We could sum up our review of the 2022 Mazda CX-30 Turbo in one quick quick sentence: it’s essentially a lifted, slightly larger Mazda3 Turbo hatchback. The end.
But Mazda’s overpowered subcompact crossover is a bit more than a Mazda3 on stilts. The CX-30 Turbo is a big deal not just for Mazda, but also the entire segment. You see, Mazda was the first mainstream brand to bring high performance to the subcompact crossover segment, a bold move that has motivated Hyundai to give it a try as well with the Kona N. Will we be seeing more high-performance small crossovers in the year to come? We sure hope so, as Mazda’s pocket rocket utility vehicle is one heck of a fun machine.
Underneath its meticulously designed body sits the Mazda3’s underpinnings and powertrain. The CX-30 Turbo is defined by precisely that: a turbocharged engine. In this case it’s a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that pumps out - when running on 93 octane premium fuel - a stout 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque.
That power is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. This allows the CX-30 to stand tall against substantially less powerful rivals, with a 0-96 km/h sprint achieved in the low six-second range. That’s properly quick, especially for a segment of vehicles that has no reason to be.
On the road, the CX-30 Turbo’s beautifully calibrated suspension allows it to be both smooth and sporty, with quick steering and a nimble, yet buttoned down feel. Sound deadening is also bang on, to the point where we wish we heard a bit more coming out of the engine compartment.
While properly fast, especially during overtaking manoeuvres where a quick-shifting transmission and massive low-end torque yield near instant acceleration, the CX-30 Turbo’s execution of performance leans more to the mature side.
Fun, but also grown up
The CX-30 Turbo isn’t only important because it’s quick off the line. It’s important because it redefines what a mainstream product should be. Mazda has recently claimed that it wants to compete against premium brands, and the CX-30 Turbo is one such attempt. While it’s technically supposed take on models like the Toyota Corolla Cross, Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos and Volkswagen Taos – just to name a few – Mazda would prefer seeing costumers arrive from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz showrooms.
We’re still not convinced German luxury vehicle owners have Mazda on their radar, but we’re absolutely impressed by the CX-30 Turbo’s fit and finish, especially considering its $36,250 sticker price (before freight). Paint quality is superb, panel gaps are tight and properly aligned and there’s a sense of quality and craftmanship to everything you touch.
Inside, that quality feel continues with soft touch, high-end materials, appealing leather surfaces, and a careful attention to detail and style. Mazda continues marching forward with its Kudo design philosophy, which goes through great lengths to avoid complex curves, and utilizing single, flowing lines instead. The result is a clean and uncluttered cabin design that’s totally on par with some high-end luxury vehicles.
But while the CX-30 benefits from Mazda’s commitment to styling and quality, it’s sadly compromised in overall cabin space and ergonomics. Just like the Mazda3 on which it’s based, there’s an aggressively raked A pillar that obstructs forward visibility. Luckily, rear visibility is considerably better here than in the Mazda3, but the CX-30’s cabin remains cramped.
If you’re over six feet tall and have one of the front seats adjusted accordingly, passengers will find accessing the rear seat difficult due to limited leg and knee room. Headroom is however adequate back there, even for tall passengers.
Overall cargo space is also a bit of a letdown, a flaw Mazda seems to have across its entire lineup. While the CX-30 is a much more practical vehicle than the lilliputian CX-3, you’ll only get 1,274 liters of total cargo space when lowering the rear seatback. That’s almost identical to a Mazda3 Sport, but also far behind segment leaders like the Kia Seltos (1,778 liters) and Nissan Qashqai (1,730 liters).
If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of cargo space, and see value in design, build quality and driveability instead, the CX-30 Turbo is the subcompact crossover you should consider. You’ll be getting Audi Q3 levels of refinement and performance at a fraction of the price. The CX-30 Turbo has also been rather trouble-free since it hit our market last year, with the added benefit of lower maintenance costs than a German badge.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.