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Compared to the Mazda3 sedan, the CX-30 is 2.6 in. (66 mm) shorter overall but stands nearly 6 in. (152 mm) taller. (Mazda)

Mazda3 compact car spawns 2020 Mazda CX-30 CUV

The taut-handling CX-30 fills in Mazda’s SUV lineup between CX-3 and CX-5.

Mazda’s new-for-2020 CX-30, a two-row, 5-door compact SUV, is based on the Mazda3 sedan/hatchback platform and shares its 2.5-L naturally aspirated “Skyactiv-G” gasoline four-cylinder and 6-speed planetary automatic gearbox. A 1.8-L diesel and the much-anticipated, though still not EPA-compliant 2.0-L “Skyactiv-X” gasoline-compression-ignition engine are available for the CX-30 in Europe. 

For the U.S., Mazda claims the 2.5-L’s 186 hp (139 kW) and 186 lb-ft (252 Nm) make it the segment’s strongest standard engine. Intelligent “i-ACTIV” AWD is available; Mazda’s more muscular turbocharged four rated at 227 hp (169 kW) on 87-RON gasoline is a likely early upgrade. The CX-30’s base EPA fuel economy is 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined, while AWD CX-30s rate 24/32/27 mpg with Premium-trim CDA (cylinder deactivation) or 24/31/26 mpg without.

Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD system uses 27 different sensors to monitor – 200 times per second – wheel speed, engine dynamics, g-forces, vehicle yaw, driver inputs to the braking and steering, outside temperature and even windshield wiper activity to deliver drive torque to the wheels in any situation. 

The CX-30’s steel-intensive body brings the Mazda3’s Italianesque Kodo (“Soul of Motion”) design language to a taller SUV with a fastback roofline. Compared with its sedan cousin, the CX-30 is 2.6 in. (66 mm) shorter overall but stands nearly six inches (152-mm) taller. Both front and rear are smoothly uncluttered, and its nicely crafted, feature-filled cabin follows suit; Mazda has been noticeably migrating further upscale with each new vehicle it launches. A digital gauge display and an 8.8-inch central display are standard, and the top Premium trim adds leather seats, a head-up display, power liftgate and a power moonroof. 

Mazda North America vehicle-dynamics engineer Dave Coleman pointed out the development focus his team and their colleagues in Hiroshima put on ensuring that every switch and control feels smooth and natural, that its interior is conversation-quiet and that its seats and driving position are all-day supportive. Their attention to detail is evident in this new product and, as we learned on our day-long test drive during the car’s U.S. media launch, quite effective. 

With two aboard, the CX-30’s performance was less than thrilling but more than adequate in the 4,000-ft. (1219-m) hills east of San Diego. Its steering was characteristically Mazda – crisp and responsive, with handling and braking to match. During a day-long test drive, we averaged 25.9 mpg on our first 61-mile (98-km) leg of the drive, then 27.6 mpg for the less-aggressive 81-mile (130-km) second leg. 

Some customers may lament Mazda’s abandonment of an infotainment touchscreen (which the company deems distracting) in favor of a central control knob flanked by four buttons (Audio, Nav, Home and Back) but the system is not overly challenging to learn and operate. It requires scrolling through menu choices, tapping the knob to select your choice, then a twist and tap again to get what you want. It’s less distracting than a good touchscreen with large, easy-to-see and touch icons, since you still have to watch, interpret and react to what’s on the touchscreen. But at least the CX-30 system offers an adjacent volume knob and jump-forward/back buttons. 

As a compact SUV, the CX-30’s rear-seat leg/knee area is a tight fit for passengers if the front-seat occupants have moved their seats rearward very far. Cargo space under the Mazda’s fastback roofline is a respectable 20.2 ft3 with ample accessibility through a wide, deep rear hatch. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are standard, plus a built-in WiFi hotspot (six-month free trial) and Mazda Connected Services3, which can remotely lock the doors, start the engine and monitor vehicle status, including oil level and tire pressure, and will notify owners of important vehicle alerts, through a MyMazda smart-phone app. An impressive 12-speaker Bose premium audio is featured in Preferred and above trims. 

Coleman explained that the CX-30’s suite of safety and driver-assistance features are tuned to “respect, not override” the driver with less-obtrusive interventions. For example, Lane Departure Prevention trades off “absolute avoidance of white paint” to avoid “unnecessary and possible dangerous steering intervention.” A handy “DAS” switch temporarily disables Lane-Departure Warning and Prevention, Blind-Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert while leaving key safety systems (such as Smart Brake Support) fully functional.  

Coleman also touted the CX-30’s response-enhancing GVC+ (G-Vectoring Control Plus), which he claims improves turn-in by slightly reducing engine torque to transfer load to the front drive wheels, then aids corner exit by applying slight outside front braking. The optional i-ACTIV AWD seamlessly distributes driveline torque to maximize traction and a new Off-Road Traction Assist system senses off-pavement conditions and changes its algorithms to enhance traction accordingly. 

The CX-30 is produced for global distribution at Mazda's Hiroshima factory and in Salamanca, Guanajuato, Mexico. Asian-market units are assembled at the AutoAlliance Thailand plant in Rayong. U.S. base price is $21,900; Premium trim with AWD models start at $29,600. 

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