Full-Size Confidence

The Mazda CX-30 is a subcompact crossover with the confidence of a full-size SUV. I had the opportunity to test drive the 2021 Mazda CX-30 AWD in various terrains last month. Two Texas-hosted events allowed me to get a feel behind the wheel of the CX-30 while traversing through mud, clay, sand, gravel, and asphalt. This smart-looking CUV provides stand-out styling, refined interior space, and surprising off-road prowess. It can be challenging to stand out in an ever-increasing class of CUVs with varying forms of AWD systems, yet Mazda, as usual, offers its own vibe. It’s a capable compact SUV that will have Subaru Crosstrek owners thinking twice. 

mazda cx 30 AWD off road

Cool and Collected Style in the Mazda CX-30

Mazda’s interiors feel like sitting in a recently built luxury condo. Everything inside is meant to express elegance and subtle sophistication creating a pleasant space to escape the outside angst. The model shown in this article is the 2021 Mazda CX-30 AWD Premium featuring a host of additional standard features like a Bose 12-speaker premium audio system and leather-trimmed sport seats. The CX-30 is designed to hold up to five passengers, with three in the second row. However, the person sitting in the middle might feel cramped. 

Other standard features on the higher trim level Mazda CX-30 include 8-way adjustable heated seats with lumbar support, a heated steering wheel, and 18-inch alloy wheels. In addition to all of Mazda’s safety driver-aids like Stop & Go Radar Cruise Control, Lane Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Smart Brake Support, Traffic Jam Assist, Adaptive Front Lighting System, and a 360 view camera. 

All-Wheel-Drive Now Standard on 2022 Mazda CX-30

For 2022, all-wheel-drive is standard for all Mazda CX-30 trim levels. These trim levels share two engine options. The first engine is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder producing 186-hp and 186 lb.-ft of torque. While I have not tested that engine, those power figures seem low for an AWD crossover meant to carry an “active lifestyle”. The second option is a turbocharged variant of the 2.5-liter producing 227-hp and a healthy 310 lb.-ft of torque. In addition, this engine likes the good stuff, so filling the tank with premium 93-octane fuel is said to increase performance to 250-hp. Both engines are bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission, but if you want to get the most out of the Mazda CX-30 AWD, get it with the turbo. 

2021 Mazda CX-30 AWD Off-Road Driving Impressions

The Mazda CX-30 steering offers the resistances of a feather as you effortlessly move it with two fingers. While navigating slippery muddy trails, the light electronic steering took some getting used to as you cannot “feel” where the front tires are pointing. However, thanks to the Mazda’s signature attention to handling characteristics, you can maneuver the CUV with the accuracy of a high-dollar driving simulator. 

Driving the 2021 Mazda CX-30 on the road at the Texas Truck Rodeo, hosted by the Texas Auto Writers Association, showcased the CX-30’s quiet interior cabin and velvet-smooth ride. Meanwhile, the Texas Off-Road Invitational hosted by the Texas Motor Press allowed the CX-30 to prove its AWD system is more than just filler for the brochure. Crossing through mud streams and down moist, muddy hills was a total breeze in the CX-30 thanks to its off-road traction assist system. While not a rock crawler, the Mazda CX-30 AWD is undoubtedly capable of handling a weekend camping trip and snowy winters, especially with the optional turbocharged engine producing 310 lb.-ft of torque. 

The CX-30 sits between the CX-3 and CX-5 in Mazda’s CUV family table. Its walking-tall wheel stance and soon to be standard all-wheel-drive system reminded me of the American Motors Eagle 4×4 sedan from the 1980s. Looking at the CX-30 profile, you notice it sits high like it’s trying to reach something from the top shelf. As a result, the Mazda CX-30 has 6.9-inches of ground clearance. 

A Suitable Subaru Alternative

Starting price for the 2021 Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD is $33,900 and $35,400, as shown in this article. Like its competitors, the Subaru Crosstrek, for example, the Mazda CX-30 pricing starts in the low 20s and gradually climbs up into the mid-30s. . For those looking for a suitable alternative to Subaru, you may want to take a test drive in the Mazda CX-30.

The Crosstrek and CX-30 are both all-wheel-drive CUV hatchbacks with similar pricing scales. However, the CX-30 offers a more upscale interior and significantly more power than the Crosstrek if optioned with the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine. On the other hand, the Subaru Crosstrek offers a six-speed manual (on lower trim levels) and a Hybrid variant rated at 35 mpg. Modern crossover SUV buyers today have so many options to choose from that making a final decision really comes down to the smallest personal preferences.

mazda cx 30 AWD off road