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Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Review

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 gives a leg up as a family-class adventure SUV with standard all-wheel drive

A trail side view of a Mazda CX 50in zircon sand metallic paint

The 2023 Mazda CX-30 Turbo is sold exclusively with all-wheel drive. Turbo model pricing starts at $43,575. (Photos courtesy of Mazda or as credited)

Table of Contents

Mazda CX-50 Overview
Going Up the Country
CX-5 to CX-50 Comparo
CX-50 Powertrains
Curb Weight Dilemma
Ride and Handling
Driver-Assist Technologies
Back Seats and Cargo
Why Buy the Mazda CX-50?


The Mazda CX-50 crossover SUV is a stepping stone along the brand’s plan to move upmarket. The brand’s evolution has been ongoing since the slightly larger CX-30 replaced the CX-3. Next is the larger CX-90 three-row SUV replacing the CX-9.

The CX-50 shares sales space with the smaller CX-5, which is likely to be phased out as the sophistication of the CX-50 is recognized. After all, the 2023 CX-50 starts at just $850 more than the CX-5. The larger CX-50 is marketed as an off-road adventure vehicle, Mazda says. Both models are the brand’s top sellers, hitting a combined 16,575 sales at the end of 2022.

The 2023 Mazda MX-30 EV goes on sale in California dealerships this spring but in limited numbers. Mazda says the MX-30 is a full battery-electric small SUV that will work best for urban drivers. It has a 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery and a driving range of 100 miles. Sold in two trim levels, starting prices are $35,385 and $38,395. Built in Hiroshima, Japan, pricing includes the $1,275 freight charge.

Competitors to the Mazda CX-50 include the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Kia Sportage, and Toyota RAV4. Some of these have their own “X,” “Wilderness,” and “Off Road” trim levels.

The driver area with wide infotainment screen for the camera, navigation, and cabin controls

A 10.25-inch center display for the rearview camera, maps, apps, and other cabin controls.

Mazda CX-50 Overview

Mazda USA has plans to move the brand upmarket to generate higher revenue per vehicle, according to a report in Automotive News. And at the same time, Mazda is going country, or at least more adventurous in how its vehicles are equipped.

The CX-50 was developed for North America, particularly to support customers’ active and outdoor lifestyles in this region, Jeff Guyton, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, said in a release.

Guyton also said there are plans (in the coming years) to offer an electrified CX-50, including a traditional hybrid model, which will use a Toyota system. More information about electrified models will be shared later, he said.

Trail-riding capability is necessary for those just starting their journey into an active lifestyle, Guyton said. Among the capability elements are standard all-wheel drive, high-strength roof rails, and reinforced B-pillars and door jambs for strapping gear to the roof.

The CX-50 is the first Mazda vehicle to be assembled at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) plant in Huntsville, Ala.

A view of the front passenger area with the new terracotta colored leather upholster.

The CX-50 debuts a terracotta interior color with heated and ventilated front seats.

Going Up the Country

Whether the adventure trend is pandemic based or just a general malaise of urban bitchiness, carmakers are adding off-road-influenced SUVs to help people get the hell out of town. There are lots of jacked-up pickup choices, but the uprated adventure SUVs are fewer but growing.

Long the territory of Jeep and Subaru, the dual-sport SUV choices are growing:

• Ford Motor staked its claim to the outdoors with the new Bronco and Bronco Sport, both with elevated pricing.

• Toyota now offers two adventure-oriented models of the RAV4 (Adventure and RAV4 TRD Off-Road), with a range of quality survival accessories.

• Honda has its Passport TrailSport, $45,000, with standard i-VTM4 all-wheel drive and a 5,000-pound towing capacity. The TrailSport has a 10mm wider track for trail stability and an increased ground clearance of 8.1 inches.

• Kia has an X-Pro trim for the Sportage.

And now Mazda is joining the trend in family-class adventure SUVs with the compact-class, five-seat CX-50.

Mazda has engineered its famed sport-tuned handling into the CX-50, but its off-roading credentials are caught in a crossfire.

It has rugged fender overriders for trail riding, but the suspension is not raised. Ground clearance of 8.6 inches (or 8.5 for the Meridian Edition) is slightly more than half an inch more than for the CX-5. The wider CX-50 on the longer wheelbase with 20-inch tires also has a wide turning circle of at least 39 feet. However, the tester was able to curl neatly into tight parking spaces. Making a U-turn on the trail might be less tidy.

A Meridian Edition CX-50 pulling a camping teardrop trailer on a forest trail

The CX-50 has a 3,500-pound tow rating with the turbo engine.

CX-5 to CX-50 Comparo

Owners who know the CX-5 will likely immediately notice the larger body of the CX-50. Here is a look at other size comparisons:

Wheelbase: The CX-50 wheelbase is a significant 4.6 inches longer than the CX-5. The longer wheelbase gives the CX-50 a more settled highway ride.

Overall length: The CX-50 is 5.7 inches longer, mainly benefiting cargo space. Back-seat legroom has a generous reach of 39.8 inches, but that depends on the person sitting ahead and how far back their seat is positioned.

Body Width: Total body width with the side mirrors folded is 3 inches wider at 80.8 inches (mirror to mirror). However, cabin space from door to door is 1.2 inches narrower in the front seats but 1.2 inches wider in the back seats.

Body height, with the shark fin antenna: The CX-50 roof is 2.4 inches lower than the CX-5, or 66.3 vs. 63.9 inches for CX-50.

Front head and legroom: With the lower roofline, headroom in the CX-50 was trimmed by about a half inch to 38.6 inches vs. 39.2 inches in the CX-5. Legroom gains 0.7 inch or 41.7 inches vs 41 in the CX-5.

Rear legroom: The CX-50 gains just 0.2 inch in rear legroom, or 39.8 vs. 39.6. The rear bench is short on thigh support, and the seatback is somewhat erect with no recline function; that complicates comfort for adults but is acceptable for the school carpool.

Cargo space: The CX-50 has less than a cubic foot of space (0.9 cu.ft.) than the CX-5. Using the EPA measurement standard, there are 30.9 cubic feet of space behind the back seat vs. 30 cu.ft. in the CX-5.

A view of the dashboard to show off the baseball-type cross stitching in terracotta color

Baseball-style cross stitching shows off the more premium interior elements.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Pricing

There are 10 trim levels of the 2023 Mazda CX-50, all with all-wheel drive, a choice of two 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Starting prices, including the freight charge, range from $28,825 with black fabric upholstery to the midrange CX-50 2.5 S Preferred with black leatherette and gray fabric trim. The top-line CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus (today’s tester) starts at $43,575.

The new-for-2023 Meridian Edition, $38,830, has a few more outdoorsy elements, such as black metallic 18-inch alloy wheels and all-terrain Falken Tires (225/60). Other Meridian-unique features include a matte black hood graphic, black wheel locks and lug nuts, and side rocker panels to help fend off scrapes and stone chips to the body.

The Meridian Edition has its own paint colors of Polymetal Gray or Zircon Sand exterior paint, $395 each. All seven paint colors are metallic. Only Jet Black Mica and Ingot Blue Metallic are no-cost choices; Machine Gray Metallic is $595.

New this year is the two-tone interior of Terracotta leather with black interior accents.

Mazda’s Mi-Drive is a standard feature with driving modes of Normal, Sport, Off-Road, and Towing. The Turbo models have a tow rating of 3,500 pounds.

Check here for current pricing and offers.

The panoramic sunroof, a first for Mazda

The panoramic moonroof is a first for Mazda.

Meridian Apex Package

Boosting the Meridian equipment list is the optional Apex Package, $1,235. It includes roof-mounted black crossbars, a roof platform, and front and rear splash guards. The roof platform allows customers to secure even more outdoor equipment, including the rooftop tent from Mazda’s accessory line.

Meridian Choice Package

Optional for any CX-50 model in either powertrain is the Meridian Choice Package, $1,899. It is a dealer-installed option, including roof-mounted black crossbars, roof platform, front and rear splash guards, side rocker garnish, and black wheel locks and lug nuts. The package also includes a matte black hood graphic with a different design from that on the Meridian Edition.

The flat black hood graphic on the Meridian Edition

The flat black hood graphic on the Meridian Edition.

CX-50 Powertrains

Both four-cylinder engines for the CX-50 are designated Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter, with direct injection. And all models have a six-speed automatic transmission.

The base non-turbocharged engine has power ratings of 187 horsepower and peak torque of 186 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm.

The twin-turbocharged Skyactiv-G 2.5 has split power ratings depending on the fuel used, 87 octane or premium fuel.

Running 87 octane, the 2.5 turbo has power ratings of 227 hp and 310 lb.-ft. torque at 2,000 rpm. Pay for the premium fuel, and the ratings rise to 256 hp and 320 lb.-ft. torque at 2,500 rpm.

Mazda cites no power improvement with premium fuel for the base engine. Neither Mazda nor the EPA indicates a variance in fuel-economy ratings between regular and premium.

Sport mode kicks the turbo engine into rapid acceleration without hesitation. I used Sport mode frequently in town because the uptake is sharp and the force is not abrupt or wheel-spinning. Sport is also strategic in the clogged daily commute to guard your line. Acceleration in Normal is more gradual but not power starved.

For those who plan to tow something into the wilderness, the turbocharged engine has a higher tow rating. It has a max towing capacity of 3,500 pounds vs. 2,000 pounds for the non-turbo engine.

The turbo engine has 227 horsepower

The twin turbocharged Skyactiv-G 2.5 has power ratings of 227-hp or 256-hp, whether running 87 octane or premium fuel. (Mark Maynard photo)

Fuel Economy Ratings

EPA estimated mileage ratings for the base 2.5-liter engine are 24 mpg city, 30 highway, and 27 mpg combined, on 87 octane. With a full 15.9-gallon tank, owners can expect a total driving range of 427 miles, per

The CX-50 2.5 Turbo has mileage ratings of 23/29/25 mpg city/hwy/combined on 87 octane, or a total range of 395 miles.

According to the onboard computer, most of my mileage around town was 15-16 mpg and up to 21-22 mpg on the highway. I’ll blame the reserved mileage on Sport mode. But it might be more than that.

The six speed automatic shift console

A six-speed automatic transmission is standard in all models of CX-50.

Curb Weight Dilemma

New owners gripe about CX-50 mileage, but its EPA fuel-economy ratings are just an mpg or three different from most of its competitors.

Curb weights tell another story that will influence fuel economy. The Mazda CX-50 is heavier than most of its compact all-wheel-drive competitors. The top-line tester weighs 3,907 pounds. The Honda CR-V is 19 pounds heavier but has the best EPA mileage ratings in the segment of 40/34/37 mpg.

Here is a look at other competitors’ curb weights with mileage ratings:

Subaru Forester Wilderness, 3,620 lbs. — heaviest of the Forester models; 25/28/26 mpg

Toyota RAV4 Adventure: 3,615 lbs.; 25/33/28 mpg

Hyundai Tucson: 3,666 lbs.; 23/28/25 mpg

Nissan Rogue: 3,737 lbs.; 28/34/31 mpg

Kia Sportage X-Pro Prestige: 3,834 lbs.; 23/28/25 mpg

The driver-info gauge array

A 7-inch LCD gauge display.

CX-50 Turbo Ride and Handling

In my test of the CX-50 Turbo, the highway ride was on glide control. It rode solid and steady at interstate speeds and with little variance, whether along California’s grooved concrete or blacktop.

As comfortably as the CX-50 rolls on the interstate, the ride is less svelte around town. The suspension is firm, even hard. I expect Mazda strapped down the CX-50 for sporty handling, but the ride can be jarring over bad pavement and potholes.

The front suspension uses MacPherson struts with a torsion-beam rear axle. Torsion beams are flat in design, which benefits cargo space, but the rear ride quality can feel clunky over bumps.

Mazda’s G-Vectoring traction-control system uses the center and rear differentials to control weight transfer, which is helpful on-road or off. There is confident front-end grip through enthusiastic cornering.

In the snow or dirt, Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel-drive system is masterful at anticipating wheel slip before barely an inch of traction is lost. Mazda says it is a predictive system that monitors 27 sensors more than 200 times a second.

Rather than moving power “from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip,” the i-Active system directs engine torque to the necessary wheel to maintain forward momentum.

Mazda also stepped up and gave the CX-50 four-wheel disc brakes a millimeter or three larger than the competition. There are 12.8-inch ventilated rotors in front and 12.8-inch solid rotors rear.

Tire and wheel packages range from 17 inches on entry models to 18 inches on the off-road-focused Meridian Edition. Premium Plus and Turbo models are on 20-inchers. The Premium Plus Turbo tester was fitted with 20-inch Goodyear Eagle Touring tires 245/45.

The 20-inch black alloy wheels have bright outlines for a handsome appearance

Premium Plus and Turbo models are fitted with 20-inch Goodyear Eagle Touring tires. (Mark Maynard photo)

CX-50 Interior Function

The interior layout is ergonomically designed and straightforward to use. Sightlines are open across the hood and over the shoulder. But the 360-degree-view monitor in the Premium Plus package is an enabler when in tight parking situations.

The tester had desirable standard features, such as the heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a six-way front passenger seat.

There is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but a wireless phone charging pad is only offered in the top-trim Turbo Premium Plus. Nor is there an interior tailgate release, only at the tailgate and the key fob.

Interior textures and colors enhance a premium appearance. The tester’s terracotta-and-black leather upholstery, with perforated centers, is handsomely set off with terracotta-color baseball-type stitching. The stitching also spans the dashboard face and upper door panels.

Standard on upper-trim models is a panoramic moonroof, a first for Mazda.

Not so enjoyable for me is the nagging and insistent alert should the driver use left-foot braking with the accelerator. And the same tone nags until the seat belt is secured.

The list of standard features is highlighted in the specs box below.

The back seats in the CX-50

Back-seat legroom has a generous reach of 39.8 inches, but the seat bottom is short on thigh support, and the back is somewhat erect without recline.

Mazda CX-50 Accessories

Another notable omission in the CX-50’s list of features is a power inverter with a household plug. A power inverter, now typical in many new vehicles, allows external electrical devices to be used with power from the vehicle.

A power inverter is handy for outdoor enthusiasts to plug in an inflator for tires, air mattresses, and inner tubes or play video games.

A new owner can buy a plug-in inverter, but Mazda should have considered including this for their new adventure SUV.

Also missing among the standard features of the $43K tester was a retractable roller cover, a $225 accessory. In today’s rampant smash-and-grab thefts, the cover is essential equipment to help keep valuables out of view.

Otherwise, a few camping and road-trip accessories are listed below. But, of course, dealer pricing might vary, and installation is not included in the price.

Roof Top Tent, $1,899: The tent sleeps one or two and has large doors, windows, and skylights. Mazda claims four-season weather protection with a rainfly and waterproof coating. The package includes a ladder and 2.5-inch-thick foam mattress.

Roof Platform, $899: Strap down large items, such as a full-size spare tire. Crossbars are required, adding $350.

Trailer Hitch Cargo Box, $900. Add another 13 cubic feet of storage with this rear-mounted, waist-level box. It slots into most 2- and 1¼-inch hitch receivers — but the box also might create a tail-dragging scrape through dips in the trail.

All-Weather Floor Mats, $150. These heavy-duty rubber mats are ideal replacements for carpeted mats.

Cargo Blocks, $50. Brace your groceries, sports equipment, and other gear.

The CX-50 accessory bike mount with a mountain bike

A bike carrier, tent and roof platform are among the CX-50 accessories.

CX-50 Safety Ratings and Features

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the new Mazda CX-50 its highest award of Top Safety Pick+. In IIHS testing, the CX-50 earned good ratings in the institute’s six crashworthiness evaluations:
• Driver-side small overlap front
• Passenger-side small overlap front
• Moderate overlap front
• Original side
• Roof strength
• Head restraint tests

Its front crash prevention system earned a superior rating in the vehicle-to-vehicle and daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations. The CX-50 also has good or acceptable rated headlights standard across all trims, garnering IIHS’s higher-tier award.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet tested the Mazda CX-50.

Driver-Assist Technologies

Mazda has equipped the CX-50 with a range of driver-assist technologies, but the grouping does not add up to Level 2 semi-autonomous driving.

Among the technologies are hill-launch assist, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and radar cruise control.

With the assist technologies activated, the CX-50 would not stay centered in the lane. Blind Spot Assist, however, will add a minor steering intervention to help the driver avoid a collision.

The Turbo Premium Plus package adds such safety tech as traffic jam assist (rerouting), front and rear parking sensors, rear smart brake support, and blind-spot prevention

The open cargo area of the CX-50 with back seats folded.

Fold the back seat for flat sleeping space of 6-plus-feet in length. (Mark Maynard photo)

Cargo Space

Car campers have 6.3 feet of flat space for sleeping when the 60/40 back seat is folded. The area is about 42 inches wide by 29.6 inches tall to the headliner. Oddly, I found only two tie-down anchors but four bag hooks. On either side at entry are two jug-size indents.

Space behind the back seat is wide at 42.6 inches and flat for about 30 cubic feet of space, stacked to the headliner.

A temporary spare is stored below the floor.  In the event of an off-road flat,  however, the small spare could be problematic.

Why Buy the Mazda CX-50?

Mazda has a built-in fan club with its CX-5 and CX-50. A check of Mazda CX-50 forums and social media shows excited reports from CX-5 owners who traded up to the CX-50 after a test drive.

The new CX-50 owners like the larger cabin — though they say cargo space isn’t quite as large as they’d like. Other comments suggest that the interior is more luxurious than the Subaru Forester. The biggest complaints were about the disappointing fuel economy and the firm ride.

With Mazda’s elite engineering and a network of traction-control assists, the CX-50 is safe and secure for families to try trail riding. New owners to off-road driving must use common sense when choosing their routes. The CX-50 will be a capable scamp along forest trails, but Jeep-grade excursions will eat it alive.

An on-road rear view of the Mazda CX-50

The CX-50 is the first Mazda vehicle out of the automaker’s new manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Ala., a joint venture with Toyota.

2023 Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Specifications

Body style: compact, 5-seat, 5-door AWD SUV

Engine: twin-scroll turbocharged Skyactiv-G 2.5 with direct injection; 227-hp with 87 octane, 256-hp with premium fuel; 310 lb.-ft. torque, 87 octane; 320 lb.-ft. torque, premium

Transmission: Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 23/29/25 mpg city/hwy/combined on 87 octane; 395 miles total range.

Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds (w/turbo engine)


Fuel tank: 15.9 gallons

Cargo space: 31.4 to 56.3 cubic feet

Front head/leg room: 38.6*/41.7 inches *w/moonroof

Rear head/leg room: 38.6/39.8 inches

Length/wheelbase: 195.8/110.8 inches

Width/height: 80.8 inches (mirror to mirror)/63.9 inches

Curb weight: 3,907 pounds

Turning circle: 39 feet


CX-50 Turbo standard equipment includes: smart-key entry with push-button ignition, 10.25-inch color center display, active-driving display, radar cruise control, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio, Mazda Connected Services, wireless Android and Apple Carplay, electric parking brake, leather-trimmed upholstery, power driver’s seat with 2-position memory, power passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote power liftgate, rear AC vents, 4 USB ports, 12-speaker Bose audio system;

Exterior features include: black 20-inch wheels with P245/45 all-season tires, rain-sensing wipers, wiper de-icer, rear roof spoiler, power-folding side mirrors (automatic on engine shutoff), adaptive front lighting (turning headlights), LED headlights and taillights, high-beam control, roof rails, rear privacy glass;

Turbo Premium Plus features include: heated rear seats, 360-degree view monitor, traffic jam assist, front and rear parking sensors, rear smart brake support, blind-spot prevention, auto-dimming driver-side mirror, Mazda navigation system, active driving display, traffic sign recognition, frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless phone charger.

Safety features include: 7 air bags, hill-launch assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-traffic alert, dynamic stability and traction controls, brake assist with brake-force control.


CX-50 Turbo Premium Plus base price: $43,575, including $1,275 freight charge; price as tested $43,970

Options on test vehicle: Zircon Sand Metallic paint $395

Where assembled: Huntsville, Ala.

Warranties: 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain; 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance

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Mazda CX-30 Review — The Young Sophisticate

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo crossover doesn’t seem as small as a subcompact and is more premium in its interior presence than some in this segment

The front side view of the CX-30 Turbo

There is sophisticated simplicity to the Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo. (Photos courtesy of Mazda)


Horsepower isn’t everything at Mazda, but it makes a defining statement in the 2021 CX-30 Turbo subcompact crossover. This very likable SUV crossover debuted just a year ago as a callout to the brand’s drive toward premium — premium vehicles and premium dealership experiences.

The campaign focused on the refined touch points of vehicle interiors and fine-edge engineering under the skin. With, of course, the Mazda-infused love of driving.

For 2021, the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder builds on the standard 186-hp, 2.5-liter non-turbo engine. Mazda says the turbo engine has a peak 250 horsepower when feeding the engine premium fuel or 227-hp with 87-octane junk food. Peak torque comes on strong with 320 foot-pounds at 2,500 rpm with premium fuel or 310 lb.-ft. torque at 2,000 rpm on 87 octane.

Industry sources say to expect a CX-30 midcycle freshening in 2023.

Interior of the Mazda CX-30

Inside, the CX-30 environment is lean, dark, and determined.

Sizewise, the CX-30 slots between the subcompact CX-3 — which goes away after this year — and the compact CX-5. The CX-30 is marketed toward young drivers and couples starting a family. But its quiet and smartly designed interior will appeal to all ages.

Competitors include the Honda HR-V, Hyundai Venue, Jeep Compass, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Nissan Rogue Sport.

Mazda CX-30 Pricing

Sold in four trim levels for the standard 2.5-liter model and three choices for the 2.5 Turbo, all with a six-speed automatic transmission. The non-turbo models are front- or optional all-wheel drive. The Turbo models include AWD.

Starting prices for non-turbo models range from $23,335 to $29,875, including the $1,175 freight charge from Salamanca, Mexico. Add $1,400 for AWD.

For those who enjoy the zoom of driving a Mazda, the move up to the Turbo from a 2.5 Premium is just $1,350. The 2.5T has starting prices of $31,225, $33,625 and $35,225 for base, Premium and Premium Plus, today’s tester.

With four options, the top-line CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus AWD tester was $36,220, which seemed fully priced for a subcompact vehicle. But it is a showcase of advanced technologies in a crossover that doesn’t seem as small as a subcompact and is more premium in its interior presence than some in this segment.

Options on the tester included Soul Red crystal metallic paint, $595; all-weather floor mats, $125; cargo cover $150; and stainless-steel rear bumper guard. But I would have happily added another $295 for wireless phone charging. For any new vehicle costing more than $35K that simple electronic aid should be included in the standard equipment.

The Premium Plus elements include content of the Premium model, such as the heads-up windshield driving display, adaptive (turning) headlights, 12-speaker Bose audio, LED headlights and taillights, heated steering wheel, leather-trimmed upholstery, Mazda Navigation (with 3-year Traffic and Travel Link Trial), paddle shifters, a power liftgate and satellite radio.

Premium Plus adds an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, Traffic Jam Assist, parking sensors front and rear, 360-deree view monitor, Smart City Brake Support-Reverse and rear cross-traffic braking.

Find special pricing offers here.


Interior detail in the door panel of the Mazda CX-30

The interior has layers of depth in the interior design.

CX-30 Turbo Fuel Economy

I’d opt for the thoroughbred (premium) fuel, even though fuel economy isn’t what you might expect of a subcompact SUV, though the turbo CX-30 has standard all-wheel drive. The official ratings are 22 mpg city, 30 highway and 25 mpg combined. In a week’s test, my driving brought an average of 19 to 22 mpg around town and up to 34.6 mpg for highway driving, which might have risen a bit higher on a longer commute.

Commuters could expect nearly 400 miles of driving range from the 12-gallon fuel tank.

Gearshift console in the CX-30

The six-speed automatic gives quick shifts and keeps the engine in the power band.

Mazda CX-30 Turbo Performance

With a curb weight of 3,505 pounds, the CX-30 Turbo has good power to weight. And it brings the eagerness expected of a turbocharged Mazda. Sport mode fills the acceleration gap between fuel economy and fun.

True to Mazda’s philosophy, the CX-30’s keen drivability shows the harmony of the hardware. With a well-engineered steel-spring suspension, the CX-30 has an appetite for apex cornering, despite a torsion-beam rear axle. A torsion beam axle is often used in small utes because it is flat and doesn’t cut into cargo space. But in nearly all other applications, the torsion-beam setup feels unforgiving and clunky. Mazda engineering vaporized such concerns and the result is a sport sedan in little-ute pajamas.

Dive into a corner and there is no upsetting heave-ho as the suspension transitions the weight. The first time you experience this unexpected performance, you’ll want to do it again. The organically smooth electric steering and reassuring grip of four-wheel-disc braking have luxury-class refinement not expected of a mainstream subcompact.

Mazda Driver-Assist Technologies

Mazda’s i-Activsense safety package almost allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. The grouping of technologies includes radar cruise control with stop-and-go function (0 to 90 mph), lane departure warning with lane-keep assist and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The calibrations of lane-keeping assist will not prevent the car from crossing the highways lines or Botts dots. But it does alert the driver and will guide the car back into the lane when needed. Just don’t drive without hands on the wheel.

CX-30 Safety Features

The stars shine brightly for the CX-30 in NHTSA’s crash-test ratings: It earned the government agency’s highest five-star overall rating for driver and front passenger; five stars in the side crash test for front and rear seats; and four stars for low rollover risk. Learn more at

Standard safety features include eight air bags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake-assist, driver attention alert and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Handcrafted Finesse

There is nothing disruptive in the exterior styling, which is pleasing and balanced, though the body looks large for its wheels. The separator is inside and how Mazda expanded roominess to almost compact-class accommodations.

There is handcrafted appeal in the Premium models. The leather-trimmed upholstery is tender to the touch and beautifully stitched for a patina that will age handsomely.

CX-30 Interior Function

Inside, the environment is lean, dark and determined with slender finesse. There is subtle use of brushed chrome, soft-touch manmade materials and gloss-black or carbon trim elements. Even the plastics appear to be of the same caliber throughout — without a ragged edge.

There is an openness to the front-seat area. There are 37.8 inches of headroom, with the sunroof, but it might not be suited to all members of the big and tall club. Sightlines are good at the side mirrors. They stand on their own and aren’t attached at base of the windshield pillars, which often creates a long blockage. But the smallish back glass and wrap of the pillar are limiting to rear-corner views.

Driver controls are refreshingly simple. The slim shelf of controls for heat-AC-fan works well for aim-and-touch adjustments while keeping eyes on the road. The 8.8-inch-wide top screen gives a broad view for navigation and vehicle info. But the rearview camera image uses a smaller portion of the screen when wider would be better. And even a front view would be helpful, or at least parking alerts, to avoid poking the shark nose into whatever is ahead.

The glove-soft leather of the three-spoke steering wheel made me want to keep both hands on the wheel, which is heated in the Premium Plus.

Back Seat and Cargo Area

The subcompactness of the CX-30  is felt in the back seat, but the doors open wide to aid access or to reach a child seat. The raised bench is comfortable — for smaller adults — with lots of footroom. There is a respectable 36.3 inches of max legroom, but the tall exhaust-transmission tunnel limits three-across comfort. There are no charging ports, though a cable stretched from the USB in the front armrest box could suffice.

There’s a usable square of cargo space, 20.2 cubic feet, but fold the 60/40 seats for about 5.3 feet of length.

CX-30 cargo area

There is a functional cargo space of 20.2 cubic feet. Fold the 60/40 seats for about 5.3 feet of length.

Why Buy the Mazda CX-30 Turbo?

There is a sophisticated simplicity to the CX-30 2.5 Turbo. It is a discriminating entry that demonstrates the Mazda mantra of “why, how and what a vehicle should be.” For drivers who enjoy driving, there are intangible rewards to ownership.

A rear view of the Mazda CX-30

The Soul Red Premium Plus AWD tester was $36,220.

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus AWD Specifications

Body style: subcompact, 5-seat, 5-door SUV crossover

Engine: Skyactiv-G direct-injected and turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder

Power: 250-hp using premium fuel or 227-hp with 87 octane); 320 lb.-ft. torque at 2,500 rpm on premium fuel or 310 lb.-ft. torque at 2,000 rpm with 87 octane

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 22/30/25 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium recommended


Standard equipment includes: smart-key locking with push-button ignition, power sliding-glass moonroof, rearview camera, radar cruise control with stop and go, 8-way power driver seat with power lumbar  and memory presets, heated front seats, electric parking brake,  60/40 split fold-down back seat, rear privacy glass, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob

Safety features include: 8 air bags, electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, driver attention alert and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert


Base CX-30 Turbo price: $35,225, including $1,175 freight charge. Price as tested $36,220

Options on test vehicle: cargo cover $150; all-weather floor mats $125; Soul Red metallic paint $595; and stainless-steel rear bumper cover $150

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance and 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain

Mark Maynard

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