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The 2020 Mazda CX-5 sets the standard for sporty driving in an affordable SUV. Many gearheads hoped the 2020 Mazda CX-30 would follow suit, being an even more budget-friendly version of its larger sibling. Alas, these hopeful drivers will likely be left with utter disappointment.

Failing to differentiate itself from the competition and not living up to Mazda’s athletic standard, the CX-30 isn’t a must-buy

These shortcomings aren’t to say the 2020 Mazda CX-30 is a failure as a subcompact SUV. Moreso, it leaves a bitter taste of what could have been.

The 2020 Mazda CX-30 is still finding its footing

The 2020 Mazda CX-30 facing away, looking at the wilderness
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 on display | Photo via Mazda

The Mazda CX-30 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain delivers 185 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, and it achieves an EPA-estimated 28 MPG city/highway combined. However, the fuel economy sustains a slight dip on models equipped with all-wheel drive.

These figures appear to be positive for a subcompact SUV. Meanwhile, some car enthusiasts and critics were left wanting more exciting performance from the Mazda vehicle.

MotorTrend’s review of the CX-30 stated, “In an era when most competitors are moving toward smaller-displacement turbo engines, dual-clutches, and, yes, even CVTs, the CX-30 feels outclassed and underpowered.”

Granted, the CX-30 delivers Mazda’s signature dynamic handling. However, its lackluster acceleration makes those behind the wheel question if this SUV can be considered the least bit sporty.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 is a shining example of greatness

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 on display in the middle of a road
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 in action | Photo via Mazda

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 naturally offers more power as a larger vehicle. However, pure brawn isn’t the entire problem. The CX-5’s starting MSRP isn’t all that much higher than the CX-30’s price tag – $25,190 compared to $21,190. Yet, the performance between the vehicles vastly differs.

In opposition to its little brother, the 2020 Mazda CX-5 offers several powertrain options. It comes standard with a lively 187-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Upper trims come with a turbocharged variant of this aforementioned engine. It delivers 227 hp when using 87-octane regular fuel or 250 hp when using 93-octane premium fuel. Additionally, there’s a 168-hp turbodiesel engine that’s only available on all-wheel-drive models.

Driving the 2020 Mazda CX-5 is a much more fluid driving experience. Car and Driver’s review of the CX-5 noted, “You don’t need to drive the CX-5 hard to enjoy it or to appreciate its excellence.”

A tale of two cabins

Mazda takes up space in the ‘premium’ space between standard and luxury manufacturers. Shoppers expect quality at an affordable price, and many of Mazda’s models deliver in spades.

The 2020 Mazda CX-30 doesn’t underdeliver in terms of upscale materials. It looks the part with a sophisticated design, and the CX-30 offers available luxurious amenities such as genuine leather seats and a head-up display.

However, the luster fades the closer you examine the SUV. The 2020 Mazda CX-30 has one of the smallest rear benches in its class, and its low roofline can make taller passengers feel uncomfortable, according to MotorTrend.

Meanwhile, the thoughtfully designed 2020 Mazda CX-5 has proportions that complement its frame. Admittedly, the CX-5’s cargo space is compact.

Upcoming changes signal a brighter future


What Is the Best Mazda SUV?

Thankfully, Mazda isn’t standing idly by as its all-new subcompact SUV resides in the shadow of the critically acclaimed CX-5.

The Japanese automaker committed to making the CX-30 a more athletic vehicle by introducing a welcome addition to the 2021 iteration. Mazda announced a turbocharged engine would be made available to 2021 Mazda CX-30 models later this year.

This upgraded powerplant won’t solve all the issues facing the CX-30. However, it may sway some buyers to opt for the budget-conscious CX-30 over the CX-5.