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Auto review: Mazda's CX-30: Crossover has puzzling name, but it's fun to drive

By Barry Spyker, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

Mazda's lineup of hatchbacks and crossover SUVs keeps growing, with the latest entry a subcompact crossover curiously called the CX-30.

Yes, you may need a scorecard to keep track of this lineup. The newest is situated between the CX-3 and CX-5. So why not call it the CX-4, you ask? That model name was taken, being used for a model only sold in China.

Adding to the confusion, the CX-30 is not related the CX-3, which is smaller and based on the Mazda2. Rather, it shares a platform with the Mazda3 sedan, causing some to question how much different the crossover can be than the Mazda3 hatchback. Spoiler alert: Not a lot, but the crossover has 2.4 inches of extra ground clearance and a tad more inside space, while the hatchback is shorter and has a sedan-like ride.

The CX-30 gets Mazda's signature grille and slim LED headlights, plus the sleek, streamlined profile that makes it such a popular design. Black cladding on the fenders and doors protects from off-road mess and makes it appear lower.

All CX-30s are powered by a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engine capable of 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The CX-30 won't cause any neck strain on its way to 60 mph: It takes a leisurely 8 seconds. But top speed is listed at 126 mph.

More important, it's nimble and fun to drive, with a suspension that is rigid enough for good composure on S curves yet tuned to offer a quiet and smooth ride along the bumpier roads in town.

 

Credit for CX-30's performance goes to Mazda's i-Activ all-wheel-drive system and G-Vectoring Control, a predictive system that monitors the vehicle dynamics, figures out where traction is needed and tweaks the power distribution to accommodate those needs.

An electric-assisted steering system adds to the fun — it's medium weighted and as responsive as some sports cars. Paddle shifters enable greater control, or flip into Sport mode which lengthens the shift points for you.

While the CX-30 isn't a towing brute, it can handle a light trailer with dirt bike or Jet Ski atop. It has a tow rating of 1,500 pounds.

Fuel economy is respectable; The AWD version manages an EPA-rated 32 mpg highway, 25 city, for a combined of 27. The FWD is only slightly less.

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