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.

motortrend.com

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