calls a Soul Red Crystal Metallic exterior coat. The black trim along the bottom adds a bit of an offroad look, although the CX-30 is not really meant for offroad driving. The black wheels add an extra pop.
Interior & Tech
Comfortable? Yes, of course. But, more importantly, the Mazda CX-30’s sporty handling carries over nicely to the interior. The leather-trimmed seats hug your butt without being uncomfortably tight and go well with the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Oh yeah, the front seats are heated, too!
Thanks in part to the Premium Plus Package the occupants of our Mazda CX-30 are afforded a bunch of tech-heavy safety and convenience features. Lane Keep Assist will help keep you in your lane, the Blind Spot Monitoring system will alert you of traffic in your blind spot, and the Rear Cross Traffic Alert system will tell you if you have incoming traffic when you’re backing out of a parking spot.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto are, of course, available (who’d buy a new car without that?!). Unfortunately the infotainment system in Mazdas are still a bit behind the competition. The screen - as well as the user interface - is reminiscent of the screens we awed and oooed at a decade ago. However, with that said, it does work well and once you get used to it you should have no problems - you’ll probably be using it to access Apple CarPlay or Android Auto which by definition means that much of the awkwardness is replaced with modern-day tech anyway.
Who’s It For?
Simply put, the Mazda CX-30 should definitely be on your list cars to check out if you are the type that wants to enjoy the driving experience. If you’re looking for a small(er) vehicle - low enough so that you don’t have to climb into it but tall enough so you won’t be falling into it either - the CX-30 will probably fit the bill. Two kids fit comfortably in the rear seat (even three can make it for short drives) so the CX-30 works well for families as well - and with the hatchback style trunk-space you’ll be able to fold the rear row to make space for stuff, toys, furry four-legged creatures, and so forth.
As I noted earlier, a Mazda is within a realistic price range for many buyers, perfect for those who wish for a more fun - Zoomier - driving experience, without braking the bank.
About The Author
John-Fredrik Wright was born in Sweden, but raised on both sides of the Atlantic. His experience in the automotive industry starts with a summer-job as a host at Volkswagen’s premier showroom in Stockholm. Later, he worked as an instructor at Swedish Active Driving, teaching safe driving (among other things the renowned "elk-avoidance maneuver") and advanced driving techniques.