Mazda CX-30 Review: This Is a Total People Pleaser

The Mazda CX-30 is a delight: premium details, a peppy engine and a beautiful exterior. Even when other cars turn your head, this one will keep you smiling.

Mazda Cx-30 Blue Is So Pretty! Photo: Sara Lacey
Mazda CX-30 blue is so pretty! Photo: Sara Lacey

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My weeklong test of the Mazda CX-30 was interestingly punctuated. I drove it in Wisconsin while visiting my brother and sister-in-law. I was also going to be attending a big car event to drive vehicles across all spectrums: price, size, type. The standards were set at a high level. So the CX-30 had a lot to do, and a lot to live up to during my time with it.

As I drove the car past the windblown prairie flowers preparing to bloom, I noticed how subtle and pleasing it was. It’s not the first Mazda with sensuous curves and a color palate to make you swoon. But my time with the Mazda CX-30 reminded me that Mazda also loves to make you happy with its performance and attention to detail on the interior as well.

The CX-30 starts at $22,950. I spent a week with the Mazda CX-30 Turbo with all-wheel drive and the premium plus package. It rang up at $36,810. All Mazda CX-30s come with all-wheel drive.

Related: Mazda CX-5 vs. Mazda CX-30: Which Compact SUV Is Right for You?

Mazda Cx-30 Blue Is So Pretty! Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 blue is so pretty! See the “s”? Photo: Sara Lacey

In a Sea of Subcompacts, Pick the One that Wants You

The first way you know the CX-30 wants your attention is that it has beautiful paint colors. My test car came in an eye-catching blue called Deep Crystal Blue Mica. The paint has a depth that my eye loves. In the light, it still has shadows, and in the low light, it still picks up highlights.

This dynamic is assisted by the curves of the metal, all working in conjunction to make you love looking at it. When looking at the CX-30’s profile, you will see an “s” curve in the side, especially if there is a line from the road reflected in the paint. It’s a highlight that is so much fun and adds to the joy of looking at the car, and not just because my name starts with the letter “s.”

Mazda Cx-30 Rear Corner. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 rear corner. And the “s” on the side. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 Lights it Up

The LED headlights and taillights are distinctive and add a reminder that I’m driving a car that has an attention to detail I can respect. The round shapes of the front and rear lights are similar, adding continuity and fun. They are distinctive and unmistakable out on the road.

The black alloy wheels make for a cohesive look, tying in with the black grille, and a few touches of chrome trimming the grille and the windows add some classic sophistication. This car has gotten dressed up to go out, and wants you to notice.

Related: The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Signature: Luxury Feel Without the Luxury Pricetag

Mazda Cx-30 Brown And Black Leather. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 brown and black leather. Photo: Sara Lacey

How Did the Mazda CX-30 Make the Interior Feel so Special?

The CX-30 levels up the amount of detail on the inside of the car, that’s how. The interior lives up to the expectations set by the exterior. It’s going to dazzle you and make you look and feel good. The two-tone leather-trimmed upholstery is the first tell that the CX-30 wants to make you feel special.

It’s subtle, because the seats are two-toned, as is the trim on the dash, center console, and door; you may question me. But it’s so pretty and made me smile whenever I got in the car. It felt upscale and special. The leather feels rich, not plasticky, and most surfaces are cushioned, so even just sitting in the car feels like I’m in an upgraded environment.

The steering wheel is wrapped in leather and is heated. There are also paddle shifters and adaptive cruise control. The adaptive cruise control system deserves a special shout-out because it is so easy to use. I did not have to fumble around trying to recall which button turned it on, which button set my distance to the car in front of me, etc.… the icons were easy to read and remember. You can use the traffic jam feature with the adaptive cruise control system.

Related: USED: 2020 Mazda 3 vs 2020 Mazda CX-30: Which One is the Winning Family Car Pick?

Mazda Cx-30 Grille. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 grille. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Mazda CX-30 Does Not Skimp on Safety

You know the CX-30 wants to take care of you because its other safety features include lane keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. After driving it on long, straight highways and back roads of Wisconsin, I appreciated that it had a driver attention alert system.

This is in addition to standard safety features many of us have come to expect, like a tire pressure monitoring system, traction control, stability control, rearview camera, and anti-lock brakes. I loved that my CX-30 had a 360-degree camera system.

Related: Safety, Good Driving, Speed: Driving Tips My Mom Taught Me

Mazda Cx-30 Blue Rear Angle. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 blue rear angle. Photo: Sara Lacey

But the Most Pleasing Part of the CX-30 Might be the Drive

Mazda wouldn’t be a Mazda unless it had a pleasurable driving experience. I’m happy to report that the Mazda was very much a people pleaser in this regard. The CX-30 with the 2.5l turbocharged engine was paired with a six-speed transmission and all-wheel drive. This version of the CX-30 has 227 horsepower, and used it well in my weeklong test. The CX-30 did have some engine noise, and I felt that was okay because I expected it from a car like the CX-30.

If you want to amp up the performance, you can use premium fuel in the turbo version of the CX-30 and it’ll deliver 250 HP. I like that this car gives me the choice.

There is some racing heritage with Mazda, and it doesn’t bother me to be reminded of it. I liked knowing there was power under the hood and might have loved engaging the turbo pretty regularly. This engine configuration has more power than the base model (which has 191 hp) and lower trims of the CX-30. Its estimated miles per gallon are 22 in the city, 30 on the highway, and a combined 25 miles per gallon. I loved the turbo and would choose that were I to buy a CX-30, assuming it was in my budget.

Mazda Cx-30 Front Seat With Gauges. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 front seat with gauges. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Mazda CX-30, Up Front

The driver gets some special treatment in the CX-30. There is a customizable heads-up display and a power memory seat with lumbar support. Front seat passengers can access the 8.8” screen that shows your navigation routes, stereo settings, and more. This screen is not a touchscreen, however. And it took me a long time to remember that, as evidenced by multiple fingerprints on the screen.

But Mazda gave me an upgraded Bose sound system with 12 great speakers and also included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. So, once again, I’m happy with the CX-30 and what it offers me. 

This is where I’ll remind you that I went to a big car event where I drove many different cars for a couple of days. At the end of each day, I got back into the CX-30, just so happy to be in it. The comfort, the drive, and the ease of using the features were welcome after a long day of testing different cars. And that says a lot.

Mazda Cx-30 Rear Seat. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 rear seat. Photo: Sara Lacey

Maybe Mazda’s Love for Rear Seat Passengers is a Little Less, but Still…

The seats are so comfortable and bolstered in the front. In the rear, they are less bolstered to ease the accommodation of car seats. Rear passengers still get a few stylish details, like the brown leather accents on the seats and door trim. The seats have a 60/40 fold, and there is a folding center armrest that has two cupholders in it. And that’s where the love ends. There are no charging ports in the back and not much storage. Rear passengers get a bottle holder in the door and one seat-back pocket. There are two sets of lower anchors and three sets of tether anchors on the backs of the seats.

Mazda Cx-30 Cargo Area. Photo: Sara Lacey

Mazda CX-30 cargo area. Photo: Sara Lacey

How about the Cargo?

In the cargo area, you can fit four carry-on bags and a few backpacks without obstructing the view out the back window, so that’s good. And the CX-30 has a power liftgate. Nice!

I certainly had expectations of the car because of the particular week I was driving it. I saw many other vehicles that week, and because of that scenario, the CX-30 exceeded my expectations. It’s just the way they’ve put the car together, the way they considered all the details. Mazda has engaged in some thoughtful editing with its features, and that results in a car that has a lot of character, and not a massive base price. If you go with some upgrades, you’ll have a car that will continue to make you happy for a long time.

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Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey