The 2023 Mazda CX-30 GT Could Have Been Great

2023 Mazda CX-30 GT

Price As Tested: $40,749

Colour: Soul Red Crystal Metallic

I don’t agree with every design choice Mazda makes on their cars, but I’ve always respected their ability to build a quality product. The exception to that was always the CX-3. It was cheaply made, poorly designed and you could feel it when you drove it. I was thrilled when they finally put a bullet in that thing and announced an all-new model to occupy their entry-level SUV slot. Along came the CX-30 in 2020. It was at this point that my hopes of redemption were crushed by a design that took everything that was wrong with its predecessor, and fixed almost none of it.

Power & Performance

You get two choices of engine on the 2023 Mazda CX-30.  You can have the 2.0L 4 cylinder that delivers 155hp and 150lb/ft of torque. This is a very pedestrian amount of power and to be avoided on this vehicle at all costs. Fortunately, the test model I drove came equipped with the other option. It had a 2.5L Turbocharged 4 cylinder. This gives you 227hp and 310 lb/ft if you run it on 87 octane. If you are feeling generous or get a raise at work and opt to spring for 93 octane, you get 250hp and 320 lb/ft. I’ve run both octanes and to be honest never noticed much a difference.  Either way though, this is the engine to choose. I drove a CX-5 Signature with this powerplant and loved it. It was responsive, fast and felt fizzy. Incredible then that I got none of that from the CX-30. It was sluggish and felt like someone had tinkered with the powerband. Why it feels this way I can’t say, but I can tell you it crushed me. 

The power in the CX-30 is sent to the wheels through Mazda’s eternal 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s buttery smooth and I have no complaints about how it performs. I will say however that it needs two more gears. On the highway it felt revy at cruising speed and could have used some cruising gears. It would have helped with the fuel economy as well as the CX-30 was thirstier than I expected for a “small” SUV. The transmission, like almost everything else on this car, is recycled technology.

My final surprise related to the performance of the CX-30 was the brakes. I was stunned when I first applied them on the highway and they did little to nothing to slow down the vehicle. Once I’d dealt with the minor issue of changing my underwear, I tested the brakes again and was shocked at how numb they were. They give you nothing on gentle braking and do engage on the top end, but you have no linear feel to them whatsoever. Mazda makes driver’s cars… so what’s the deal? Crushed again.

Exterior

Most Mazda vehicles are good looking creatures. The 2 and the CX-3 were the only recent exceptions to this rule. The CX-30, while not ugly, isn’t a stunner. With an all-new design you can do anything you want. Draw any shape that pops to mind. What Mazda gave us in this car is a slight variation on the design they use on all their SUV’s. I’ve commented before how much their SUV lineup look the same from one model to another with the exception of size. The CX-30 shares the same face and front clip with all its siblings. The only real variation is in the rear. We get a bubble butt thing going on back there and if that existed for the purposes of aesthetic design I could support it. Instead, it seems to be there just to make the cargo area an acceptable size. If they hadn’t inserted this extra space, it would be abysmal back there. What a shame.

Regular readers know how much I despise the design trend in the industry surrounding bare plastic cladding on SUV’s. You don’t see it on sedans or hatchbacks, but it’s all over the SUV space. Until recently you’d get a 2” strip around the exterior of the body. While this vexes me as an example of horrible cost cutting masquerading as design, I could usually find my way past it. This tolerance has emboldened carmakers to push even further and in the CX-30 we get the result of this hubris. It features a nearly 6” strip of bare plastic around the wheel wells and most of the body. It’s so much plastic. The only other manufacturer who rivals the CX-30 is Subaru with several of their models. I don’t know how we accept this as consumers.  

Interior

At this point of the review, I typically roll through the interior features of a car and make pithy comments on what I like and don’t like. With the CX-30 there is no point as I’ve seen it all before. Almost everything in this car is from the 3. I noted 3-4 months ago how dated the 3 felt and the CX-30, a much newer design, feels somehow older. It’s made with a cynicism that hurts me. I’m a fan of cars and Mazda more specifically. They are capable of so much more than this and made the deliberate choice to settle for less in order to pad budgets and extract a few more dollars from each car. The term “all-new model” clearly means something else to Mazda than it does the rest of us.

Quality

All the recycling and corner cutting have left the 2023 Mazda CX-30 compromised. It feels thin and lacking in the quality department. Every time I closed the driver’s door it would rattle and vibrate in a way that didn’t convince me it was nailed together properly.  In addition, the center console, which I spend all day leaning on, would wiggle and squeak constantly while driving. It felt like they missed a couple screws while assembling this thing. Have I mentioned that I’m crushed?

CQI – 8. The one place they didn’t cut corners.

Value

The 2023 Mazda CX-30 ranges in price from 27k and tops out at 40k for this tester. That’s a lot of money for any car, particularly one that’s poorly put together and designed with economy in mind at the expense of all other things. This is also a 5 passenger, compact SUV. It’s the most competitive segment in all of automobilia. There are so many choices here it boggles the mind. What also boggles the mind is why anyone would choose the CX-30 over one of the 13,000 competitors available. If you’re considering purchasing one of these please consider, but don’t limit yourself, to the following options:

The Hyundai Kona

Kia Soul

Kia Seltos

Chevrolet Trailblazer

Chevrolet Trax

Toyota Corolla Cross

And the list continues…

Final Thoughts

I am now in waiting again to see where Mazda goes with their small SUV offering. They haven’t started well and seem just fine with it. I hope the market doesn’t reward them for this by purchasing boatloads of them. I see them on the road regularly so perhaps the car buying public really doesn’t agree with or care about the vehicle’s shortcomings. Only time will tell.

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