Who says SUVs can’t be fun to drive?
If you bought the Mazda CX-30, you might have made a mistake.
The second most popular car in the Mazda lineup, the CX-30, was introduced last year to a lot of excitement. The brand’s smaller, more agile, more fuel efficient all wheel drive SUV is ideal for city errands and weekend getaways.
Starting at about $21,000 and fully loaded at about $30,000, it fits family needs and pandemic budgets. But then, these days we spend a lot of time on highways and byways looking for solo places to get some fresh air. And while the CX-30’s 4-cylinder engine is great for in-town trips, it leaves ‘zoom zoom’ fans looking for more.
The CX-30 has the same 186 horsepower and 186 torque as the Mazda 3 in a taller, larger SUV. And it’s fine; you’ll have complete confidence when merging onto the highway or passing an 18-wheeler. But could it be more fun?
Mazda thought so. After injecting a bit more ‘zoom’ into the Mazda 3 by adding a turbo version, the company added a turbo upgrade to the CX-30, too, increasing the horsepower to 227 (250 if you use premium fuel).
But that’s not the whole story. It’s the 310 torque that makes this little SUV so darn sweet.
Why You Need to Know This Torque Story
Typically, torque is something that car enthusiasts love to get geeky about and tht most drivers take for granted. The fast acceleration that torque produces delivers a fun drive experience and confidence on the road (while horsepower determines how fast you can go). Too much torque, and it can be dangerous; too little, and it’s dangerous too, as you might get rear ended just trying to get up to speed. Typically, torque and horsepower are relative equals in their measurements: a car will demand enough torque to keep up with the horsepower and vice versa.
The Mazda CX-30 Turbo, with a starting price of $29,000 and fully loaded at about $35,000, adds more torque than horsepower, an unusual but well done move. The truth is, you don’t really need all that HP for cruising in this little SUV, but accelerating onto the highway, around curves and up hills— those places that make driving really fun—demands more torque. So, Mazda provided it.
The Drive Experience: This is the Sweet Life
Getting behind the wheel of the Mazda CX-30 Turbo, there are no surprises; as Mazda does, the finishes are premium, the feel is sporty, and everything you need is at your fingertips. Put it in gear and head out on the road, and the added horsepower and torque in city traffic increase your confidence and ease of driving. It’s a pleasure.
Then, head out on a country road and pop it into sport. And, whoa. The car underneath you suddenly becomes a different animal. Without adding any more pressure to the accelerator, you feel the transition
It’s as if the Mazda CX-30 Turbo’s soul has just been unleashed. You’re suddenly going just a bit faster; the steering is a bit tighter; all four wheels are a bit more focused on the road. And when you hit a curve or a hill, the car seems to know what you’re going to do and gives you the power and focus to do it. It is fun.
But not too much fun. Even with the sport mode on I didn’t slosh the groceries around or spill my handbag. Big plus. Your passengers may just enjoy sport mode as much as you do.
It’s All Wheel Drive and Meant to Go There
Mazda’s engineers and designers are realists. They get that during the week you’re going through the paces of your routine with your eye on the weekend. You’re thinking about a trail hike, mountain top or paddle boarding at the lake (so are they, frankly). They also realized that with a few tweaks, the Mazda CX-30 could be ideal for getting you as close to those destinations as any other off-road vehicle. It already has a nicely high ground clearance of 8” which means if the AWD system is capable, it can drive across rutted roads, over sizable rocks and on slippery surfaces like snow or gravel.
So, the CX-30 Turbo has a smarter, more capable AWD system and comes standard in all models. The system senses when the wheels are slipping or spinning and applies more power. But, there’s also off-road assist to give you a bit more ability and a new high definition 360° camera that will allow you to see the rocks or ruts under your tires. It’s like having a built-in off road spotter.
Life in the Mazda CX-30 Turbo: No Cloth Seats.
Even in the standard trim, you’ll get leatherette. This is part of Mazda’s ethos: you deserve a great experience so they don’t even offer cloth seats. I really love this about Mazda. From there, the details just get better.
The 2021 CX-30 Turbo comes in 3 trim levels: Turbo ($29,900), Premium ($32,300) and Premium Plus ($33,900).
In the standard Turbo model you’ll get rain sensing wipers, Mazda’s iActivesense driver assist and safety features (adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency brake support, blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and automatic high beam headlights), off road mode, heated seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the 8” infotainment screen, to start.
The Premium model adds:
- Leather seats
- Head up display
- Paddle shifters
- Traffic sign recognition
- Bose premium sound
- Heated seats
- Navigation (turn by turn directions are displayed on the head up display)
- Power lift gate
But, Mazda has introduced a few new tech features, which are only available in the Premium Plus model. These are:
- Traffic jam assist, which adds steering assist at low speeds;
- Reverse automatic braking
- Rear cross-traffic braking
- 360° high definition camera
Which ever trim (and price) is right for you, you still get the 4-cylinder turbo engine and more engaging drive experience. For an extra $595 you can get the Soul Red paint (totally worth it). And with an estimated 22 MPG city/30 MPG highway (which is about what we got) there’s not a compromise in fuel economy.
If it were me, I’d opt for the CX-30 Turbo over the standard 4-cylinder model. Yes, it’s not a huge increase in horsepower but, then again, this isn’t about horses, it’s about torque and the added fun it delivers. And these days, I need all the fun I can get.
What We Listened to in the Mazda CX-30 Turbo
Driving. Music. Joy.
Disclosure: Mazda provided the CX-30 for this test drive. All opinions are my own.