Crossover & Midsize

Why Buy a Mazda CX-30 When You Can Buy a Mazda CX-5?

When it comes to SUVs, Mazda seems to have something for everyone. From the petite CX-3 to the midsize CX-9, the Japanese automaker offers crossover SUVs that offer excellent value and are fun to drive. But when a couple of these models seem to share many attributes, how do you sort out which one is better? We review MotorTrend‘s take on the 2020 Mazda CX-30 and Mazda CX-5 to prove that the latter gives you more for your money.

What the Mazda CX-30 has to offer

The Mazda CX-30 is an all-new subcompact SUV for 2020. At 173 inches in length, it can accommodate more friends or family than the slightly smaller CX-3. Rear-seat legroom measures 39.6 inches and front-seat passengers enjoy 41.0 inches of space for stretching out. Cargo space for this model measures 20.2 cubic feet and expands to 45.2 cubic feet with the rear down.

The standard engine 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the only one available in this SUV. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, it makes 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. The energetic Mazda3 shares this engine. MotorTrend’s Miguel Cortina found it to be responsive but somewhat lagging in power delivery.

Shoppers considering the CX-30 can choose between four trim levels: base, Select, Preferred, or Premium. Pricing starts at $23,000 for the base trim and $29,300 for the Premium. Standard equipment includes an 8.8-inch display with Mazda Connect, two USB ports, 16-inch wheels, and the i-Activsense safety suite. All-wheel drive is available for all trim levels.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear air vents, and an upgrade to 18-inch wheels are included in the Select trim level. The Preferred trim adds a Bose premium sound system, heated seats, and a glossy finish for the front grille. Buyers will get a color head-up display, leather seats, adaptive lighting, and paddle shifters at the Premium trim level.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has designated the Mazda CX-30 as a Top Safety Pick for 2020. All of its crash tests were rated as Good. But the Poor rating on the headlights for the Premium trim held it back from earning a Top Safety Pick Plus.

How the Mazda CX-5 compares to its smaller sibling

RELATED: Can the 2020 Mazda CX-5 Hold Up Against the Luxurious Infiniti QX50?

Size-wise, the Mazda CX-5 is a compact SUV, which is a step up from the subcompact CX-30. Cortina calls this model “a great family SUV,” thanks in part to an extra six inches in overall length and more than three inches in rear-seat legroom. The CX-5’s front-seat legroom is only seven-tenths of an inch less than the CX-30’s.

The larger SUV is also four inches taller, making for easier passenger access. It also has significantly more cargo space than the CX-30, with 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 59.6 cubic feet with it down.

The 2020 CX-5’s standard engine is the same as its smaller sibling and is mated with a six-speed automatic. But it is tuned to have a bit more pep in its step, producing 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. This is the only engine option in which buyers can choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive as both the turbocharged and the turbodiesel options are matched with all-wheel drive.

An available 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo that cranks out 227 hp and 310 lb-ft, making it the most robust engine for this model. Fueling it with 93-octane gas boosts its horsepower to 250 hp. 

The CX-5’s 2.2-liter twin-turbo inline-four diesel is available only on the Signature trim level. It produces 168 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. Cortina notes that this engine, with a zero to 60 mph of 9.0 seconds, is the slowest of the three. 

Shoppers can select among five trim levels on the CX-5. The base level trim is the Sport, which starts at $26,290. Besides the 187-hp engine, amenities include a push-button start and i-Activsense advanced safety features.

Starting at $27,930, the Touring trim adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker audio system, and leatherette seats. The next trim level up is the Grand Touring at $31,410. It comes with 19-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights and foglights, leather seats, and a power liftgate.

At $36,235, the Grand Touring Reserve is equipped exclusively with the 2.5-liter turbo and all-wheel drive. This trim level’s amenities include heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, and automatic power-folding side mirrors.

The top trim level is the Signature which, at $38,255, comes with Nappa leather seats, wood trim throughout the cabin, a navigation system, and a 360-degree camera system. 

IIHS has given the Mazda CX-5 with its highest award for 2020: its Top Safety Pick Plus. The SUV earned Good ratings in all crash tests and an Acceptable rating for headlights and for LATCH use.

A clear choice for better value emerges

A few differences between the Mazda CX-30 and the Mazda CX-5 are subtle. The former has slightly more front-seat legroom, despite it being a smaller vehicle. The latter has somewhat better safety ratings, even though both are highly rated by the IIHS.

It’s hard to ignore the bigger differences. For example, the vehicle height as well as additional rear-seat legroom and cargo space in the CX-5 are significant. The extra room in this model matters for families who need a compact SUV.

The tuned standard engine in the CX-5 has plenty of zip. Drivers who want more power or torque can upgrade to one of the other two engine options. By comparison, the CX-30 is limited to just one engine option.

Buyers also have more choices of trim levels on the larger SUV, allowing them to opt for the level of luxury they desire. By paying a few thousand dollars more for the 2020 Mazda CX-5, they’ll enjoy more room in the cabin, more engine power, and more trim levels, not to mention the great Mazda styling. It’s a compact SUV that offers something for everyone who is shopping in this segment.