Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 20, 2021
In an effort to push the CX-30 slightly upmarket and to solidify its performance credentials, Mazda has added a new turbocharged motor to the lineup, and is only available on the top GT trim with a starting price of $36,250, a $2,400 premium. With that, you get a 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder that produces 250 hp and 320 lb-ft on 93-octane fuel, or a slightly lower 227 hp and 310 lb-ft when on regular 87-octane fuel. Let’s face it, most owners are going to be putting in the lowest fare, but the penalty is small and I doubt it will be noticeable to the majority of drivers. A six-speed automatic transmission routes that power to all four wheels - no manual or FWD option available here. There’s a new rear differential, stiffer suspension, and retuned gearbox ratios to acclimate to the newfound output and weight but other than that, there really isn’t much difference with the standard CX-30.
And to be frank, the standard four-cylinder with its relatively healthy power output of 186 hp and 186 lb-ft is more than enough for daily use, and delivers exactly what you expect from an affordable, compact city cruiser. While we might have wished for more thrust on a rare occurrence when trying to overtake on the highway, or aggressively merging after an on-ramp, those situations were rare.
The new Skyactiv-G 2.5T turbocharged engine remedies this and adds an eager attitude mixed with a potent well of torque. Where the naturally aspirated four-cylinder fell flat at low speeds and needed to be wrung out to higher RPMs, the Turbo fires right from the get go. Lag is there but it doesn’t get in the way, and thanks to the CX-30’s diminutive size, it’s able to feel light on its feet. It will definitely be tough to go back to the naturally aspirated CX-30 after driving this. It only registered a tick higher in fuel consumption as well, averaging 10.7 L/100km compared to the 9.6 L/100km in the standard CX-30. Any more power and the wheels will probably fly off anyways, which makes me think that there is more power here than the chassis is able to handle.
The Turbo drives nicely and is well-mannered when the road gets bumpy, but the top-heavy nature of its chassis and the 64 kg weight penalty of the bigger engine makes it tricky to drive fast. Don’t expect a Golf GTI type of upgrade here. Even with the slightly stiffer suspension, all-wheel drive, and brake-based torque vectoring, taking a slow-in, fast-out approach gives the CX-30 a better sense of athleticism than simply throwing it around a bend and hoping it will sort itself out. Like the standard CX-30, the six-speed gearbox is properly tuned and goes unnoticed behind the scenes - exactly what you want from an SUV that will be assigned to daily duties rather than backroad excursions. It’s better, quieter, and just as efficient as any of its competitors utilizing those droning CVTs.
The CX-30 Turbo has just a Turbo badge on the trunk lid, 18-inch black wheels, and gloss black front grill and mirrors to distinguish itself from the standard model. It’s still got those massive wheel gaps and we are not sure why that was necessary. Sure it might look a tad more ‘off-roady’ but they really could have filled in the emptiness with more bodywork. Or maybe they were catering the wheel wells for Columbian exports.
Other than a frameless auto-dimming rear mirror, chrome interior finishes, and black upper dashboard, the interior remains the same, which isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. Mazda creates some of the most gorgeous and simplistic looking cabins in the segment. This is Japanese artwork at its finest. The switchgear, dials, leather upholstery, matches up to premium products from Mercedes, but at economy car pricing. Even the airbag cover is layered with a smooth texture, whereas most other automakers make do with scratchy, ridged, black plastic covers. The feedback of the window switches alone are solid, refined, and expensive, and the rotary and volume dials that control the 8.8-inch infotainment screen have a deliberate and focused click, with not a loose panel or gap in sight.
Mazda fixed the one minor issue clouding over the regular CX-30 with a more powerful turbocharged engine. While it’s far from a necessary addition, it’s a big bonus for those wishing for a quicker steed, and only compliments this Mazda’s impressive road manners and upscale cabin.
Model: 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo AWD
Paint Type: Soul Red Crystal Metallic
Base Price: $33,850
Price as Tested: $36,700
Curb weight (kg): 1,592
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 250 hp @ 5,000 rpm (93-octane) / 227 hp (87-octane)
Torque: 320 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm (93-octane) / 310 lb-ft (87-octane)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.5 / 7.9 / 9.3
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.7