The gap between subcompact and compact SUVs originally didn't seem like one that needed filling. Yet, whattya know? The growing number of midcompact SUVs, as we've started calling them, are actually some of the most interesting, diverse and appealing small SUVs on the market. The 2022 Mazda CX-30 is one of the best and plays the role of the handsome, well-dressed athlete in the segment. It's the best to drive and has the most stylish, high-quality interior; two attributes that actually make the CX-30 an alternative for various subcompact luxury models like the BMW X2 and Audi Q3. Seriously, it's that good.
Of course, there are tradeoffs that might make one of its midcompact competitors more appealing. Yes, it's taller than the mechanically related Mazda3 Hatchback and has some unsightly quasi-rugged fender flares, but if you're likely to venture off the beaten path, the Ford Bronco Sport and Subaru Crosstrek are better bets. Also, that slinky styling does mean it doesn't offer as much passenger or cargo space – a Kia Seltos or VW Taos would be better bets there. But that's the beauty of this growing segment: there's a little something for every taste rather than a collection of blah cookie-cutter choices.
What's new for 2022?
Every CX-30 now comes standard with all-wheel drive. A new Carbon Edition also debuts. Only available with the base engine, it is effectively a Preferred trim level that's only available in Polymetal Gray paint and exclusive red leather interior. As the name implies, it has black wheels and gloss-black mirrors.
Like the Mazda3 with which it shares so much, the CX-30's cabin makes you go "wow" considering its price and the vehicles with which it competes. Whatever trim level you're considering, the key to this wow factor is how Mazda's current interior design scheme removes visual clutter by reducing switchgear and effectively hiding air vents and door handles. It's then augmented by standard multi-tone color schemes – cars with cloth or leatherette vinyl upholstery are accented with black and blue dash/door trim, while those with leather get black and brown. The new Carbon Edition is red and black. For a car in the $20,000-$35,000 range, it looks and feels special.
It's also of a high quality and quite functional. The steering wheel, which looks sensational, is an absolute treat to hold and has intelligently designed buttons/switches for the infotainment and cruise controls. There's considerable center console space, including a configurable under-armrest bin, and a decently sized forward bin for a smartphone.
Mazda's tech interface, which had been a liability in Mazdas, is substantially more advanced in the CX-30. The dashtop screen is large and easy to see. The knob that controls it is big, ergonomically placed on the center console, and like BMW's iDrive controller, can rotate through menus or move up/down, left/right among icons. This latter feature is key for using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wheeling through playlists or contacts is actually easier with a knob, but selecting icons on the menu screen is time consuming and annoying. So too is going between the Apple/Android interfaces (below left) and Mazda's native interface.
Although it was originally an unusual size, the CX-30 now finds itself among a growing number of midcompact SUVs that slot inbetween subcompacts like the Hyundai Kona and compacts like Mazda's own CX-5. Others include the Ford Bronco Sport, Kia Seltos, and Volkswagen Taos. In terms of space, the CX-30 is the smallest of that group and is definitely the least family friendly. Two tall passengers will be able to sit front-to-back on the passenger side, but not on the driver side. Fitting a rear-facing child seat in the middle will be a squeeze.
Cargo space with the rear seat raised is 20.2 cubic feet, which is only a bit better than subcompact models and considerably less than the midcompacts mentioned above. That number is virtually identical to the Mazda 3 hatchback, but in our testing, we found the CX-30's extra height allowed it to swallow an additional suitcase (surprisingly, the Mazda3 sedan can carry more than them both). Although its suitcase count trailed its midcompaact competitors, it was superior to a pair of small luxury models, the BMW X2 and Audi Q3. We could also fit a golf bag diagonally across the cargo area.
For 2022, every CX-30 comes with all-wheel drive, plus a six-speed automatic. There are then two choices of engine. Cars dubbed CX-30 2.5 S have a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four that produces 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. That's more than the base engines of most competitors, plus some of their engine upgrades. Fuel economy estimates were not available at the time of this writing, but we don't anticipate much change for the final 2021 figures of 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. These are low compared to other base engines, but again, they have less power.
As for the CX-30's upgrade engine, nothing in the segment can touch it. The turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four produces 227 hp and 310 lb-ft on regular gas. It'll do 250 hp and 320 lb-ft if you feel like filling it with 93 octane. Fuel economy is basically the same as the base engine at 22/30/25.
If you want to feel what a car is doing through the steering wheel, throttle pedal and through the seat of your pants, the Mazda CX-30 is exactly the type of small crossover you're looking for. Its taller stature means it loses some of the agility provided by the lower Mazda3, but the primary control efforts and feedback are just as exceptional. When it comes to providing an engaging driving experience, no SUV comes remotely close in the CX-30's price range. There's even a case to be made that it provides more driving fun than a BMW X2.
Along those lines, the available turbo engine is there to make the CX-30 feel luxurious and effortless, rather than burn rubber and set lap times like some turbocharged Mazdaspeed of old. On paper and in practice, none of its non-luxury competitors can touch it in a straight line – it obviously costs more, but it's the engine we'd certainly want.
Nevertheless, the base engine is still a peach. It's more powerful than most competitors, boasts terrific throttle response and is paired with one of the smartest transmissions around. It always knows exactly which of its six gears to select at any given time, and when Sport mode is selected, it quickly downshifts when braking into a corner like the sport-tuned transmissions of luxury brands do. It also doesn't clumsily hang onto revs when accelerating thereafter. As a bonus, the Premium trim adds paddle shifters then let you have some extra fun if you're so inclined.
What other Mazda CX-30 reviews can I read?
The turbo engine was a new addition last year. It makes an already fun little SUV, even better, though certainly not to hot hatch levels.
Taking an in-depth look at the CX-30's cargo capacity to see how much luggage it can fit inside and how that compares to the Mazda3 as well as other small crossovers. We also compared it to both the Mazda3 hatch and sedan with surprising results.
Our first taste of the CX-30 features more in-depth information about its design and engineering.
Although all-wheel drive is added as standard equipment for 2022, the prices have not gone as much as you'd suspect given the old $1,400 option price. The base price of $23,425, including the $1,225 destination charge, is only $150 more than last year. That said, the prices of the Preferred and Premium go up by $1,200 and $1,800, respectively, so it's not all a free all-weather lunch.
The base CX-30 2.5 S comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers, adaptive cruise control, a full suite of accident avoidance tech (see Safety section below), cloth upholstery, two USB ports, an eight-speaker sound system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the Mazda Connect interface that includes an 8.8-inch display and center console controller.
From there, you have a choice of three "packages" that are pretty much what other brands refer to as trim levels.
We think the Select is best place to start your CX-30 shopping as for an extra $2,400 you gain 18-inch wheels, blind-sport warning, proximity entry, dual-zone climate control, rear air vents, a rear armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leatherette upholstery versus the standard cloth. The Preferred, new Carbon Edition (pictured below) and Premium packages add further luxuries, most notably a heated power driver seat with memory (Preferred) and leather upholstery (Premium). The base Turbo is equivalent to the Preferred.
All new prices are below and include the $1,225 destination charge.
S Select: $25,825
S Preferred: $28,875
S Carbon Edition: $29,515
S Premium: $31,725
Turbo Premium: $34,025
Turbo Premium Plus: $35,625
The new-for-2022 Carbon Edition
Every CX-30 comes with a comprehensive array of standard safety features beyond the usual airbags and stability aids. These include forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (Smart Brake Support), lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and a driver inattention warning system. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning are included on all but the base trim. Reverse automatic emergency braking is also now available for 2021, but Mazda was not specific about whether it was standard or optional at the time of this writing.
Beyond their simple inclusion, these features are also among the best-executed on the market. Most appreciably, they aren't prone to false alarms or constantly beep at you like a scolding nanny.
The government awarded the CX-30 a perfect five stars in every crash test. The Institute for Highway Safety named the CX-30 a Top Safety Pick. It received the best-possible ratings in all crash tests and for its front-crash prevention system (both for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian accidents). Unusually, its base LED headlights got the best possible rating of "Good," while the curve-adaptive upgrade headlights found on the range-topping Premium (photographed above) actually got a "Poor" rating due to excessive glare. The CX-30 also received top marks for the ease of use of its child seat LATCH anchors.