All of us here at agree the Mazda3 hatchback is a fantastic little vehicle. With style, agility, and luxury in spade, the plucky five-door is a fantastic option in a segment already teeming with strong competitors. So what happens when Mazda takes that same successful formula and applies it to a compact crossover? Well, only good things.

The new Mazda CX-30 crossover is everything we love about the 3 hatchback, just... taller. The two cars are pretty much one and the same, technically speaking, with identical chassis components underneath and matching four-cylinder engines. We’ve already driven both (you can read our reviews below) – and dynamically, they’re pretty similar. But there are some key distinctions shoppers should note when comparing the two.

What’s Different?

The visual differences between the two cars are pretty obvious. The Mazda CX-30 gets chunky cladding over the wheel wells and sits 7.9 inches off the ground, while the Mazda3 sticks with traditional hatchback styling elements and sits just 5.5 inches off the ground. Also, the Mazda3 pictured here wears 18-inch gloss black wheels and model-exclusive blacked-out trim pieces in the grille, whereas the CX-30 wears 18-inch wheels with a different spoke pattern and forgoes the 3's black grille accents.

The two cars do vary somewhat in size, though, despite their similarities. The Mazda3's wheelbase is about three inches longer than the CX-30's, making the hatchback nearly two inches longer overall. The CX-30 is much taller, though, standing at 61.7 inches versus the Mazda3's 56.7 inches.

Here's how the two compare size-wise:

Mazda3 Hatchback Vs Mazda CX-30: Comparison
Mazda3 Hatchback Vs Mazda CX-30: Comparison
  Wheelbase Length Width Height Ground Clearance
Mazda3 Hatchback 107.3 Inches 175.6 Inches 70.7 Inches 56.7 Inches 5.5 Inches
Mazda CX-30 104.5 Inches 173.0 Inches 70.7 Inches 61.7 Inches 7.9 Inches

Inside the differences between the two cars are less obvious. Squint and you might be able to distinguish the CX-30's multicolored brown dash, black door panels, and white leather seats. White leather is exclusive to the CX-30, while Mazda keeps red leather for the 3 hatchback only. The CX-30 – with the Premium package, as tested – also gets a few minor touches that the 3 doesn't, like rear air vents and a power tailgate. Not even a loaded Mazda3 offers either of those options.

But don't let the CX-30's "crossover" label fool you, the high-riding Mazda's passenger space nearly mimics that of the smaller 3. While the CX-30 gets slightly more headroom and a touch extra legroom in the rear, the hatchback offers additional leg and shoulder space up front. And cargo space behind the rear seat is almost exactly the same: 20.1 cubic feet in the Mazda3 versus 20.2 in the CX-30.

Mazda3 Hatchback Vs Mazda CX-30: Comparison
Mazda3 Hatchback Vs Mazda CX-30: Comparison
  Headroom (Front/Rear) Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) Hiproom (Front/Rear) Legroom (Front/Rear) Cargo Space
Mazda3 Hatchback 38.0 / 37.2 Inches 55.7 / 53.4 Inches 54.6 / 50.9 Inches 42.3 / 35.1 Inches 20.1 Cubic Feet
Mazda CX-30 38.1 / 38.3 Inches 55.6 / 53.6 Inches 54.6 / 53.2 Inches 41.7 / 36.3 Inches 20.2 Cubic Feet

Though both cars boast the same 2.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission (and in this case, optional all-wheel drive), fuel economy varies slightly. At its most efficient, the all-wheel-drive Mazda3 gets 24 miles per gallon city, 32 highway, and 27 combined. The all-wheel-drive CX-30, surprisingly, is a touch better – achieving 25 mpg city, 32 highway, and 27 combined at its best. And both cars can hold 12.7 gallons of fuel in all-wheel-drive configurations.

And finally, price. A base front-wheel-drive 2020 Mazda3 hatchback costs $23,700. But the CX-30 is actually more affordable to start, asking just $21,900 with a front-wheel-drive configuration. All-wheel drive is $1,400 extra on both vehicles, but at the top of the range, the Mazda3 Premium is actually cheaper. The loaded hatchback costs $28,900 before options, while the most expensive CX-30 Premium costs $29,600.

What’s The Same?

Obviously, these two cars have more similarities than they do differences. Mazda's signature “Kodo” design language (though slightly modified) is the most prominent carryover from the 3 hatchback to the larger CX-30. But under that shiny sheet metal, the two cars are pretty much identical.

The same platform props up both vehicles, and the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powers them both, too. That engine produces 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel-drive comes standard and all-wheel drive is available – both of the cars pictured here have that $1,400 AWD option box ticked.

The significant interior bits, outside of some stylistic differences, go almost unchanged. The Mazda3 and CX-30 have the same steering wheel and the same 8.8-inch touchscreen running the company's latest infotainment setup. Also, both vehicles sport a central digital instrument cluster that offers readouts for things like speed and safety.

Gallery: Mazda3 Hatchback Vs Mazda CX-30: Comparison

Which One Is Better?

That's a tough question. Because they're so similar (and therefore, so good) there's nothing truly definitive that sets one apart from the other. They exist in two different segments, sure, but that doesn't mean much given they have almost the same amount of interior space. That said, we do like one a bit more than the other: the CX-30.

The CX-30's taller ride height and higher seating position make it a touch more comfortable on the road. And it barely loses any of the Mazda3 hatchback's impressive dynamics and fun-to-drive nature, which we loved so much in our review. That makes the compact Mazda crossover our choice – by a smidge – between the two.

But you can't go wrong with either of these vehicles, honestly. The CX-30 and Mazda3 deliver on their promise: they're both fun to drive, relatively affordable, and feel more premium than their prices suggest. If you want something taller, go for the CX-30. If you prefer something lower to the ground, and thus, a touch more agile, the 3 hatchback is your winner. Whichever you choose, this exercise proves you can't go wrong with most Mazdas.

Mazda3 Hatchback Vs Mazda CX-30: Comparison
Mazda3 Hatchback Vs Mazda CX-30: Comparison
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