Mazda wants you to feel better and enjoy the drive in this city-sized SUV.
The Japanese brand, which a few years ago put an upwardly mobile spin on its designs and materials, has long been a favorite of drivers. These cars pack a lot of zip into elegant, well-priced designs. And, at the SUV level, they also deliver all wheel drive capability and flexible interiors that keep you moving in bad weather and on rough roads.
But always wanting to improve, and recognizing that they needed to produce an SUV that is perfect for city driving, that is a bit larger than the CX-3 but not as big as the CX-5, the company’s designers and engineers took the opportunity of building a car to serve this need while rethinking how they design a car for people.
The result? The first ever Mazda CX-30, a compact SUV with a starting price of $21,900 and fully loaded about $30,000. This new car sets the stage for Mazda’s new more human-centered approach to seats, sound, and suspension. And, in the Mazda tradition, it’s filled with some beautiful details and technology.
Reducing the Jostle Factor and Increasing Comfort
Seats aren’t something you think a lot about until you have to sit in them for hours on end. And then, you notice your neck hurts, your legs are stiff and a four hour drive seems more like 8. Cars that are not optimized for how we sit, how we react to bumps in the road and how we drive can leave us exhausted.
Recognizing this, Mazda’s designers studied how we sit in our cars, how our bodies, especially our heads, move with the force of a pothole or speed bump, even how we use our muscles when accelerating and braking. And, they made adjustments.
This resulted in seats that keep your spine straighter, suspension that absorbs more of the bumps in the road and brakes that let you use a lighter touch and don’t exhaust your calf muscles. The new seats “lock you into your seat,” said Dave Coleman, vehicle dynamics engineer for Mazda, so you’re comfortable. And a new approach to how the CX-30 absorbs the shock of a bump makes it so the car takes the force, not the passengers. So, less head bobbing on rough roads, and for back seat passengers, less likelihood of getting car sick.
Small But Elegant: New Interior Details Make This Car Feel Great
But a more human function isn’t enough. Making those new functions look and feel good was important, too.
The goal with this compact SUV was to find the perfect “contrast between restraint and openness, so it’s small but doesn’t feel small,” said Ken Saward, director of automotive design for Mazda. And, to make this new car look beautiful inside and out so it’s a perfect fit into the Mazda family.
The first thing I noticed when I got into the CX-30 was the leather detailing, even wrapping around surfaces that are difficult to see. The leather that covers the dashboard, for instance, continues around the edge of the panel and underneath, where you can’t really see it, so that it has a compete, finished feeling. And the leather on the center arm rest between the front seats is supple and soft.
An Elegant and Minimalist Look and Feel
True to Mazda design, the interior of the CX-30 is an elegant edit of soft surfaces and controls. Drivers and passengers are not greeted with an overwhelming array of buttons and dials; instead, a simple driver information screen is flanked by air vents; the center of the dashboard is anchored with an infotainment screen.
The center console is anchored by the gear shifter and a rotary dial for the infotainment system, plus a few buttons to get you to your selections faster. The arm rest is covered with cushy soft leather, and it opens by pulling it it back and up. This is by design to keep the size of the armrest from being unwieldy and obtrusive when it’s open. Inside there is a USB port (in addition to one under the center dash). The whole look of the cabin is simple and sublime.
Outside the CX-30 also has a subdued look to it; the overall shape is more coupe than SUV and the new front face is simpler, and also more elegant. The fog lights are tucked into the bumper and the headlights frame the grille, which is also simplified. The scale of this car is comfortable; it’s all the things I Iove about a hatchback—lots of linear space in a fun to drive car— without the low-to-the-ground stance that make me feel like I need to wear sneakers and a baseball cap every time I drive.
How Mazda’s Information Systems Keep You Safer On the Road
A few years ago Mazda’s research showed that drivers who take their eyes off the road to look the infotainment system or even the speedometer increase their risk of having an incident. So, they standardized a non-touch screen infotainment system that is set at a distance from the driver. This allows you to glance at the screen without having to refocus your eyes. They also found the if they limit the number of items on the screen it’s easier to assess the information so displays are edited to seven items at a time.
To access the system easily, Mazda’s designers dropped a rotary dial right at your fingertips so you can easily scroll to your selections. A favorites button and a home button also help you get to those selections fast. Last, they added a head up display to many models so drivers can truly keep their eyes on the road at all times.
The result is less distraction for the driver, and the front seat passenger can also easily use and see the infotainment screen.
Standard Safety and Driver Assist Features Also Keep You Safe
Mazda added a number of safety and driver assist features to all models. But to stay true to being a driver’s car first, these systems are designed to gently let you know that you’re drifting toward the center line, not function as a near-autonomous drive system the way some systems do. These new standard features include:
- Adaptive cruise control with stop and go
- Lane departure warning and assist
- Pre-emergency braking
- Driver attention alert
If you move up to the Select trim, one up from the base model, blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert are added. And in the premium trim you get heads up display which helps you to focus on the road even more.
A New Speaker and Sound System Strategy. Because, Tunes Matter
Would it surprise you that the engineers at Mazda like to listen to music in the car? In fact, it’s a hot topic for the team, so they thought about how to make the in-car music experience better for you and less intrusive for people outside the car—because they know you like your music loud. So, they moved some of the speakers into the door and others under the dashboard to create a more direct effect—essentially, a line-of-sight direction of sound waves. The result is a richer, more enveloping sound experience and, yes, I tested it out by hopping outside the car to take a listen. At full blast I could hear it but not loudly. At relatively loud I could tell I would not bother my neighbors.
CX…. 30? What This New SUV is All About
So…what does CX-30 mean, and didn’t Mazda already have two relatively compact SUVs? To answer the first, as Mazda adds to its lineup we will start to see more double-digit names; this is the first.
Then, recognizing that the CX-3 is a bit small for people who need to haul stuff and other people but still want a compact SUV, Mazda created a car that fit those needs.
The CX-30 is a great first car or a great option for downsizing from the family car. Its 186 horsepower 4 cylinder engine makes it fun to drive and it has all wheel drive capability for when you need it. The comfortable height off the ground makes it easy to get in and out and also, easy to get a kayak or paddle board on the roof.
With a larger cargo area than the CX-3, there’s more room for your stuff, though the cargo area opening is lower and larger making it easier to get stuff in and out. And its compact size and more comfortable drive experience make it even more human-centered. As so many cars become more focused on the machine doing all the work, I’m glad Mazda is thinking about the humans inside.
What We Listened to in the Mazda CX-30
This is what the model’s engineers think best shows off this great new sound system. We agree!
Disclosure: I was Mazda’s guest for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.