Love ‘em or hate ‘em, crossover coupes are the new norm. We blame credit luxury manufacturers like BMW for pioneering the segment more than a decade ago. Now we're seeing that wild body style inspire more mainstream manufacturers, too. And the 2020 Mazda CX-30 – while not technically a true “crossover coupe” – certainly draws on those sleeker cues.

Positioned below the beloved CX-5 (and mostly replacing the pint-sized CX-3), the CX-30 rides on the bones of the all-new Mazda3. Thus, it uses most of the Mazda hatchback's same pieces: interior and mechanical most notably. Power comes from the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the same 8.8-inch central screen and rotary dial carry over, and there's even a near-identical amount of cargo room.

But those aren't complaints so much as they are highlights. The Mazda CX-30 (like the lower-riding Mazda3) is fantastic, from its well-finished cabin to its dynamic driving feel. There's a lot to love about this little crossover.

2020 Mazda CX-30: Driving Notes
2020 Mazda CX-30: Driving Notes

Brandon Turkus, Managing Editor

Favorite Thing: Gorgeous Cabin
Least Favorite Thing: Infotainment Is Still Lousy

There isn’t a mainstream automaker in the business that’s doing cabins as well as Mazda. The CX-30 is just the latest example of the automaker’s talents, featuring a clean, minimalist design with beautiful, almost organic touches. The way the touchscreen spurts out of the curving dash and its angled housing, are inspired design choices.

The minimal collection of buttons and Mazda’s decision to isolate them low on the dash contributes to the elegant design. Other touches, like the door panels, feature subtle splashes of color, while aluminum accents throughout the cabin keep even the darker upholstery combos from feeling dreary.

But while the CX-30 improves on the CX-3 from a cabin quality and design standpoint, its infotainment system still lags behind those of the competition. The 8.8-inch screen responds willingly enough to inputs from the center console–mounted dial controller, but the collection of menus and the system’s inability to accept simple commands without multiple inputs is infuriating. Mazda is as bad at infotainment as it is good at building beautiful cabins.

2020 Mazda CX-30: Driving Notes
2020 Mazda CX-30: Driving Notes

Jeff Perez, Senior Editor

Favorite Thing: Driving Dynamics
Least Favorite Thing: Buzzy Engine

I'm trying to think of something truly unlikeable about the Mazda CX-30. The naturally aspirated engine can be sort of buzzy, and the CX-30 doesn't offer much more cargo room than the 3 hatchback with which it shares its base. But the Mazda CX-30 is a pretty phenomenal crossover otherwise.

What the funky crossover coupe loses in cargo room versus the larger CX-5, it gains in style. Even with the bulky black body cladding (because rugged!), Mazda's sharp Kodo design language shines by way of the sleek LED headlights and shield-shaped grille. The 18-inch wheels are nice, too, if not a bit innocuous, and the rear-end gives off a sleek vibe with its slim taillights and subtle gloss black spoiler.

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The design accolades carry over to the inside, as well. As Mazda continues its push to premium, the CX-30 feels like a near-luxury car with swathes of nice leather and soft black plastic. The inside of the CX-30 is almost identical to the Mazda3, admittedly, but this tester gets a unique dark brown leather. It sort of clashes with the black accents and bright white leather seats, but it's a small issue in an otherwise extremely attractive cabin.

Like most Mazdas, the CX-30 is fun to drive – or, as fun as a compact crossover can be. That buzzy 2.5-liter four-cylinder mentioned earlier delivers 186 horsepower, giving the CX-30 some eagerness off the line and decent passing power on the highway. And even with all-wheel drive (as tested), the CX-30 returns up to 31 miles per gallon. If there's a better compact crossover on sale currently, I haven't driven it.

2020 Mazda CX-30: Driving Notes
2020 Mazda CX-30: Driving Notes

Clint Simone; Associate Editor, Video Producer

Favorite Thing: Crossover Doesn’t Have To Mean Boring
Least Favorite Thing: Body Cladding Overload

The Mazda CX-30 is a perfect antidote to crossover boredom. With so many compact crossovers now on the market, it’s easy to be dismissive and write them off as being the same. While it’s true that not every crossover product inspires automotive enthusiasts, there are still a few in the bunch that deserve a special shout out.

This petite Mazda is fun to drive, easy on the eyes, and, in general, a cut above most options at its price point. As my colleagues have pointed out, the CX-30 is essentially a Mazda3 on stilts, but that doesn’t dismiss it as a bad handler. The two cars drive like near clones of each other, with the CX-30 exhibiting no discernable body roll compared to the 3. I’d go a step further and say that the CX-30 is maybe the best-handling compact crossover I’ve spent time with.

The Mazda CX-30 is a perfect antidote to crossover boredom.

There is one downside to the CX-30’s petite, chiseled proportions: its interior space. This crossover’s cabin is tighter than some of its competitors, especially in the back seat. Knee and headroom are more cramped than they should be in a car that otherwise works for families. At least there are rear-seat air vents – something that we wish our long-term Mazda3 hatchback had.

The doesn’t always agree, but I’m with my colleagues on this one: the CX-30’s exterior is gorgeous. It doesn’t try too hard with crazy design cues like a floating roofline or excessive daytime running lights. There’s a simplicity to the CX-30’s design that looks good now and will likely look good for years to come. Except for the dang body cladding.

Mazda went overboard with the cladding over the wheel arches and along the car’s side sills. It’s overdone to the point that it actually messes with the design language. I know, that’s a small nit to pick, but this car would look damn-near perfect if Mazda’s designers reduced the cladding by about 20 percent. Otherwise, this CX-30 is one giant home run. Hopefully Mazda will offer an appearance package in the future that addresses this.

Gallery: 2020 Mazda CX-30: Driving Notes

2020 Mazda CX-30 Premium

Engine 2.5-Liter I4
Output 186 Horsepower / 186 Pound-Feet
Transmission Six-Speed Automatic
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Maximum speed 126 MPH
Efficiency 25 City / 32 Highway / 27 Combined
Weight 3,252 Pounds
Seating Capacity 5
Cargo Volume 20.2 Cubic Feet
Base Price $21,900
As-Tested Price $32,025 (est.)
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