Displaying items by tag: Mazda
The Mazda 6 family car gets the brand’s special-edition Kuro treatment
The Mazda 6 Kuro Edition is a good example of a dying breed of car. It gets plenty of standard equipment, the quality feels good enough for the price, it drives sweetly and offers enough practicality. However, combined with the naturally aspirated engine and Mazda’s reluctance to turn towards turbocharging for its petrol motors, a family saloon isn’t what buyers are after in 2021. We love that the 6 still exists, but fear that, as good as it is, many people will look past it in favour of a more-versatile SUV.
Mazda is a master of special editions; just look at its iconic MX-5 sports car and how many limited-run variants it has spawned to keep excitement high. Now the Japanese brand is trying to do the same with its Mazda 6 family saloon through this Kuro Edition trim. But is it injecting some life into a dying sector, or does the big family car still have merit in 2021 when buyers seem to be focusing on SUVs?
The Kuro Edition is available in saloon and ‘Tourer’ estate bodystyles, and it’s the former we’re testing here. Limited to just 100 cars in the UK (50 examples of each bodystyle), it features special Polymetal Grey Metallic paint to mark it out from other Mazda 6 models. The finish is included in the £29,250 starting price.
Kuro Edition cars are based on Sport spec when it comes to equipment, so they have a relatively generous tally that includes a reversing camera, an 11-speaker Bose stereo, keyless operation and a heated leather steering wheel to go with the standard-fit burgundy leather seats.
All Kuro cars use Mazda’s 162bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine. With no turbo (like all of the firm’s petrol engines) it needs working, but it’s a sweeter unit than the 2.5-litre range-topper.
It’s revvier, which plays to the motor’s strengths. This is born out of a deficit of torque; with only 213Nm on tap it’s lacking when compared with turbocharged rivals, but at least the engine is willing.
The only problem is that’s not always how you want to drive a car like this, and with a sweetly controlled chassis that delivers a comfortable ride, the engine refinement is at odds with the rest of the package. Having to extend it into the upper reaches to avoid the flat spot lower down means it can get a bit noisy, but at least the six-speed manual transmission is a joy to use. There’s no automatic option on the Kuro Edition.
The ride feels sophisticated for a family saloon, though. The steering weight is lovely, there’s a good level of grip, and the suspension keeps the Mazda well composed through faster bends. Not being shackled by a higher ride height and a heavier body, like a similarly sized SUV, means the handling is refreshingly enjoyable for a family machine.
But it’s also smooth when travelling at speed and soft enough around town so as not to bump its occupants around.
They won’t have quite as much space as in Mazda’s CX-5, talking of comparisons with SUVs, but the saloon’s 480-litre boot gives it more than enough luggage space and practicality for most occasions.
The Kuro Edition also has 19-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay (which is a good, because the standard interface with sat-nav could be better), autonomous braking, blind-spot monitoring, all-round parking sensors and adaptive cruise control. The burgundy upholstery looks smart, while the materials are good for the price, but the infotainment system now feels outdated and clunky.
Otherwise, with claimed efficiency of 42.2mpg, the Mazda 6 Kuro Edition is a nicely rounded package, even if CO2 emissions of 152g/km mean it won’t be the most cost-effective company car choice in a sector aimed at buyers looking for just that.
Save for a misplaced plastic bucket in the middle of a highway, the first 10,000 miles with our Mazda CX-30 have been uneventful and about what we expected. We'll get to the bucket in a minute, but first let's talk about our initial thoughts on the CX-30—one specific to its segment, the other to the car itself.
As we see it, most small crossovers would work better as cars. In the case of the CX-30, the car it could be already exists: the Mazda 3 hatchback. But subcompact SUVs are popular, so Mazda created the CX-30, debuted it for the 2020 model year, and watched it sell more units than every other vehicle in its lineup except for the one-size-up CX-5. That pace hasn't changed this year. Through April, the CX-30 outsold both the Mazda 3 and the slightly smaller CX-3 crossover combined.
The only real change to the CX-30 for 2021 is the addition of an optional turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four that produces 250 horsepower. Our long-term test car doesn't have that engine and, as we could have predicted, the Turbo model changes the SUV's math. In our testing, the boosted engine gets the CX-30 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds versus 7.6 for our example with the standard 186-hp four. Just as noteworthy is the 1.1 seconds that the turbo engine lops off the regular CX-30's 50-to-70-mph time, which makes it far wieldier during passing maneuvers.
"Having spent a lot of time in the turbo version, not having the extra power really sucks the upscale vibe out of this thing," senior online editor Mike Sutton wrote in our CX-30's logbook. "It's quick and responsive enough, though. Good, linear steering and nice general body control. A good driver, but the same goes for the 3 hatch."
For C/D staffers less encumbered by seat time in the turbo, however, our regular CX-30 has quietly impressed as it's trekked up, down, and across Michigan. It hasn't left the state yet, but it's averaging a decent 27 mpg—1 mpg more than its EPA combined estimate—and summer road-trip season is nearly upon us.
Staff editor Eric Stafford took the CX-30 and his skepticism—"I haven't been a fan," he prefaced—on a nearly 2000-mile jaunt through Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He came away calling the vehicle "classy, sporty, and well equipped." The CX-30's 20 cubic feet of cargo space was sufficient for his needs, and he found enough back-seat room for adults. "While the 2.5-liter is gruff when pressed, it's plenty potent and operates quietly enough in normal driving," he wrote. Indeed, our Mazda's 68-decibel sound measurement at 70 mph is the same as the Turbo model's, and it puts the CX-30 in the company of the Mercedes GLA250. "Too bad its driving range is short. I averaged right around 300 miles per tank, which required extra stops on my long trip."
A few other criticisms have creeped into the logbook. The sometimes wonky activation of the car's automatic high beams can make for a challenging drive on foggy nights. The CX-30's adaptive cruise control sometimes will brake harder and more suddenly than we expect when approaching slower vehicles. "You should never design a heated seat control near a cupholder," noted creative director Darin Johnson. He didn't elaborate, but we assume he cleaned up whatever he spilled reaching for the seat heaters.
But our first 10,000 miles have largely been spent pondering how the CX-30 fits in Mazda's lineup, as well as how it stacks up with competitors such as Kia's Soul and Seltos and Hyundai's Kona and Venue. "I don't see why some people are confused about the CX-30's mission," buyer's guide deputy editor Rich Ceppos wrote. "It's the right-sized subcompact SUV that the CX-3 should have been in the first place—the cargo-friendly analog to the Mazda 3 sedan."
As for that bucket, it was blue, plastic, and it appeared out of nowhere on our local stretch of M-14. Ceppos, stuck in the center lane, didn't have any choice but to hit it. The result was a baseball-sized hole in the plastic panel under the CX-30's nose. We had the dealer inspect the damage when we dropped the vehicle off for its scheduled 10,000-mile service, which included an oil and filter change and a tire rotation at a cost of $107. Replacing the panel relieved us of another $93 and entailed an overnight stay while the replacement part was ordered.
Aside from that mishap, it's been a solid start to the CX-30's 40,000-mile test. "Sweet steering, sharp throttle response, fun handling—yep, this is a Mazda alright," Ceppos wrote. His only suggestion? It could benefit from the turbocharged engine.
Months in Fleet: 7 months Current Mileage: 10,696 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 27 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 12.7 gal Observed Fuel Range: 340 miles
Service: $107 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $93
In 2019, when we took the keys to a CX-5 for a 40,000-mile long-term test, we wrote that "Mazda has few obvious problems." The CX-5 supported that conclusion, proving "easy to love," earning 10Best honors in 2020 and 2021, and exhibiting uncommon excellence despite belonging to a segment we generally greet with a resigned sigh.
We tolerate compact SUVs because they're popular, but we celebrate Mazdas because they're good. The tension between those ideas, plus the rising popularity of small SUVs, makes for interesting work. The CX-5 won us over. So, let's up the degree of difficulty.
The CX-30 is a subcompact SUV, a segment that typically prompts a single frustrated question: Why aren't you a car? Recall, if you will, our review of the 2020 CX-30, which began, "Have you considered the Mazda 3?"
The 3 is roughly the same size as the CX-30, give or take a tuck or tweak here and there, and it's available as a hatchback. We like the 3 a lot. Despite already building the 3 and a similarly sized crossover, the CX-3, Mazda introduced the CX-30 for 2020. Why? Because people like to sit a little higher these days, and higher sells.
Any other reasons? We're about to find out over 40,000 miles with a 2021 CX-30. Now in its second production year, Mazda didn't change much from the CX-30's debut run except to add an optional turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that's good for 250 horsepower.
"I heard we got the non-turbo," staff editor Austin Irwin messaged shortly after the CX-30 arrived. To ensure his feelings were clear, he punctuated the sentence with a sad-face emoji.
We did not get the turbo. Sad-face emoji.
Our all-wheel-drive CX-30 came with the standard 2.5-liter inline-four and six-speed automatic transmission. It makes 186 horsepower and ran to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds in our initial testing. It hit the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds at 89 mph and pulled 0.85 g on the skidpad. Those are decent numbers. The Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo we recently tested did zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Just pointing that out.
The CX-30 starts at $23,000, which is $155 less than the "all-wheel drive is standard" base Subaru Crosstrek and $4390 more than the "it's front-drive or no drive" Kia Soul. There's value in the CX-30 in either direction, even when tacking on the $1400 for all-wheel drive.
We got the Preferred Package, which includes a power driver's seat, memory positioning for the exterior mirrors, heated front seats, a power sliding-glass moonroof, and driver's seat memory. But we stayed light on options for this one. We picked up all-weather floor mats ($150) and a rear bumper guard ($125). That's it. The as-tested price totaled $29,075. We took delivery and promptly set about running SUV-like errands in our SUV-like car (or our carlike SUV).
The first coffee spill came on a run to City Hall to drop off a ballot. The first grownup shunted to the back seat (kids are quick to grab the heated front passenger seat) surveyed her surroundings and said, "They make the most of the space they've got back here." A quick run to the driving range revealed that golf clubs fit in the aft cargo area without folding the rear seats. Barely.
Since we're still working from home, we ran some simulated commutes through town, out on country roads and on the highway. We recommend the country drive, especially in autumn. It's lovely, and there are just enough twists and turns to prove the CX-30 moves like a Mazda. It's playful enough to be fun.
The black on navy interior with leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel makes for high-quality company. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen is fine, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard at the Select Package level. (That's one down from our Preferred.) The Deep Crystal Blue Mica paint job has already earned compliments. If there are quirks to be found, our planned lap and a half or so around the Earth should shake them out.
"Such a comfortable little medium SUV" begins the first entry in the logbook, which brings us back to our 40,000-mile challenge: What exactly is the CX-30, and why does it exist?
We had a different CX-30 at this year's 10Best testing and comments ranged from "true to the Mazda ethos" and "much more in the realm of Audi and BMW than Chevy and Toyota" to "just get the Mazda 3."
Have you considered one of those?
Of course, you have. Through October, Mazda sold nearly 28,000 3s in North America in 2020, but that's down almost 37 percent from the same point a year ago. The CX-3's sales numbers this year are also down, by 27.5 percent (7485 sold). The upshot for Mazda is that those declines could be ascribed to the appeal of the CX-30, which moved 31,007 units through October. In the Thunderdome of Mazda dealerships, the CX-30 is thriving, and Mazda buyers appear to (narrowly) prefer it to the 3. We'll let you know if there needs to be a recount.
Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 3597 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 28 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 12.7 gal Observed Fuel Range: 350 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
Mazda's slogan is "Feel Alive," but this hatchback doesn't yet fulfill its potential.
The 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is a tricky car to wrap the old noggin around. Not because it produces brain-melting acceleration and cornering figures or because it'll set your hair on fire at the local autocross. That's not necessarily the case. Rather, the new Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is so perfectly adequate in so many areas that, viewed as a car that gets you from point A to point B in comfort and with no drama, it's a fine device. Still, you can't help but feel like it needs something more.
Beautiful On The Inside ...
As we've said before, the Mazda 3's cabin is the best in its class—by quite some margin, too. The dashboard is cleanly designed, while a set of mostly analog dials and a head-up display present important information neatly to the driver. All of the car's secondary controls (volume knob, indicator stalks, and HVAC) have a beautiful, high-quality weight to them. Even when you perform a task as mundane as adjusting cabin temperature, you manipulate something that feels well considered. Mazda is working hard to be seen as a near-luxury brand, and this interior is a standout example of what it's capable of.
The Mazda 3 hatch is also easy on the eyes, offers plenty of cargo space, and, if you never touch Sport mode—which activates more aggressive throttle- and shift-map behavior—will even return an EPA-rated 31 mpg on the highway. The Bose sound system is excellent, wind and tire noise are well hushed, and the whole car has an aspirational feel that justifies its $35,020 as-tested price.
And if your test drive ended there, you'd think, "Great stuff—good job, Mazda!" But it doesn't. Even though the 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo is a high-quality item, there are other intangibles that matter to the overall experience.
Is It A Driver's Car?
A car might be executed well, but if it leaves you with a sense of "meh," is it still a good car? Most people would say, "Yes, of course." And we agree. But sometimes that isn't quite enough to satisfy, especially when we've come to expect a level of personality from Mazda products.
Maybe our enthusiast-influenced hearts inflate our standards. When we see a "Turbo" badge on a small car's rump, and a spec sheet boasting a 2.5-liter I-4 with 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, plus all-wheel drive, we tend to imagine we're going to have a rippin' good time. Other hatchbacks given the same treatment over the years—cars like the Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, and the old Mazdaspeed 3—come to mind, and you think, gleefully, this could be the new Mazda enthusiasts have waited for.
The new turbo I-4 engine—well, not exactly new new, as it's been in the CX-9 and the CX-5 for years now—makes 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft if you can find 93-octane fuel. If 87 octane is the best you can do, those numbers fall to 227 horses and 310 lb-ft. Compared to the standard Mazda 3, this hopped-up hatchback makes an extra 41 horses and an additional 124 lb-ft of twist, at a bare minimum.
In our testing, the turbocharged 3 made the 0-to-60-mph sprint in 5.9 seconds and raced through the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds. That's right up there with the best in its class. It's even quicker than the last dual-clutch-automatic-equipped VW Golf GTI we tested, which needed 6.0 seconds to accelerate to 60.
Sounds good, so hop in and start the engine. There's no clutch to operate; the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is an auto-only machine. Make your way to your favorite bit of twisty road, back-off the traction control, step on it and ... wait. Sure, it goes, but not in the way we expected. We're not talking about raw acceleration, which the numbers show to be good. But the transmission is a bit of a laggard, disappointing when Mazda's ethos used to nearly always deliver great-driving, enthusiast-pleasing cars right out of the box—without needing gobs of power to be fun.
Instead of feeling alive and on its toes, the 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo feels sedate. The brake pedal is mushy; instead of initial bite coming right near the top of the pedal's travel, you find an inch or so of travel before the binders affect much deceleration. This dulls the driving experience and lowers confidence in the car's reflexes. True hot hatches have sharp responses and feedback to tell you they were developed in part by beating them within an inch of their mechanical lives, so as to to make them as engaging and entertaining as possible. But that's not present here; in fact, it feels like a thick layer of latency-exaggerating rubber has worked its way into the Mazda's nooks and crannies.
The suspension damping is the Turbo 3's sharpest trait, a characteristic that usually goes a long way toward providing a sporty personality. But like the standard Mazda 3 hatch, this car makes do with a rear torsion beam; that's in contrast to the previous-generation car and its independent rear end. The result (as we've noted before) is a car that rides somewhat poorly, and which is unsettled by small road imperfections even at low speeds. Manhole covers and expansion joints can jostle the rear out of line enough to necessitate frequent steering corrections. If power was all the 2021 Mazda 3 needed to be fun to drive, it would have delivered. Instead, the car's underlying potential feels unrealized.
There's A Lot To Love, But It Isn't Lovable Yet
We know from experience Mazda can make a maniacal hot hatch that competes with the best of them. Yes, the old Mazdaspeed 3 was deeply flawed, but it was profoundly entertaining and lovable as a result. We didn't expect the new 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo to be a direct successor to that car—Mazda has matured past its crazy teenage years—but we hoped for some of the old 'Speed 3's charm. Instead, the Mazda 3 Turbo feels like its name and nothing more, namely a 3 with a turbocharger bolted to its engine.
None of this makes the Mazda 3 Turbo a bad car; it excels at being a great car. If you want a hatchback that's quiet, usable, and relatively quick, this 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is a great choice. But if you want something that feels truly alive, you'll have to look elsewhere. Maybe our expectations were too high. Maybe you can say that's our problem. But the fact is that Mazda's previous creations set that high bar in the first place; unfortunately, this car drives under it.
The 2022 Acura MDX is a fresh take on a luxurious three-row SUV that squares off against strong rivals such as the Lincoln Aviator, Lexus RX, Genesis GV80 and Infiniti QX60. Where the new and improved MDX shines is in value. Even with a starting price of more than $47,000, the 2022 MDX comes standard with loads of safety features and updated tech touches, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Inside, Acura’s engineering team focused on creating a more functional and flexible place to spend your time. The center seat in the second row can be used either like a bench seat, which accommodates three car seats across, or removed so the outboard seats become captain’s chairs. There has also been a substantial upgrade to the MDX’s infotainment system, though this also proved controversial during our test.
You can click the related link above to read our complete review of the 2022 Acura MDX. Or for a quick recap of this mid-size luxury SUV’s best attributes — plus some items that need a rethink — keep reading below.
Things We Like
1. Smooth V-6, Improved Transmission
Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V-6 that sends 290 horsepower to the front wheels courtesy of a 10-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive is optional. This is a smooth and refined powertrain, and the gearbox in particular is a solid step forward from the previous nine-speed automatic. There is no hunting for gears or hesitation in acceleration when powering through city or highway traffic.
2. More Standard and Optional Safety Features
The previous Acura MDX already came standard with an impressive amount of active safety equipment, such as automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. Newly standard safety items include a driver attention monitor, pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition and Acura’s Traffic Jam Assist. This system controls braking and acceleration at slow speed and works to a complete stop, all while maintaining a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead. The aim is to reduce driver fatigue during traffic slowdowns.
3. Seating Flexibility
The MDX still offers three rows of seating and space for up to seven people onboard. Yet, for the 2022 model year, the second row packs some surprises. The middle seat can be removed to create a nearly 14-inch wide walkway to the third row. This creates more stretch-out space for second-row occupants, and makes it easier to access the third row. Along these same lines, with the push of a button the second-row seats collapse and slide forward to aid anyone climbing into the rear-most seats.
4. Creative Cargo Space
Like the improved seating capabilities, Acura also turned its attention to the MDX’s cargo area. Not only is there more total space behind the third and second row than what rivals offer, the MDX has a few extra cards up its sleeve. There is a roomy underfloor storage compartment as well as a reversible cargo floor with an easy-clean plastic side. Need to haul muddy hiking gear or a particularly dusty antique? Flip the cargo floor and don’t worry about dirtying the trunk’s carpet.
5. Improved Infotainment — to a Point
The good news is that the 2022 Acura MDX has a more intuitive and user-friendly infotainment system than the dual-screen setup used in its predecessor. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, and we found the Amazon Alexa voice controls very handy. The system now comes with a large 12.3-inch screen mounted on the dashboard. While the display is large and clear, things get murky when it’s time to scroll through various menus and controls. More on this in just a moment …
Things We Don’t
1. Fussy Infotainment Controls
While the MDX’s infotainment system is better than before, it still lacks an actual touchscreen. That’s right, the primary means of controlling the system is via a center console touchpad. It takes lots of patience, practice and some luck to get right (especially when you’re driving). The major pieces are all there; Acura is simply short a touchscreen to make everything perform seamlessly.
2. Third Row Remains Best Left for Kids
Getting to the third row is easier for 2022, though the space back there is still best left for kids. Anyone feeling greedy about legroom while perched in the second row will be a serious problem if the MDX is at full capacity. With a second-row seat slid all the way back, there’s not much third-row legroom directly behind it.
3. MPG Is Only OK
The Acura MDX isn’t much better or worse than its mid-size luxury SUV rivals when it comes to mpgs. It’s also not any better than the previous version. In fact, the 2022 Acura MDX is slightly less fuel efficient than the model before it. The difference is small, though it would have been nice to see the new MDX’s overall fuel economy needle move upward, not down.
"The Mazda MX-30 is a stylish electric SUV that's fun to drive and affordable"
This is the Mazda MX-30, the first all-electric model in the history of the Japanese manufacturer. It looks stylish, and in keeping with the brand's other models, it's also fun to drive.
Mazda isn't afraid to go its own way, and unlike rival car makers who are locking horns over battery capacity and range figures, the MX-30 instead gets a relatively small, lightweight battery pack. This helps it stay nimble, and Mazda reckons its 124-mile range is also enough to satisfy the driving habits of its target audience, most of whom own another car.
The battery has a 35.5kWh capacity, and Mazda believes using a smaller pack not only boosts handling, but also has less impact on the environment and keeps the MX-30's price down. Speaking of which, the MX-30's list price of around £27,000 (including the government grant and a home charger) is noteworthy, because it means even in the well-equipped First Edition trim it's cheaper than the equivalent higher trim versions of the MG ZS EV and Nissan Leaf.
It can be charged using a home wallbox supply in less than six hours, or topped up from 0-80% in 36 minutes using a 50kW rapid-charger. Handling is certainly a strong point; the MX-30 can flit between corners without fuss and Mazda's well-weighted steering and feelsome brakes have also made the transition from combustion to electric power intact, but with 143bhp, performance is fairly modest for an EV. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 9.7 seconds, compared with 8.5 seconds for the MG ZS EV, and the MINI Electric feels much quicker off the mark.
Looking like nothing else with a Mazda badge, the MX-30 features rear-opening back doors, hindering practicality somewhat. There are five sets of seatbelts but getting in and out of the rear is slightly awkward, and the back windows cannot be lowered, making it claustrophobic for rear passengers. Life is far better in the front, thanks to comfortable seats with a vegan-friendly leatherette upholstery, cork trim inserts and door trims using recycled plastic bottles. Mazda has been making some great interiors in recent years, and this is no exception.
The first 500 UK cars were all First Edition models, which came with a strong kit list including a heads-up display, sat nav and digital instruments. The standard model range comprises SE-L Lux, Sport Lux and GT Sport Tech, all of which are well equipped.
The Mazda MX-30 also bagged a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2020, with impressive crash-test results across the board. Plenty of smiles from behind the wheel, an attractive interior and low running costs will impress buyers, but they'll need to only carry rear passengers very occasionally and be happy with the car’s limited range.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Forget range anxiety and Mazda's decision to offer a smaller battery pack makes sense
As with its SkyActive petrol and diesel engines, Mazda is looking to buck common trends with its first EV. Instead of engaging in a race to fit the biggest battery pack possible, the MX-30 instead has just a 35.5kWh capacity, giving it up to 124-miles range between charges. While such a short range is easier to forgive for city cars like the MINI Electric and Honda e, it's harder to justify for a bigger one. Most rivals such as the Tesla Model Y and Volkswagen ID.4 will easily double this.
Mazda's thinking is that production of larger battery packs is bad for the environment, and that they're heavy, negatively affecting how the car drives. Mazda also points to research that 95% of the MX-30's target buyers drive less than 60 miles a day. They're the sort of drivers who are likely to tackle the school run, commute to work and drive locally to shop or see friends, rather than regularly travel long distances on the motorway. It's also likely they'll plug the car in overnight at home whenever it's necessary, and a free home charger comes as part of the deal.
A full charge takes less than six hours using a 7.4kWh wallbox, but it's also possible to charge the MX-30 at up to 50kW using a public rapid-charger and its CCS connection. Do so and the battery can be topped up from 0 to 80% in 36 minutes. The range-topping Volkswagen ID.3 offers up to 125kW rapid charging. VED (tax) is currently free for electric cars, which also enjoy the lowest rates for company-car drivers and free entry into low emissions zones like the one covering central London. There's also a major advantage for company-car drivers, thanks to low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) liability, reducing monthly bills.
Engines, drive & performance
It doesn't have screaming acceleration, but the Mazda MX-30 is a satisfying steer
The 'MX' badge is usually reserved for Mazda's sporty models, such as the iconic MX-5 roadster, so is it deserved here? Weighing around 1,600kg, the MX-30 is certainly light compared with other electric SUVs, and this pays dividends in almost every driving situation. There's never any feeling of dragging the MX-30 around corners, instead, it's agile and quick to respond, with very little body lean. In fact, we found its handling finesse makes it almost as fun to drive as the smaller MINI Electric, even if it doesn't have as much punch when you hit the throttle. Its steering is precise and requires just the right amount of effort.
Mazda MX-30 SUV front cornering20he brakes feel natural too - not always a given in alternative fuel cars that harvest energy from braking regeneration. The strength of the electric motor's braking effect can be adjusted on the move via the paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Even in its strongest mode it doesn't quite allow for one-pedal driving, but you can learn to use it to slow the car in predictable traffic - only using the brakes for unexpected stops.
Just don't expect acceleration worthy of 'reaction videos' on YouTube as your friends are pinned back in their seats, Tesla-style. With 143bhp, the MX-30's electric motor feels more on a par with diesel rivals for acceleration, taking 9.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph. Top speed is limited to 87mph. Of course, with just one forward gear and no turbo lag, there is the benefit of smooth progress as soon as you press the throttle. You'll also notice a synthetic engine sound to help make the MX-30 feel natural for drivers.
Interior & comfort
Mazda has incorporated renewable materials without any loss of quality
Mazda has long been known for its striking designs, and the CX-30 is no exception. Its interior follows the brand's recent uptick in quality adding some striking materials and features into the mix. The centre console trays and door handles are lined with cork from the bark of trees that have fallen naturally, while the door trim incorporates fibres from recycled plastic bottles. The only disappointment is some cheap plastic around the gear selector.
Its suspension is supple enough to ensure the MX-30 feels planted but doesn't bounce or skip uncomfortably around corners, so passengers should be comfortable. However, the driver will likely wish the rear windows weren't quite so sloping and dark, as they restrict over-the-shoulder visibility when manoeuvring. The mixture of touchscreen and rotary knobs for the ventilation controls also takes some getting used to.
Standard equipment is generous, including a head-up display, seven-inch digital instruments cluster, sat-nav and a rear-view camera. The First Edition trim level was available to the first 500 buyers and its design elements included 18-inch alloy wheels and light upholstery with grey cloth, stone leatherette and orange stitching. Two solid paint colours are available for free, or buyers can upgrade to a three-tone hue for around £1,000.
Following on from the First Edition, there's SE-L Lux, Sport Lux and GT Sport Tech trims. Sport Lux gets 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats with lumbar adjustment and keyless entry, along with the option of 'three-tone' contrasting paintwork. The GT Sport Tech range-topper features a sunroof, heated steering wheel, 12-speaker Bose stereo and front wiper de-icer, along with the option of artificial leather upholstery.
Practicality & boot space
Its rear-opening doors look cool, but hamper practicality somewhat
In a nod to the Mazda RX-8 sports coupe, the MX-30 features a set of rear-opening back doors. It’s an intriguing design, but there are compromises when it comes to functionality. For a start, they aren't as big as most rivals' back doors, and it's necessary to fold the front seat out of the way to get inside. It's also rather claustrophobic in the back of the MX-30, made worse by the fact the rearmost windows cannot be opened and a lack of kneeroom. Longer trips will be hampered by low and shallow seat bases that don't provide much thigh support to taller passengers but headroom is adequate.
The MX-30 has a sloping rear profile and stubby tail, with almost no overhang behind the rear wheels, so boot space isn't much better than in a supermini. There's up to 366 litres behind the rear seats but this reduces to 341 litres in the range-topping GT Sport Tech version.
It's possible to split and fold the 60:40 rear seats, but there aren't many clever features like an adaptable boot floor or hidden compartments, and space extends to 1,171 litres. With the engine bay taken up by the electric motor, there's also no 'frunk' like you'll find in some larger EVs. It's also likely the electric Mazda will follow the path of other small EV's and be deemed unsuitable for towing.
Reliability & safety
Owner satisfaction and safety are both strong areas for Mazda
Mazda has an excellent reputation amongst owners, who voted the Japanese brand into fourth place in our 2020 Driver Power satisfaction survey. They are impressed across the board, and find the interiors well screwed together, while running costs are also low. However, practicality was one area where improvement was deemed necessary, with more child-friendly features and flexible seating common requests.
Being an all-new model, there's no data yet on how the MX-30 will fare, but given Mazda's typical attention to detail and its new EV powertrain, we'd be surprised if it wasn't one of its most reliable models yet.
The MX-30 is certainly fitted with the latest safety tech, from autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping, to a system that monitors the driver's attention levels. In the event of an accident, e-Call with GPS can also inform the emergency services and provide them the vehicle's exact location.
It all helped the MX-30 achieve a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, with impressive scores of 91% and 87% in the adult and child occupant protection categories respectively.
On the open road, our long-term Mazda CX-30 keeps its driver involved—too involved.
Mazda no longer uses "Driving Matters" as its tagline (now it's "Feel Alive"—already do, thanks), but that ethos is still imbued in every one of its vehicles. We agree with that mantra—mostly. Sometimes we'd trade involvement for relaxation, particularly when enduring long highway stretches as we've now done for several thousand road trip miles in our long-term 2020 Mazda CX-30. Turns out that when driving doesn't matter, this subcompact crossover is less than ideal.
Nice as the CX-30's accurate, reactive steering is on a twisty road, managing it becomes a chore when coursing dead ahead. Lane-keep assist can be an awesome help in these scenarios, and the CX-30's spec sheet shows it as standard equipment. But on my recent drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco it did basically nothing, providing such minimal assistance that I checked a few times to see if it was turned on (it was). Other than gentle nudges seemingly at random, lane keep assist would allow the car to drift across markers with nary a beep. Autopilot this absolutely isn't.
The CX-30 is also equipped with adaptive cruise control, which I came to call brake-check assist because of how committed it is to resuming its set speed after accelerating to pass. Instead of coasting down, the CX-30 brakes to reduce speed, causing some drivers I passed to brake in response. I'd have to override the car's action by applying throttle myself. Eventually I started turning adaptive cruise control off when passing, lest other drivers think I had a bone to pick—all involvement that systems like these are intended to negate. At least the blind-spot monitors effectively detect vehicles obstructed by the huge D-pillars.
How Far Can The CX-30 Go On A Tank Of Gas?
Our logbook shows that the CX-30 struggles to cover more than 300 miles between fill-ups. I eked out 317 miles at best, but photographer Darren Martin reported refueling every 280 miles or so on his hilly trek from Los Angeles to Oregon. Given its 12-gallon tank, the CX-30's approximately 25-mpg average isn't impressive for a subcompact SUV. Long-haulers might find this Mazda's range frustratingly small, but I don't mind stopping to stretch about that often.
Thankfully the driver's seat kept my stretch breaks from becoming lengthy vinyasa sessions. The CX-30's front seats don't look all that special, but they feel excellent, providing ergonomic support all down the back. Their padding is neither too firm nor too plush, insulating nicely against the often busy ride. Cushy armrests and a leather-wrapped steering wheel made the CX-30 a nicer place to pass the miles.
Too Sporty For Its Own Good?
On my solo road trip the CX-30 was just spacious enough to fit my luggage in the passenger seat and wheels-removed mountain bike over the folded-down second row. Fortunate that was, as my long weekend concluded with a trail ride in Santa Cruz. Carving toward the coast over forested Highway 17, the CX-30's pep and agility reminded me why driving matters. But afterwards, drained and digesting a post-pedal burrito, I just wanted to chill. Little such luck—the Mazda's involving setup kept me overly alert for the next several hours.
Our experience indicates that the CX-30 is better for around-town zipping than long-distance cruising. We'll see if that balance shifts as we pack on more miles.
The verdict: The 2021 Mazda CX-30 is refined in many ways, and a new turbocharged engine option elevates it as a value alternative to many entry-level luxury SUVs. Beyond that, it lacks too many commonsense attributes for mass-market appeal.
Versus the competition: Upscale and fun to drive even if you don’t get the new turbo engine — and legitimately quick if you do — the CX-30 will deservedly find its loyalists. But many mass-market competitors have simpler controls, softer rides and roomier cabins.
Based on the current-generation Mazda3 sedan and hatchback, the CX-30 enters its second model year for 2021 as a more viable alternative to the too-small Mazda CX-3 SUV. It comes in seven trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive and two available engines; stack them up or compare the 2020 and 2021 models. We evaluated a well-optioned turbo model for 2021, but I’ll mix in some impressions from the base-engine 2020 CX-30 that we tested in Cars.com’s recent Affordable Small SUV Challenge, where I served as a judge.
The CX-30’s third-place finish out of four SUVs in the comparison test tells much of the tale: Mazda’s small SUV drew top scores in some areas but bottom marks in others, with very little about it evoking neutral reactions. One model year later, Mazda plopped in a newly optional turbocharged four-cylinder, which matches the character of its carryover base engine: refined, steady power — just more of it. The fun’s been turned up, but the flaws live on.
In a field where pint-sized engines, many of them turbocharged, can lend tentative acceleration, the CX-30 is an old-school breath of fresh air. Its base engine, Mazda’s refined 2.5-liter four-cylinder (186 horsepower, 186 pounds-feet of torque) provides smooth if unspectacular power: sufficient from a start, with linear revving through any sustained on-ramp charge. It pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission whose tall gearing works against such drawn-out spurts — a disadvantage on paper, where rivals’ eight- or nine-speed units can make for shorter passing gears without diminishing fuel economy. But the six-speed earns its keep if you need more power while already in motion because downshifts are both decisive and immediate when you press the gas, an exercise many eight- and nine-speed automatics butcher.
Our comparison test exemplified how this plays out. We clocked a 2020 CX-30 with the 2.5-liter engine and AWD at a pedestrian 8.92 seconds to 60 mph, third slowest among four models (the others being a Chevrolet Trailblazer, Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek, all with top available engines). Despite that, the CX-30 earned the group’s highest scores from our judges for overall powertrain impressions. Credit its consistent power delivery, which belies any absolute performance metric.
New for 2021 is Mazda’s turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, available only with AWD. It can run on regular gas but makes 250 hp and 320 pounds-feet of torque on 93-octane premium fuel, which our test car employed. (On 87-octane regular fuel, ratings for the turbo 2.5-liter drop to 227 hp and 310 pounds-feet of torque; the non-turbo 2.5-liter makes its output with either fuel.) Though significantly quicker past 2,500 rpm or so, the turbocharged four-cylinder’s power profile is similar to its non-turbo sibling — which is to say linear, building power over the full breadth of available engine rpm. Gearing remains tall, but the extra power makes the late upshifts less noticeable. And all the while, it’s gratifyingly quick.
The CX-30’s EPA-estimated fuel economy ranges from 25 to 28 mpg combined, depending on drivetrain. Versus a selection of mass-market rivals, the 2.5-liter falls a little short. Versus some entry-luxury models, whose interiors the CX-30’s top trims rival, the turbocharged CX-30 compares better.
Handling and Ride Comfort
Turbocharged or not, the CX-30’s reflexes are similar to the Mazda3 on which it’s based. Limited body roll, excellent steering feedback and surefooted brakes make the CX-30 a deft ally on winding roads. Wet conditions and temperatures in the 30s stymied our test car’s Bridgestone Turanza P215/55R18 all-season tires, which struggled on cloverleaf interchanges to hold course. Our CX-30 in the 2020 comparison had the same tires in better testing conditions, and we observed notable slippage there, as well. Wider or stickier tires might help — but if the CX-30’s rubber is the weak link on handling, it’s a mild one.
All that fun sacrifices ride comfort. Like the Mazda3, the CX-30 exhibits good overall straight-line composure, free of excess body movement on uneven surfaces; in this regard, it emulates a few entry-level luxury SUVs. But suspension tuning is unabashedly firm. The CX-30 exhibits a degree of impact harshness absent in many competitors, especially mass-market rivals like the Crosstrek and Nissan Rogue Sport — enough to turn off many shoppers who just want a smoother rider.
The Interior: Quality Over Quantity
For the most part, interior quality is strong. Controls boast meticulous detailing and operation, and most surfaces above knee level have consistent, low-gloss finishes. The CX-30’s optional leather seating surfaces are free of any obvious stretches of vinyl, and premium touches like universal one-touch windows hint at luxury territory. It’s not all excellent: A cheap headliner and some obvious cost-cutting in the backseat bring the CX-30 back to earth. By and large, though, this is a clear step above the SUV’s mass-market rivals. In our 2020 comparison, Mazda earned the highest interior quality scores by a clear margin, and in that regard may have fared well against SUVs priced far higher.
Despite that, interior quantity is marginal even if this is a larger alternative to the CX-3. The smallish backseat is ill-equipped to handle taller adults or even children in rear-facing car seats. Not only did it rank last in our comparison’s rear seats category, but it couldn’t fit Cars.com’s rear-facing child-safety seats without needing to move the front passenger seat so far forward that it may pose a safety risk for some adults seated there.
Even those who don’t plan to carry anyone in back often — children or otherwise — might find the CX-30’s confines, well, confining. The front seats have good sliding range but a narrow berth that could leave long-legged drivers feeling pinched. And as the CX-30’s relatively low-slung profile suggests, the driving position isn’t as high as you might expect of a conventional SUV. By our measuring tape, the CX-30’s driving position towers nearly half a foot above that of the low-riding Mazda3, but it trails the Seltos by roughly as much.
What’s more, the CX-30’s limited in-cabin storage and poor sight lines — especially out the rear window — are liabilities versus more utilitarian rivals; Mazda placed last in both categories (tied with the Crosstrek for storage) in our comparison. Cargo space, at 13.7 cubic feet by Cars.com’s independent testing, is a smidge above the Mazda3 hatchback (13.1 cubic feet, also by our accounting) and in the same neighborhood as the Trailblazer and Crosstrek, though the whole group falls well short of the Seltos’ as-tested 16.2 cubic feet.
Multimedia and Safety Technology
With the current-generation Mazda3 and now the CX-30, Mazda took a wayward turn on multimedia. No longer does the dashboard screen function as a touchscreen — even when the vehicle is stopped, as earlier iterations once did. It’s now a touch-free 8.8-inch display perched high atop the dashboard, controlled exclusively by a control knob and a few shortcut buttons on the center console. The setup especially stumps the CX-30’s standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as both work best through a straightforward touchscreen.
Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering intervention and (impressively) adaptive cruise control down to a stop. The automatic braking passed third-party testing by the Insurance Information for Highway Safety, cementing the CX-30’s top scores across a battery of IIHS tests to earn the SUV a 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus award. (The award is likely to carry over for 2021, as the agency told us it has no plans to change criteria for the new calendar year.)
New for 2021, the CX-30 offers rear automatic braking, and top trim levels have new hands-on lane-centering steering by way of a feature called Traffic Jam Assist. Alas, TJA works only at speeds of 0-40 mph — a ceiling no longer imposed by most lane-centering systems available these days, regardless of price.
Should You Buy a CX-30?
Including destination, the CX-30 runs from just over $23,000 to about $36,000, a spread that overlaps a host of subcompact and compact SUVs to top out at the shores of the entry-luxury crowd. As a value alternative to the latter group, a CX-30 Turbo might justify itself; as a choice for driving fun among the mass-market models, a 2.5-liter example could also make sense. Given that the SUV ranks as Mazda’s second-best-selling model overall, it’s made the case to enough shoppers so far.
But larger market acceptance (the Crosstrek, for example, is three times more popular) will require a mainstream overhaul — a softer ride, bigger backseat, better visibility, simpler multimedia controls. As it stands, the normally aspirated CX-30 ranked in the bottom half of our 2020 comparison, and not for lack of quality or driving fun. With an infusion of high-end turbocharged trim levels, Mazda doubled down on everything we like, and it’s sure to get the CX-30 a cult following. But for all its remaining thorns, many mainstream shoppers may yet tune this Mazda out.