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Mountain Wheels: Mazda’s CX-30 gains a new turbo engine option, but check your pump

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels
Mazda’s small but capable CX-30 crossover provides a pleasant, car-like but entirely capable driving experience, with two engine choices.
Courtesy photo

I remain confused, but in a good way, about a week I just spent in the small but impressive Mazda CX-30 crossover, a precursor to the CX-50 I hope to drive in the coming months.

Let’s start from scratch and say that the CX-30 is indeed only like the Mazda3 sedan (or the sexier new hatchback) in terms of similar size. Beyond that, it’s rugged, impressively versatile and variably powerful — an attribute I better explain first.

New for 2022 models is the option of an upgraded 2.5-liter turbo engine with two separate output ratings, depending on how much money you’d like to spend on that most precious of 2022’s commodities, gasoline. The top-of-the-line turbo AWD Premium Plus model I drove was $34,400, plus a few extra paint and advanced traffic safety options.



So I went in, blind taste-test style, and assumed that the listed 227 horsepower (and a healthy 310 pound-feet of torque) were the CX-30’s standard output. But it actually turns out that super-premium 93 octane gas, which is hard to come by in Colorado, will push those numbers to 250 hp and 320 pound-feet.

I think that may have helped explain some of the resulting, variable performance I got. There were times, especially out on a South Park drive, that I really wanted that extra few horses, and I also felt a little burbling in the power as I was careening up to the tunnel from the east side. But there were also moments that I looked down and realized the CX-30 was approaching 90 mph, so I can’t say it’s exactly power-deprived. At those speeds and exertions, I got 20 mpg; it’s not so hard to get the 30 highway mpg figure with more traditional travel.



Alternately, you can also get a naturally-aspirated four-cylinder with 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, regardless of fuel.

For 2022, and commensurate with its crossover duties, CX-30 is also equipped with the newest version of Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system, which integrates advanced torque vectoring and even off-road traction assist, should you want to hit the dirt with the car.

As for day-to-day experiences, if you are looking for the tallest window beltline this side of a Lotus Evora, the CX-30’s short but stocky stature provides very, very high-waisted doors, so tall that you can’t actually lean your left elbow out without doing so at a weird right angle.

Those cheek-level lower window frames do have the potential of blocking your immediate side-to-corner views of, say, crocodiles, or shopping carts, or curbs, so mirror positioning and a healthy dose of pre-pandemic shoulder checking is critical.

I thought I might have lowered the seats too much but CX-30 lacks the headroom of larger crossovers and full SUVs, so that window profile is definitely one of its standard attributes.

Overall, CX-30 provides a more car-like experience than many of those bigger vehicles — maybe CX-50 will be right in the middle — with a comfortable, sport and all-season grippy ride. It remained very stable, even in 50 mph wind gusts on Loveland Pass, and offered cornering that suggested a center of gravity as low as those doors are tall.

CX-30’s storage and access aspect was also quite good, with a power rear liftgate and a low load level, plus enough room for a ski bag, provided you dropped the leathery second-row seats (which required moving the front row seats forward). Second-row seating is tall and the large threesome of second-row headrests, combined with a flat roof profile, mean somewhat limited rear visibility.

Design very clearly emulates the early-adopting CX-90, with an absolutely 45-degree-angle hood/grille configuration, oversized wheel well flares and a thick, road-proof layer of trim from the front bumper all along the body line — adding to the CX-30’s solid look.

In the cabin, you’ll also appreciate Mazda’s super-low-key design look, with a brown leathery dash top, door inserts and sides of the center console as the only non-black feature in the car. Chromed highlights, door pulls, steering wheel and a nice horizontal bar of vents on the passenger side are all pleasant details. Updated 3D mapping also showed a shimmer of sunlight on Lake Dillon and detailed images of the Broncos stadium, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Andy Stonehouse

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