First Drive: Small, Seductive 2020 Mazda CX-30 SUV

A luxurious cabin and refined driving experience separate this SUV from the crowd

2020 Mazda CX-30 driving

Update: Since this first drive was originally published in December 2019, we finished testing the CX-30.

See the complete Mazda CX-30 road test.

The all-new Mazda CX-30 SUV fills the gap between the subcompact CX-3 and compact CX-5 SUVs. It is based on the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback but gives buyers a taller roof height and a more elevated driving position. The CX-30 continues Mazda’s recent push to build vehicles that have a more premium feel than competitors have.

Prices for the CX-30 span from $21,900 for the base front-wheel-drive model up to $29,600 for a well-equipped Premium with all-wheel drive, before a $1,045 destination charge. All four trims can be configured with front- or all-wheel drive, and all versions come with a 186-hp, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. CX-30 competitors include the Honda HR-V, Nissan Rogue Sport, and Subaru Crosstrek, as well as the upcoming Kia Seltos.

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CR purchased and tested our own CX-30. That’s when we’ll put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. 

But before we bought and tested our own, we rented a CX-30 from Mazda to learn a little more about this new SUV. 

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What we rented: 2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD
Powertrain: 186-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine; six-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $29,600
Options: None
Destination fee: $1,045
Total cost: $30,645

CR's Take

Mazda says the CX-30 is aimed at “active lifestyle” customers who might also appreciate the SUV’s easier access and more elevated driving position compared with a more low-slung car. It’s bound to appeal to people who are looking for a higher-quality cabin and quieter, more refined driving experience than what is found in other subcompact SUVs, but take note that Mazda’s self-proclaimed “road to premium” will cost the buyer a couple thousand dollars more than some other subcompact SUVs.

In most respects, we enjoyed driving the CX-30, which, although it isn’t as sporty as we typically expect from a Mazda, delivers a quiet cabin, refined drivetrain, and high-quality interior, putting it a step above subcompact competitors. City dwellers will appreciate the car’s small footprint, which makes it relatively easy to park, but if you need adult-friendly rear-seat space, you’ll want to step up to a larger compact SUV, such as the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, or Subaru Forester, or Mazda’s own CX-5, for a comparable price.    

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