The last time Jalopnik drove a Mazda CX-30, it was a fresh face on the marketplace, and we thought of it as a more affordable Porsche Macan. Now, Mazda’s compact crossover has been around for a few years, and sports a new turbocharged engine that wasn’t available at launch. That new powerplant makes the 2022 Mazda CX-30 even more engaging. It’s the crossover for people who want to enjoy their daily driving.
I got to live with a 2022 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium for a little over a week, driving it the way I’d drive any of my own vehicles. When it was time to give it back, I found myself gazing at the CX-30's curves and wanting to take one more spin.
(Full Disclosure: Mazda loaned me a CX-30 for 10 days. I used it as my daily driver: hauling parts to repair some motorcycles and a stricken Audi TT. It rained for 8 out of those 10 days. Since the biggest change here is under the hood, this review will skip over the aspects of this car that haven’t been altered since Bradley’s review of the 2020 model.)
Mazda clearly wants a bite of the lucrative compact-crossover market. A list of the CX-30's direct competitors is long: Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Compass, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Nissan Rogue Sport. I’m sure there are more that I’m missing, which goes to show how densely packed the market is.
The CX-30's styling sets it apart. This thing is a beauty to look at. I’ve frequently found myself getting lost in Mazda’s little design details — the automaker’s Kodo design language looks great in just about every application, including here. Look at the CX-30 from the side, and you’ll see light reflecting on the doors in an S-shape. Subtle, and very cool.
It’s a similar story inside. The CX-30 has a welcoming interior, a place you’ll want to be after a long day at work. Most of the materials here feel like they came from a much more expensive vehicle. The leather seats are supple, and nearly every surface that you can touch feels pleasantly premium.
The only thing I didn’t like in the interior was the glossy “piano black” plastic on the center console. Even in my short time with the CX-30, this surface got dusty and covered in fingerprint smudges.
On the tech front, Mazda uses a central dial flanked by shortcut buttons to control the 8.8-inch infotainment screen. I prefer physical buttons and knobs over touch interfaces, and here, Mazda delivers. The infotainment controls sit just ahead of the armrest, meaning you can control things without having to lift your arm. I never needed to look at the screen to pick my next song or adjust the volume, and I found this system far more sensible to use than the steering-wheel controls.
If you like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, then you’ll agree with my colleague Adam Ismail’s opinion that Mazda’s knob control is distracting. Simply put, the smartphone apps were designed for a touchscreen, but Mazda’s screen is not touch-sensitive, making Android Auto and CarPlay clunky to use with the click-knob.
The star of the show is what’s under the hood. While the 2020 CX-30 made do with 186 hp and 186 lb-ft torque from a Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder, this 2022 top-of-the-line model gets 250 hp and 320 lb-ft torque from a 2.5-liter turbo Skyactiv-G, first added to the CX-30 in 2021.
Power is delivered to all four wheels through Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel-drive. This system, now standard across the CX-30 lineup, normally delivers up to 98 percent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels, but can divert up to 50 percent to the rear axle depending on road conditions.
The result is phenomenal. This CX-30 builds speed faster than you’d expect from a cute little crossover. There is no pass that the CX-30 cannot handle, and the six-speed automatic is responsive, snapping into the correct gear whenever you give the crossover a foot-full of skinny pedal.
Handling is better than you’d expect: you can take curves at speed with absolute confidence. Body roll is well-controlled, and if you push it past its limit, you get lots of audible warning from the front tires before things start getting dramatic. I’d compare the handling of this crossover to a sporty sedan. It’s not as sharp as an MX-5 Miata or even a Mazda3, but the handling and power will leave you smiling. And it doesn’t come at the cost of comfort: The CX-30 soaks up bumps, and the seats are roadtrip comfy while still offering lots of lateral support in curves.
There are a couple of caveats. The first is that you’ll be making somewhat frequent pitstops. The CX-30 has a small 12.7-gallon fuel tank. I matched the EPA’s combined fuel economy rating of 25 mpg, which meant stopping for fuel at around 280 miles. The 30-mpg highway rating proved elusive.
The second caveat is the backseat.
It’s fine if everyone planning to ride in your CX-30 is about five-foot-six (my height), but things get real cramped when you try to pile taller people back there.
I also have to mention that rearward visibility isn’t great. The crossover’s small rear window makes for some uncertainty if, like me, you’re used to reversing without using a camera. Thankfully, the crossover’s cameras are quite good, and even feature a nifty 360-degree view for a perfect parking job.
A 2022 CX-30 2.5 Turbo starts at $30,500. The Turbo Premium I drove stickered for $33,100, including leather, a 12-speaker Bose surround sound system, power tailgate, 18-inch wheels and more.
I left the Mazda CX-30 quite impressed. Mazda continues its heritage of making everyday vehicles that offer a surprising amount of driver focus, and that holds true for the company’s crossovers. This turbocharged model leaves most of the competition in the dust, performance-wise, and does so in great comfort. It doesn’t have sports-car sharpness, but if you’re looking for an affordable small crossover that doesn’t sacrifice driving fun, this might be the ticket. Just make sure your rear passengers aren’t too tall.