2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo
Can an engine make the difference in a vehicle?
Consider the 2021 Mazda CX-30. When it arrived into showrooms a year ago, it came with one engine – a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, It was fine vehicle overall for its class, but consumers wanted more.
The solution was to drop Mazda’s turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter engine underneath the CX-30’s hood. We wondered whether a turbocharger would attract more consumers to this small SUV with upmarket ambitions.
If you have not seen an CX-30, you must know that it is derived off of the same platform that underpins the Mazda3. It shares some design elements from its sedan/hatchback cousin, including its signature grille and narrow headlamps up front. At the end are a pair of taillights that are inspired by the Mazda3, including the scalloping rear fascia design. In-between is a roofline that offers an extra pane glass on the C-pillar for a perception of extra vision. The lower half of the body is wrapped with a plastic cladding for protection.
Our tester had the Premium Plus package that included a set of black 18-inch alloy wheels and LED adaptive headlamps.
Mazda continues to attract upwardly mobile customers with upgraded interiors. Soft touch materials in a contrasting black/brown motif are inviting. The front seats offer plenty of bolstering, though allow for a narrow space between them. Rear seat room is better for children or average-size adults. Cargo space starts with 20.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats. The “step down” loading may seem secure, but it was also a hassle when loading larger and heavier items.
Instrumentation is fully digital and offer some customization for information. The head-up display adds basic information while encouraging the driver to focus on the road. The infotainment system is controlled by a large dial on the console, along with other buttons and knobs nearby. However, the shortened screen seemed too recessed into the dashboard for the sake of aesthetics. We also found the controls for this system not really that intuitive to work on the fly. Most of the controls seems easy to use and logical.
Our tester was powered by 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. As with this engine, you can only achieve that level of performance by pouring premium fuel into the tank. Low-end torque is rated at 310 pound-feet, which is a class-leading figure. This engine is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel-drive.
The engine alone is powerful and offers lots of force for passing and on-ramp maneuvers. It actually does a better job motivating the CX-30 than the standard naturally-aspired engine. As for fuel economy, we observed an average of 24.5 MPG.
Ride quality was quite good. The suspension absorbed the worst bumps in the road and kept the CX-30 stable. We found the handling has improved, as the CX-30 felt more controlled while cornering and doing evasive maneuvers. It felt flatter through the turns than its naturally-aspirated sibling. It also helped to put the CX-30 in Sport mode to help tighten the suspension a tad.
The steering felt solid, with a tighter turning radius and felt responsive at the wheels. On-center feel was good; better in Sport mode. Braking was OK with a spongy and soft pedal feel. The CX-30 did just fine in our stopping tests under normal, panic, and wet situations.
Pricing for the 2021 Mazda CX-30 starts at $22,050 for the naturally-aspirated 2.5 S model with front-wheel-drive. Our 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus tester with all-wheel-drive came with a sticker price of $35,995.
The upshot of offering a turbocharged version of the CX-30 is that Mazda can position it towards a more upmarket consumer. In that case, the CX-30 will match up with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and X2, Audi Q3, MINI Countryman, Volvo XC40, Buick Encore GX, and Lexus UX. However, there are still consumers that see Mazda as a mainstream brand. The CX-30 is often cross-shopped against the Nissan Rogue Sport, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Compass, Subaru Crosstrek, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Kia Seltos, and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
To answer the question whether a turbocharged engine can make a difference in a vehicle, the Mazda CX-30 should provide the answer. Our answer is yes, but we also think the CX-30 needs a bit more polishing to truly win customers looking upmarket for their next small SUV.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors