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2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo: 6 reasons I love this CUV [First Drive]

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I could make this review quite possibly the shortest one I’ve ever written by saying: The 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo is close to perfection. The end.

But I imagine you want a little more detail than that. Like, maybe: Why do I feel that way?

Let me count the ways.

No turbo lag

I have to admit I was both surprised and delighted to see there is no turbo lag in the CX-30 2.5 Turbo. Mazda has done a great job with the power equation. I was amazed that whether I was going from 0 to 35 MPH, 35 to 55 MPH or 55 to 60 MPH, there was always the right burst of speed coming off the line, merging with traffic or going in for a pass.

The Skyactiv G 2.5 Turbo increases horsepower to 250 and torque to 320 pound-feet with the use of premium fuel — and don’t let that last bit be a sticking point for you. You can also use regular fuel and get 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.

Here’s the interesting thing: Both fuels provide the same basic power output up to 4,000 RPM. So, unless you’re a super aggressive driver, you can get away with the 87 octane and still have a really good driving experience.

For reference, the non-turbo delivers 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.

CX-30 2.5 Turbo

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Standard AWD

Because the CX-30 2.5 Turbo model is considered more premium, it comes standard with all-wheel drive. On the non-turbo models, front-wheel drive is standard, and AWD is a $1,400 up charge.

During the test period, we got dumped on with snow in Chicago, and the CX-30 2.5 Turbo handled it seamlessly. My alley isn’t plowed, yet I had very little slip driving through it, and I didn’t worry about getting stuck.

Automatic reverse braking

Another differentiator between the turbo and non-turbo model is a tweak to available features in the i-ActiveSense safety suite, with the big add being automatic reverse braking. Mazda calls it “Smart Brake Support” – and it’s available for things crossing into your path (Smart Brake Support – Rear Crossing) and stationary items (Smart Brake Support – Rear).

Thankfully, this isn’t a feature I had to test, but I love that this acts as an extra set of eyes and can help prevent low-speed crashes that are avoidable.

CX-30 2.5 Turbo

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo Apple Carplay (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Excellent 360 camera display

The 360 View Monitor is another turbo-only feature, and it affords a good view surrounding the vehicle. Plus, the camera display is crisp – as long as you keep your camera clear of gunk.

Another thing I appreciate here: The display stays on when you switch from reverse to forward, without the need to press a button to turn it back on. I can’t say the same for other recent test vehicles.

Comfortable cabin

The seats in the CX-30 hit the “just right” mark for me. Not too big, not too soft, not too firm and not too bolstery. I know I’m on the petite side of things, but I will point out during the original press preview, my drive partner was 6-foot, 5-inches, and he also thought the seating ergonomics were excellent – front and back.

The CX-30 2.5 Turbo test vehicle was a top-tier Premium Plus trim, and had a whole host of other luxury comfort amenities including leather seats, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

CX-30 2.5 Turbo

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

Excellent driving dynamics

In my book, one of the best things about the CX-30 in general and the 2.5 Turbo specifically is how it drives. The CX-30 is meant to be nimble, so it maneuvers well through traffic as well as on winding mountain passes. So, when adding this new model, the feeling of how it drives didn’t need to change to make it sportier.

In fact, when the engineers worked on the tuning the suspension, it wasn’t to make it stiffer, it was to accommodate the higher power output while making it feel the same as the non-turbo.

So, same great driving feel, but a heck of a lot more power. Yee-haw!

A few annoying things

Lest I gush effusively, I will point out there are a couple of misses on the CX-30 2.5 Turbo, and they are mirrored by its non-turbo brother.

The first is the excessive plastic cladding surrounding the wheel wells. Here you have this sexy, sleekly styled compact CUV, and bam! There’s a whole bunch of cheap (Mazda says: rugged) plastic. I will say the gray paint on the test vehicle helped to disguise the bigness of the cladding, but if you got the white or Mazda signature Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, it becomes a lot more obvious and (IMHO) jarring.

The other point of contention is the lack of USB ports in the second row. I asked Mazda about this, and they said at this point, the target for CX-30 is single person, young couple or young family, and thus no real need for charge ports in the back.

CX-30 2.5 Turbo

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

A word about the infotainment system

I know a lot of reviewers complain about this system. And, no, it’s not intuitive. At all. But here’s the thing, we don’t live with this system every day. Nope, we get the car for a week (or in this case two days), which isn’t enough time to gain absolute familiarity.

I have two friends who own Mazdas with this system, and they both told me the same thing: It takes some getting used to, but at the end of the day they like it better than other systems they’ve used. One of those friends drives a lot of rental cars, so he knows what he’s talking about.

But, because I know this is a pain point, I will point you to this YouTube interview with Dave Coleman, the manager of vehicle dynamics at Mazda USA, who shows how the systems – and favorites settings – work.

The bottom line on the CX-30 2.5 Turbo

I can get over the cladding and the lack of USB ports for everything else. This little vehicle provides a ton of utility and a heck of a lot of fun while driving. It’s got all the tech I want – including a heated steering wheel – and a price tag that tops out around $35K.

I loved the CX-30 2.5 Turbo. The end.

Related posts:

2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD: Third time is not the charm

2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD: The do-it-all 3-row SUV

Misleading! These trucks recommend (or require!) premium fuel

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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1 Comment

  1. Steven Sebastian February 12, 2021

    Is this CVT? Also should downshift be forward or backward on the manual mode on the shifter?


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