2021 Mazda CX-30 vs Mazda3 Turbo: Which Performance Hatchback Should You Buy?

What do you get when you take a hatchback, lift it, and then install black plastic cladding and a turbocharged engine? No, not a Subaru Crosstrek. You get a 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo, which ironically is the brand’s answer to the Crosstrek. However, it’s much more sophisticated than that car.

But what about the Mazda3 Turbo hatchback? Isn’t that the same thing? Not really. Let’s go over the minor differences between the two cars and see which one would be a better buy for you.

The Mazda CX-30 is a smaller, but taller version of the Mazda3 hatchback

When looking at the 2021 Mazda CX-30 and Mazda3 hatchback, you’ll be quick to notice that they have the same styling cues on the outside and look almost identical on the inside. That’s mainly due to the fact that they were built on the same platform. However, the Mazda CX-30 is a little better suited for off-road driving.

a front shot of a 2021-Mazda-CX-30 driving down the road
2021 Mazda CX-30 | Mazda

Take a closer look underneath the black plastic cladding over the wheel wells of the Mazda CX-30 and you might notice that it has eight inches of ground clearance (similar to a Subaru). That also means that it’s around six inches taller than the 2021 Mazda3 hatchback, but it has a shorter wheelbase that measures 104 inches.

All things considered, the Mazda CX-30 Turbo is essentially a smaller, but taller version of the Mazda3. In fact, even the interior leg and headroom measurements between the two are almost identical.

a side shot of the 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback in a showroom
2021 Mazda3 Hatchback | Mazda

The Mazda CX-30 Turbo and Mazda3 Turbo have the same engine

Take a peek under the hoods of each car and you’ll think that you’re looking at two versions of the same thing. That’s because Mazda has been stuffing the same turbocharged 2.5-liter engine into most of its models lately including the Mazda6, CX-5, and the CX-9.

It’s a welcomed move for any power-hungry car buyers because the snail-powered engine puts out a whopping 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque when you pump 91 octane into the tank. But if you use 87-octane, then those power numbers drop to 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.

That’s not a huge difference that you would normally feel, but every little bit counts if you’re deciding between the CX-30 and the Mazda3 hatchback. Especially considering the CX-30 weighs around 200 pounds more than its hatchback stablemate.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Interior, dash view
2021 Mazda CX-30 Interior | Mazda

How does each car perform?

I’ve had the privilege to drive both the Mazda CX-30 Turbo and the Mazda3 Turbo and, to be honest, they both feel the same under normal and spirited driving conditions. The turbocharged 2.5-liter engine responds quickly and provides a lot of thrust in the mid-range but it dies out a little when the redline approaches.

Mazda did well in providing a lot of torque for better daily driving duties and you can definitely feel it, even at the high altitude (mile high) that I test the cars in. Additionally, both cars have razor-sharp steering and are set up with an independent Macpherson strut assembly up front and a torsion-beam suspension in the rear. Needless to say, they both handle the same as well, although, you do have a heightened view in the CX-30.

According to Car and Driver’s testing, the Mazda3 Turbo was able to get from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, while the CX-30 covered the distance in 5.9 seconds, as you might expect given its extra weight.

front shot of the 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback
2021 Mazda3 Hatchback | Mazda

Is the 2021 Mazda CX-30 Premium Plus Trim Worth the Extra Cash?

Which one should you buy?

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 with the Premium Plus package and the turbocharged engine carries a starting price of $34,050 (before destination charges) while the equivalent Mazda3 hatchback comes in at $150 less.

That being said, if you want the higher ride height of the CX-30 and don’t mind the rugged look of the black cladding on the rocker panels and rear bumper, then buy that model. However, if you want something a little lower and sleeker (without any cladding), then go with the Mazda3.

Either way, you’ll still have a performance hatchback that is sure to put a smile on your face whenever you slip behind the wheel.