2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo First Drive – Turbocharged Tweener

2021 Mazda CX-30 TurboSome cars are segment tweeners. The 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo is one of those.

The raised hatchback is just barely a crossover, but Mazda lists it as such. Whatever it is, it does stay true to Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” marketing, and turbo power helps with that.

That’s the big news for this year – turbo power, just like on its platform-mate, the Mazda 3. And the CX-30 experience is much like what I experienced with the 3, only with more ground clearance.

(Full disclosure: Mazda sent coffee, a COVID mask, and a travel mug to me with the car. The company also wanted to send me Bose headphones, but I declined.)

That means you get tight, nicely-weighted steering that gives the car a performance feel while allowing for quick, sharp turn-in in corners. It means the turbo-four – 2.5 liters, 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (250/320 on premium fuel, which my tester was running) – delivers enough oomph for easy merging and passing, though you won’t be blowing anyone’s doors off.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

The six-speed automatic is generally well-behaved, as well, and offers paddle shifters.

Raised ground clearance does lead to a bit of body roll, though it’s not too offensive. I did manage to encounter understeer and some slipperiness during my test loop, despite the all-wheel-drive system that’s standard on turbo models. Nothing unmanageable, but the CX-30 can only be pushed so hard before the tires lose grip. There may have been extenuating circumstances at play – the Chicago area was deep in the grips of the polar vortex at test time and I’m sure that didn’t help the tires grip the pavement.

I did also nearly slide through a stop sign due to ice. Not sure if the safety nannies were taking the morning off or what, although I do suspect I didn’t apply enough brake-pedal pressure to trigger the ABS, as I felt no pedal pulsation. It’s possible that the tires fitted to my test car just weren’t up for spirited driving in freezing weather, nor for simply stopping on an under-salted side street during relatively gentle urban driving.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

The tires were 18s (Bridgestone Turanza EL 440s), and the suspension underpinning the front is a MacPherson strut setup, with a torsion-beam axle setup in the rear. Unplanned ice slides notwithstanding, the brakes were quite stout during aggressive driving.

Inside, the cabin is quite pleasant, thanks to materials that mostly look and feel upmarket, and the white seats contrasted neatly with the dashboard’s mostly unrelieved black (trimmed with chrome). Mazda’s infotainment system can be confounding when you’re new to it or haven’t used it in a while, but familiarity breeds ease of use. It does work well with Apple CarPlay, and CarPlay also makes the use of certain menus and functions moot.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Mazda seems to think CX-30 buyers are seeking adventure, but really, most are likely seeking slightly more utility than a Mazda 3 hatch, and perhaps a higher ride height. Cargo capacity is slightly more than a 3 Turbo hatchback, though that was still plenty to haul a whole bunch of groceries. Headroom and legroom were adequate upfront, but this long-legged editor felt cramped when hopping in the rear seat for the photoshoot, with the driver’s seat pushed fairly far back.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Standard features included LED daytime running lights and headlights, sunroof, the already mentioned 18-inch wheels, roof rails, power liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive front-lighting system, dual-zone climate control, remote keyless entry, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, power driver seat, connected services, push-button start, Bose audio, satellite radio, heated steering wheel, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, heated front seats, electronic parking brake, navigation, traffic-sign recognition, leather seats, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control with stop and go, rear cross-traffic alert, smart brake support, driver-attention alert, high-beam control, and blind-spot monitoring system.

All that added up to $33,900.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

Options included a $160 cargo cover, $125 all-weather floor mats, and the $595 Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, plus a rear bumper guard ($125). My test unit was a Premium Plus trim, which adds traffic-jam assist, Homelink, driver-side auto-dimming exterior mirror, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree monitor, rear cross-traffic braking, and rear smart-city brake support.

All told, the vehicle cost $35,995 including the $1,100 destination fee.

That price is a bit dear for a smallish crossover, but at least the CX-30 feels both sporty and upmarket.

Fuel economy, if you’re wondering, is listed at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo

The overall package works well, although I’d opt for the regular 3 Turbo hatch over a CX-30 unless I really, really needed the extra ground clearance.

For the crossover buyer who likes to zoom, the CX-Turbo will fit the bill – assuming you’re willing to part with the Benjamins.

Correction — an earlier version of this post listed the wrong torque figure with premium fuel. The correct version is 320 lb-ft with premium fuel. We have updated this post to reflect the correct spec. We regret the error.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]


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