2021 Mazda CX-30 GT AWD Review

Given how well crossovers are selling compared to sedans and hatchbacks, it is not surprising to find manufacturers raising every single model in the lineup a couple more inches off the ground to boost sales. In the case of Mazda, it already offers the stylish subcompact crossover, the CX-3, which is a jacked up version of the Mazda 2. Now the company is ready to offer the same treatment for its best selling compact car, the Mazda 3. 

That is exactly the reason the CX-30 is born. Built on the same Mazda 3 chassis, the CX-30 is 2.4” higher off the ground than the Mazda 3 hatchback. It offers more headroom and legroom for the rear passengers, and a slightly larger cargo volume behind second row seats. 

Thanks to Mazda Canada, I was loaned the 2021 Mazda CX-30 GT AWD for one week to find out if the it is a worthy counterpart of the beloved Mazda 3. Below is my unbiased review.


Even though the CX-30 is built on the same platform as the Mazda 3, the exterior of the taller CX-30 actually gives off a different vibe. At the front, slim LED headlamps and the signature Mazda grille remain the same. However, the thicker bumper allows for a larger lower air intake and linear style amber fog lamps. 

From the side, the space that is created by the added ground clearance is mostly filled with thick black body cladding. It gives the otherwise elegant CX-30 a hint of off-road vibe. In reality, the 7.9” ground clearance is not going to be enough for challenging terrains. The rear window is expanded to reduce the visual weight at the back, and to provide better outward visibility. The optional 18” alloy wheel has a different design from the one on the Mazda 3. 

The rear of the CX-30 features slender LED taillights and a thick lower bumper. The tailgate is electric, something you can’t find even in the top trim Mazda 3 hatchback. Mazda designers once again does an amazing job of translating the latest Kodo design language to the CX-30. It looks compact, confident, and sophisticated. 


While the exterior differences are significant between the CX-30 and the Mazda 3, the interior of the two cars are largely identical. That is a good thing. Just like the Mazda 3, the interior design is clean, minimalist, and elegant. It offers the kind of premium feel that could only be found in a luxury vehicle not too long ago. To achieve the level sophistication, Mazda engineers looked into every single detail to make the cabin as enjoyable as possible. For example, the sub-woofers are moved onto the side cowls to reduce door rattling caused by bass, the side sills in the door jams are rounded to ensure no sharp edges would catch one’s legs when entering or exiting the vehicle, and most reachable surfaces are covered with premium two-tone leather. 

The driver’s seating position is set high. It offers better outward visibility and inspires the confidence buyers seek in a crossover. Due to the smaller C pillar, the CX-30 offers better outward visibility than the Mazda 3 hatchback. Both front seats are heated. As with all the Mazda vehicles I have test driven lately, the seats are exceedingly comfortable even for longer drives. 

Rear passengers enjoy 1.2” more legroom compared to the Mazda 3 hatchback. This is interesting because the CX-30 is actually 2.6” shorter than the hatchback in overall length. The rear headroom is also about 1” taller. While the differences are not big on paper, I do find the rear cabin of the CX-30 to be measurably more comfortable. There is also a dedicated air vent behind the center console, something you won’t find in the Mazda 3 hatchback. 


The infotainment system centers around the 8.8” center display. At first glance, the display seems to be sinking into the front dash too much, but the it is actually perfectly located to be visible without obstructing the view of the driver. What I don’t like though, is the excessively big bezel. It makes the display look cheaper and smaller than it actually is. The user interface is intuitive, but lags behind competitions in terms of responsiveness and graphics. It is not a touchscreen, so the command dial and the quick access buttons are positioned to be easily reachable on the center console floor. Beside the command dial is the much appreciated volume knob. 

In front of the driver is a 7” digital gauge display. It provides all the important driving information in an easy to understand layout. Given the large screen real estate, I would appreciate more customizable options and display styles. 

Our tester is equipped with the optional windshield-projected active driving display. I very much enjoy Mazda’s head-up display system. It allows the driver to quickly glance at the important driving information without ever taking the eyes off the road. 

Mazda also introduced the MyMazda app. The app allows CX-30 owners to remotely lock the doors or start the engine. It also provides information such as oil information and tire pressure remotely.

Safety and Driver Assistance

The CX-30 comes with a comprehensive list of standard i-Activsense safety features. They include:

  • Rearview camera 
  • Hill Launch Assist
  • Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert

The following features are available for trim levels above GS:

  • Smart City Brake Support Front
  • Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go function
  • Smart Brake Support Front 
  • Pedestrian Detection
  • Forward Obstruction Warning
  • Lane Departure Warning System
  • Lane-keep Assist System
  • Distance Recognition Support System
  • Driver Attention Alert

Top level GT also gets:

  • Smart Brake Support Rear
  • Traffic Sign Recognition System

It earns a 5 star safety rating from NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS.


The CX-30 has three engine options. The base model GX is powered by a 2.0L engine that produces 155hp of power and 150 lb.ft. of torque. The GS and is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that produces 186hp of power and 186 lb.ft. of torque. The GT can be powered by either the same 2.5L naturally aspirated engine or the option 2.5L Dynamic Pressure Turbocharged engine that produces 250hp of power and 320 lb.ft. of torque (with premium fuel). Regardless of the engine option, a 6 speed automatic transmission sends the engine torque to either just the front wheels or all four wheels via the i-Active AWD system. 

Our GT tester is equipped with the 2.5L naturally aspirated engine. The drivetrain is smooth and responsive. 0-100km/hr happens in roughly 8.9 seconds. It is not meant to break any records, but the engine is powerful enough for most driving scenarios including hill climb and highway overtaking. If speed is what you are looking for, then you should opt for the 250hp turbocharged engine. I have recently test driven the Mazda 3 Turbo hatchback, and it is significantly sportier (and more fun to drive) than the non-turbo version. I am looking forward to test driving the CX-30 Turbo as well. 

Handing wise, the CX-30 proves to be just as agile and eager as the Mazda 3 hatchback. It uses McPherson independent suspensions for the front, and a torsion beam suspension for the rear. Although not the more technically advanced multi-link system, the torsion beam rear suspension of the CX-30 does a great job of keeping the car planted in corners. 

G-Vectoring Control (GVC) is employed to enhance cornering performance. The system decreases engine torque to shift the weight of the car to the front wheels. This action increases front wheels grips for a more responsive turn-in. Once the steering angle becomes steady, the engine torque is immediately recovered to transfer the load of the car back to the rear wheels. This series of load transfer is only possible due to the responsiveness of Mazda’s Skyactiv engines. 

Additional stability control is achieved with GVC plus. The system applies just a hint of brake on the outside tires when the vehicle is returning to a neutral position from an avoidance maneuver. It reduces the returning steering wheel angle and helps to stabilize the vehicle quicker.

The CX-30 consumes only slightly more fuel than the Mazda 3 hatchback. Our 2.5L AWD tester is rated at 9.9L/100km city, 7.7L/100km highway, and .8.9 L/100km combined. The FWD version saves about 0.6L/100km. 

Cargo Space & Storage

The CX-30 has 572L of cargo space behind 2nd row seats, just 3L more than the Mazda 3 hatchback. With the rear seats folded, the cargo volume is increased to 1280L, 54L less than the hatchback. Under the trunk floor is a full-size spare tire. The tailgate is electric, but it is not motion activated. 

Inside the cabin, storage options include a moderately sized glove compartment, a deep center console storage bin, large door pockets, and integrated cup holders in the rear folding armrest. I don’t like the fact you have to slide the center armrest backward to open the storage bin. This operation becomes difficult if someone is sitting directly behind the center console.


You can’t really go wrong with either the CX-30 or the Mazda 3 hatchback. They both feature handsome exterior, above-class interior, and excellent handling. Other than the form factor, they also offer similar utility. If you prefer the visibility provided by the taller ride height, choose the CX-30. If you prefer the lower center of gravity provided by the smaller ground clearance, choose the Mazda 3 hatchback. In any case, both of these fine vehicles should be at the top of your shopping list.

Test Vehicle
2021 Mazda CX-30 GT AWD

$36,260 CAD as tested (including Freight & PDI)

Soul Red Crystal


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