Mazda is fast becoming a low-key luxury brand. That likely comes as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to what the Japanese carmaker has been up to lately, but it’s true. Just look to Mazda’s 2021 CX-30 Turbo. This lovely little machine is absolutely a worthy rival to the usual compact German SUV crossovers.
Back in 2018, in an anonymous grey meeting room in a convention centre hosting one of the big international car shows, Sharp sat down with Akira Marumoto, Mazda’s president and CEO. He laid out his vision for the company that was, at least back then, primarily known for its iconic “zoom zoom” tagline, and for making practical cars that were surprisingly great to drive. His aim was for Mazda to become “a savvy alternative” to the big German brands. Marumoto also mentioned plans for an EV in 2020 and the shocking return of Mazda’s beloved rotary engine as part of a new hybrid engine setup in 2021. So far, everything he said that day in 2018 has come true.
But still, we wondered if the new CX-30, even in the top-of-the-line “Turbo” trim, could really be a worthy competitor to its more luxurious rivals? After taking it for a recent road trip, Mazda’s new SUV convinced us that Marumoto’s vision for the company has indeed come true. Here’s why:
1. It drives like a performance car
What Mazda is really good at is doing a lot with a little. By that we mean Mazda thinks like a racing team. They makes cars that have no waste, no extraneous bits, no extra weight. And, indeed, the CX-30 Turbo performs like an athlete. Turn the steering wheel and it cuts into a corner, planted and with confidence. The suspension is taught, tuned toward the sporty side of comfortable. It’s the sort of car that quietly encourages you do go faster, which makes it the opposite of most other SUVs.
2. Its motor is unlike anything else
If you so much as breathe on the throttle, a swell of torque quickly rises and carries the car toward the horizon. It’s shockingly powerful, so much so that you might wonder if there are six-cylinders hiding under the hood. Nope. It’s a four-cylinder turbocharged motor made unique by the fact it’s larger than nearly all others (it displaces 2.5-litres, compared to the ubiquitous 2.0-litre motors). Having 320 lb-ft of torque and 250 hp inside of such a small package is like having Dwayne Johnson fighting in the welterweight class. The CX-30 Turbo has more immediate grunt than any of the sporty little German SUVs, and you can feel it.
3. It feels refined
Leave your expectations at the door. While the CX-30 looks compact on the outside, it feels surprisingly spacious on the inside, kind of like Dr. Who’s time-travelling spaceship. The interior design is well considered: a wing-shaped dash neatly embeds just the right amount of physical buttons and a high-res display, the intuitive infotainment system is reminiscent of BMW’s best, and the seats are wrapped in leather. Okay, perhaps it’s not the softest leather we’ve ever touched, but this car still feels like a classy joint.
4. It looks spectacular
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you can make up your own mind, but we’re big fans of Mazda’s current design direction, as exemplified by the Mazda3, MX-30, and, of course, the CX-30. The latter sports an aggressive grille, and sculpted profile that gives the impression that this car is lean, fast, and fun.
5. It’s great value
Compared to its luxury-brand rivals, the 2021 CX-30 Turbo is incredibly good value. Starting at $36,250, it comes with pretty much everything you could want, including all-wheel drive and leather seats. It’s true: Mazda is a brand on the rise, just as Akira Marumoto envisioned. The CX-30 Turbo has the design credentials and raw power to embarrass much more expensive rivals. We’re looking forward to seeing where Mazda goes from here.