Mazda, the little automaker with large plans, sees gold in its next roll.
The ambitious Japanese company intends to compete with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi – as well as Toyota, Honda and Nissan – with its sleek new subcompact, the ’21 CX-30.
As the $35,000 CX moves upscale, it will flout a stout new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with up to 250-horsepower.
The bluish-gray CX-30 I had last week certainly felt bigger and better than its subcompact roots suggest, but near-luxury? We’ll see.
As you may recall, Mazda – from the Mazda3 sedan to the Miata sports car and considerably larger CX-9 crossover -- has relied on good styling, fine handling and decent performance for years, but the automaker wants more, realizing it will need greater power to push it into contention with entry-level, near-luxury vehicles.
Like most Mazda sedans and crossovers, my CX-30 sported a large, gracefully shaped grille that fit comfortably between swept-back headlamps.
A broad, nicely shaped hood gave the CX more presence than I expected from a subcompact crossover, sliding over onto sides that initially looked smooth.
Actually, the sides had subtle surfacing that gave them some muscle and flare, while the top swept down onto a hatchback.
Meanwhile, 215/55 tires wrapped around black 18-inch wheels.
About the only embellishments were black cladding around the wheel openings and the black wheels – which I thought were a bit much.
Oh, well. At least the engine felt strong, benefiting from 310-lb.-ft. of torque without seeming too “hot-roddy.”
Stand hard on the accelerator and the CX-30 surged to 60 mph in a bit less than 6 seconds, according to Car and Driver, with overall fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon.
Likewise, the CX turned into corners pretty aggressively with a little body-lean, but felt mostly agile while pushing through them.
The ride, however, seemed a bit firm, getting kind of unsettled on rougher pavement, but smoothing out on better surfaces.
Adding to the CX’s sportiness was quick, well-weighted steering that if not quite a Miata, was largely good enough.
So was the black and dark-brown interior, which gave the CX-30 polished, high-end ambience.
A deep upper dashboard, for example, was stitched in smooth brown plastic that rolled down onto a protruding mid-dash in black.
The upper dash included an 8.8-inch touchscreen recessed into the mid-portion of the dash and highly visible.
A slender black panel beneath the touchscreen provided controls for the climate system, dropping down onto a broad console trimmed in dark brown on the sides and piano-black on top.
Although I had to use the computer to tune the stereo, it was relatively easy as long as the CX was sitting still.
Fortunately, sitting still was not much of an issue, either, with black bucket seats that had smooth, supportive bolsters and perforated centers.
The leg- and head-room in back, though, was fairly limited – particularly for anyone over six-feet tall.
The options on my high-end CX were pretty limited as well, which included a $150 cargo cover; $125 floor-mats; and a rear bumper guard, $125.
Still, I felt kind of privileged to be driving a loaded CX-30 – a vehicle with special styling, a fine interior and good performance.
We’ll see whether others appreciate those attributes or not.
2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus AWD
- What I liked most: Just about everything, from the styling to the interior to the performance.
- What I would change: Very little.
- MSRP: Base price, $33,900; as equipped, $35,400.
- Official color: Polymetal Gray Metallic.
- Fuel economy: 22 miles per gallon in town, 30 on the highway and 25 mpg combined with filler on the left.
- Odometer reading when tested: 1,437 miles.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- Weight: 3,505 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 173 inches long/70.7 inches wide/62.2 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 12.7 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- 2021 Mazda CX-30 in a few words: A stylish, nicely designed subcompact that may compete with near-luxury vehicles as easily as mainstream vehicles.
- Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile overall warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Salamanca, Mexico.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.mazdausa.com
- Up next: 2021 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro