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Eric's Autos: 2023 Mazda CX-30

Eric Peters on

There are crossover SUVs in just about every size, but how about one that overlaps sizes? That's not too big -- but not too small, either?

Especially under the hood.

That one's the Mazda CX-30 -- and it might just be the right size for you.

What It Is

The CX-30 is Mazda's smallest crossover, with two rows of seats, seating for five and available all-wheel drive. But that is not what makes it different from other, slightly larger crossovers such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.

The big difference is you can get the CX-30 with a 250-horsepower turbocharged engine. Models like the RAV4, CR-V and Rogue don't offer much more than 200 horsepower -- if they offer that much.

You can get a similarly powerful engine in the Hyundai Kona, but the Kona is a smaller crossover than the CX-30 and comes standard with a much less powerful (just 147 horsepower) engine.

CX-30 prices start at $22,950 for the base S trim with front-wheel drive. A top-of-the-line Premium Plus with AWD and the 250-horsepower turbo'd engine stickers for $35,400.

What's New

The standard 2.5-liter engine gets a 5-horsepower bump (to 191) and a slight gas mileage bump. Second row side-impact air bags are also standard on all trims.

What's Good

One of the most affordable small crossovers on the market.

One of the most stylish small crossovers on the market.

One of the most powerful small crossovers on the market.

What's Not So Good

It's got less room for cargo than slightly larger crossovers.

High-powered turbo engine only available in most expensive trims.

Infotainment controls aren't as intuitive or simple to use as in some other crossovers.

Under The Hood

All CX-30s come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The standard version, which isn't turbocharged, makes 191 horsepower.

But it's the little CX's optional engine, or version of it, that really stands out. It's the same size (2.5) liters and type (an inline four) but with a turbo boosting its output to 250 horsepower and 320 foot-pounds of torque.


So equipped, this Mazda can get to 60 in 5.7 seconds.

It also goes almost as far on a gallon of gas -- 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway -- as the standard (non-turbo'd) version goes, which is 26 city, 33 highway. You exchange 3-4 mpg for almost 60 more horsepower, which isn't a bad trade-off.

The standard 2.5-liter engine (without the turbo) also goes a little farther on a gallon than the slightly less powerful version (186 horsepower) of that engine in last year's CX-30 went, which was 24 city, 31 highway. That's a gain of about 2 mpg, and a gain of 5 horsepower, which isn't a trade-off at all.

On The Road

Crossovers are fundamentally about practicality.

But that doesn't mean they can't also be fun, at least a little bit.

Mazda puts more effort in here than most. Echoing the Miata, Mazda's popular sports car, the CX's suspension tuning invites pushing it a little. The steering feel has just the right weight to it. Everything syncopated and focused not on the getting-there so much as having a little fun getting there.

Also: This Mazda's six-speed automatic doesn't have too many gears (just six) and so it does not have to shift down -- and back up -- as often as automatics with eight (or more) speeds.

At The Curb

The CX-30 is just a little smaller than most of the really popular small (but slightly larger) crossovers like the RAV4, CR-V and Rogue. But not so much smaller that it doesn't cross-shop well against them, especially if you don't need a little bit larger.

And want to spend a lot less.

Front- and rear-seat legroom in the CX-30 (41.7 inches and 36.3 inches, respectively) is very close to that offered by slightly larger models like the RAV (41 inches and 37.8 inches, respectively) with the major substantive difference being cargo space. The Mazda has 20.2 cubic feet behind its second row and 45.2 cubic feet with the back seats folded; slightly larger -- slightly longer -- models like the RAV have 37.6 cubic feet behind the second row and 69.8 cubic feet in total with those seats folded.

You may of course need the extra cargo room. But what this little Mazda offers is a lot more room for cargo than even a full-size sedan -- and about the same room for people as slightly larger but significantly pricier small crossovers.

The Rest

Using the CX-30's infotainment system involves a two-step process. First, select the function, then adjust. It's just a little more involved than a single process, such as a knob you can turn to change the station without first having to find the digital representation of a knob.

The Bottom Line

A little bit smaller can sometimes be just big enough.


Eric's latest book, "Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!" will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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