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.