Fun things come in small packages, right? Case in point, Paula Abdul.
Looking for a pint-sized SUV that’s more fun than a day at Disney, more grin-inducing than The Incredible Hulk ride at Universal, look no further than Mazda’s feisty CX-30.
This $30,000 bundle of rolling joy stands out from the typical box-on-wheels compact SUV with its one major attribute: The thing is a joy to drive.
They say that every new Mazda has a little bit of zoom-zoom Miata MX-5 in its DNA, and the CX-30 has just that.
With class-leading horsepower, suspension from Mazda’s award-winning Mazda3 sports sedan, and steering more precise than a surgeon’s scalpel, the CX-30 will brighten-up any daily commute. That’s if anyone is commuting these days.
Sitting close to the bottom of the Mazda line up, just below the best-selling CX-5, the CX-30 starts with a blue-light special $21,900 model.
I’ve just spent a week wrangling the top-of-the-range $29,600 CX-30 Premium All-wheel Drive version and loved it.
Talk about being loaded. Standard features with the Premium pack include leather seats, LED headlights, keyless entry and pushbutton start, radar cruise control, 12-speaker Bose premium audio, power lift-gate, power sunroof, and paddle shifters. The list is seemingly endless.
And while styling is always in the eye of the beholder, I think the little CX-30 looks da bomb. From its sleek, elegant grille opening, to its mile-long hood, high waist and low roofline, the compact ute has a real athletic, dynamic stance.
Climb aboard and the cabin exudes upscale quality, which is a surprise and delight with something costing less than $30,000.
And it’s not just leather seats and plush carpets. Everything you touch has a soft, padded feel, everything you see is brushed metal, raised stitching or nicely-grained vinyl.
No, it’s not big on the inside – it’s smaller in volume than key rivals like Honda’s HRV, Nissan’s Rogue Sport, and Subaru’s Crosstrek. But there’s space for five average-size adults and decent load space.
For cargo, there’s 20.2 cubic feet with the rear seats in place, 45 cubic feet with the split-folding rear seat lying flat. And the standard roof rails are perfect for hauling a couple of bikes or kayaks.
On the beautifully laid-out dash, there’s an 8.8-inch center display which, surprisingly isn’t a touchscreen. To control it you twiddle a center console rotary wheel, which feels decidedly old school, especially controlling the navigation.
My only other complaint is the annoying electronic parking brake that sets itself automatically when you park the car, but doesn’t release automatically when you try to drive away. Dumb.
Powering the CX-30 is Mazda’s proven 2.5-liter Skyactiv inline four-cylinder packing a best-in-class 186-hp and 186 torques. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic with paddle-shifters for manual control.
It truly makes the little Mazda a blast to drive, and really sets it apart from the competition. Fun? Most definitely.
Part of that fun comes from the CX-30 Premium’s torque-vectoring system for its all-wheel drive set-up. It does a clever thing of reducing the amount of power going to the front wheels when the driver turns in to a curve.
That loads-up the front tires to increase front-end grip and essentially make the baby Mazda feel as quick-to-react as a spooked gecko.
The suspension design brilliance also makes the CX ride smoothly over lumps and bumps and feel totally poised and composed at speed.
If there’s one hesitation I have in whole-heartedly recommending the CX-30 Premium it’s because an even cooler version is arriving by end of year.
The 2021 CX30 2.5 Turbo will get come with 250 turbocharged horses – 65 more than the regular CX. More fun is the 320 lb-ft of torque, a significant 135 lb-ft increase.
There’s no word on pricing but it should be worth every extra cent.