3 has spawned a fourth.
New for 2020 is the Mazda CX-30, the fourth crossover SUV to wear a Mazda badge, joining CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9. Based on the same platform as the lithe Mazda 3 sedan/hatchback, CX-30 is, essentially, a lifted, more-rugged-looking 3.
The casual observer may find CX-30’s arrival a real head-scratcher. After all, American car buyers already have more than 100 crossover SUVs from which to choose, and -- compounding the confusion -- Mazda, itself, already has a competitor in the tiny-crossover category in the form of CX-3.
So... is CX-30 necessary?
Obviously, Mazda thinks so. And the brand can back the argument with this startling set of circumstances: the crossover category is the hottest segment in the automotive industry and, within that segment, the fastest growing subset is the small crossover, which accounted for nearly 800,000 sales in calendar-year 2019.
So, yeah, Mazda figures there’s room for yet another small crossover -- even if, to some extent, it competes directly with its own CX-3 showroom mate.
CX-30, which officially slots between CX-3 and CX-5, is offered in four trims: base, Select, Preferred and Premium. Each comes standard with front-wheel drive and, for an up-charge of $1,400, each can be fitted with all-wheel drive.
Regardless, every CX-30 is powered by a 2.5-liter, “Skyactiv” I-4 that generates 186 hp and 186 lb.-ft. of torque, sending that power to the pavement through a six-speed automatic transmission.
The good news is CX-30’s engine is managed by a “real” automatic -- not a CVT. That enhances the driving experience immeasurably. The bad news is the “real” automatic buttons to a four-cylinder engine that does not benefit from a turbocharger. Consequently, that four-banger spins all the way to 4,000 rpm to reach maximum torque.
The result in our top-of-the-line, all-wheel-drive Premium was that it took nearly 8 seconds to greet 60 mph -- not the worst in town, but nothing to write home to mom about. And, with max torque so far away, this guy feels even slower than it really is.
On the other hand, everything else is as good as it gets in the small-crossover class: sharp handling, confident braking, rock-solid high-speed stability and hushed at-speed interior noise levels. Great stuff.
In 170 miles of mixed city/hwy driving -- roughly 100 miles on the highway, 70 on urban streets -- we realized 30 mpg.
Inside, room up front is fine in seats that proved both marvelously comfortable and extremely well-bolstered. In back, head room is impressive but leg room is utterly dependent on the kindness of front passengers. And even then... well, this is a tiny crossover.
The ever-important infotainment equipment is slickly presented and, after a bit of a learning curve, easy to use.
Perched atop the dash is an attractive 8.8-inch display that is not a touch screen. Instead, it’s operated via a multi-function knob on the floor console, which is where the infotainment learning curve comes in. Once mastered, however, it all works well.
A smaller knob on that console is provided for radio volume, but tuning duties are handled by the aforementioned big knob, which must be put in the proper “tune” mode for such duty. Climate controls, on the other hand -- two knobs and numerous buttons for the dual-zone affair we had -- are great.
Regarding styling, this guy is a knockout. From the strikingly handsome seven-point grille, with its appealing overbite, through an almost coupe-esque profile to a narrowed, arch-shaped liftgate, this thing makes an SUV body look sleek.
Adding to the panache are standard 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, with 18s available on upper trims.
Among standard safety nannies are adaptive cruise with stop-and-go capability, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, auto emergency braking and, of course, a rear-view camera.
With looks to spare, the athleticism of a teenage gymnast and the affordability of a nicely equipped compact car, CX-30 is a formidable new choice in the ever-growing small-crossover segment.
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