Turbocharged grunt. The 2021 Mazda CX-30 gets a new turbocharged engine option. While the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder motor remains, the new turbo engine brings much more power.

For the majority of consumers, the standard engine provides more than enough with 186 horsepower. Those seeking more power can choose the new 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder. It’s rated at 250 hp and a stout 320 pound-feet of torque. The turbo motor also comes with all-wheel drive as standard.

The new engine makes the CX-30 feel like a much peppier subcompact crossover SUV and is one of the most powerful motors offered in the class. It's a hefty upgrade, though, requiring an extra $6,600 over the standard engine.

Regardless of what one buyers choose, the CX-30 is one of the most engaging models to drive in its segment. Crisp steering, buttoned-down body movements, and the rev-happy engine give the CX-30 a major edge over the competition when it comes to driver enjoyment. Unlike some competitors, the CX-30 doesn’t trade refinement for sportiness.

Strong safety scores and tech. A lot of subcompact crossovers require consumers to upgrade to higher trim levels or tack on pricey packages to get the latest safety features. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the CX-30.

It comes with forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and driver attention monitoring as standard. Available features include blind-spot monitoring, a head-up display, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition, and a surround-view parking camera.

On top of coming with a strong list of standard features, the CX-30 also has great crash test scores. The NHTSA has given the 2021 model a five-star overall safety rating. The IIHS hasn’t tested the new model year yet, but the 2020 CX-30 was named a Top Safety Pick.

Mazda CX-30

Model-like styling. Few can pull off the CX-30’s curvaceous design while looking slightly more rugged than the Mazda Mazda3 hatchback that it’s based on. In a class that’s known for some unattractive designs, the CX-30 stands out for being handsome.

The slim headlights, Mazda’s iconic shield-like grille, and high fenders give the CX-30 a serious, sporty face. Looking at it from the side reveals a heavily raked rear windshield that makes it look more hatchback than crossover. Sharp taillights and dual exhaust outlets are sporty elements at the back. The thick body cladding found on all of the lower parts of the body is the only clue that the CX-30 is a crossover.

Mazda has been making some of the nicest interiors in the mainstream market, and it’s the same case for the CX-30. The tiered dashboard has a striking angular design that gives the vehicle an uncluttered look. Material quality is high-end as well, as nearly every touchpoint is a soft-touch material.

The few qualms we have with the CX-30’s cabin include the high-gloss black plastic, which attracts fingerprints and scratches easily. While Mazda’s lack of a touchscreen and mandatory rotary dial to use the infotainment system is easy enough to get used to, it makes using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto a chore.

Not a good value option. With a price range that starts at $23,000 including destination and goes up to $35,000, the CX-30 is one of the most expensive subcompact crossovers on sale. Even with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as new standard features for the 2021 model year, it isn’t exactly packed with a whole lot of standard features for the price.

The majority of the CX-30’s competitors offer similar standard features for less. And if you move up to one of the higher trim levels, you’re spending roughly the same amount of money as one would on a larger vehicle. The CX-30 feels nicer and comes with more upscale materials than its rivals, but it costs a lot more.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Mazda CX-30 continues to offer things others in the subcompact class can’t. It’s an upscale vehicle that’s actually fun to drive and feels like a luxury rig. It also has one of the most powerful turbocharged engines available that makes it feel downright fast.

The majority of consumers won’t think that the CX-30’s gorgeous design and sprightly handling are worth the high cost of entry. Add that its annoying infotainment system controls and small list of standard features into the mix, and you can see why we struggle to call the CX-30 the go-to option in the segment.

The Hyundai Kona is a favorite in the class. Unlike the CX-30, it has a more unique design that’s a bit polarizing and comes with more standard features. It’s nearly as enjoyable to drive and is available with a 175-hp turbo engine.

The Subaru Crosstrek is the better alternative for consumers looking to do some light off-roading. With a standard all-wheel-drive system, more ground clearance, and a more rugged design, the Crosstrek is ready to go on terrain that isn’t smooth tarmac. Its engines aren't nearly as powerful as the CX-30’s and it’s not nearly as enjoyable to drive.

Check prices for the 2021 Mazda CX-30 »